11-May-2002 -- As the crow flies, this confluence is 37 kilometers WSW from the end of the closest road. Unfortunately, there is a major glacier the size of Los Angeles blocking direct passage, so we decided to go the long way around by boat and approach from the south.
On May 10, we left from Valdez, Alaska, terminus of the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline and our home port. Our course wound through 55 kilometers of glacial fjords rimmed by 1400-meter snow-capped mountains. Forty kilometers from town we sighted the old mining town of Ellamar (seasonal cabins and two year round residences) and made our turn into Columbia Bay. Here we started to encounter pack ice coming off the Columbia Glacier. Shipping traffic had been restricted for several weeks due to the calving of the glacier, but luckily, the ice was passing to the south so there was open water leading into Heather Bay and our confluence.
We anchored for the night in Jade Harbor at 60-58.25 N 146-58.5 W. From Jade Harbor we could see the shoreline that held the confluence, but because of the ice and shallow water we decided to wait for the morning low tide before approaching the site. The next morning we wound our way through pancake and brash ice to a 12 fathom trench in front of the glacier’s terminal moraine.
Twenty years ago there would have been a 25 meter high wall of ice, but now the glacier has receded and there is a thirteen kilometer expanse of icebergs and bergy bits leading up to the glacier’s face. This deep passage allowed us to sail right up to the low shore and drop anchor in 4 fathoms at 60-59-58 N and 147-00-06 W. We rowed our inflatable raft to the beach and spent about a half-hour snowshoeing through the woods. The snow was still six feet deep but the sun was shining and the temperature was about 5 degrees C.
Rather than show pictures of scrub spruce and hemlock, we took advantage of the 100 meter tolerance of the project and took our pictures from the beach. Most of the pictures were taken approximately 30 meters WSW of the confluence. In addition to the spectacular scenery, we spotted quite a bit of wildlife in the water and on the beaches along the way. The list of major sightings included Sea Lion, Black Bear, Sea Otter, Mountain Goat, Dall Porpoise and dozens of Bald Eagles.