The story of the Ice Planet
About 50 miles north of Anchorage, just outside the small town of Palmer, Knik Glacier Tours have their Base Camp, from there, on the River Knik, my wife and myself sail upstream in an air-boat to Inner Lake George. This glacier lake measures more than 15 square miles and is filled with icebergs and ice floes that have broken off the Knik Glacier. Knik Glacier is a 28 miles long and 5 miles wide living ice mass, making its way down from the ice fields of the Chugach mountains some 10,000 feet up. The rest of the valley is filled with enormous quantities of ice from the Colony Glacier and Lake George Glacier.
Our very experienced skipper and guide, Tom Fausset, expertly manoeuvers the air-boat between the icebergs and moors at Glacier Camp. Tom is one of the few skippers who offers trips from the Base Camp to the Glacier between mid May and mid September.
From Glacier Camp we go on a one and a half hour long walk along the banks of the glacier lake.
The view of the ice landscape here is so vast that it is beyond description. To get a more accurate impression of the actual size of the area, we ask Tom what the distances are to the end of the glaciers. From this point to the edge of Knik Glacier (left photo) it’s about 1,9 miles and to Colony Glacier it’s easily 8 miles!
The challenge now is how to catalogue the expanse of this landscape, as just one single photograph is not going to be enough to represent its true proportions. The landscape deserves a panorama! Whilst we are determining the composition and setting up the camera, the sun makes some dogged attempts to break through the low hanging cloud cover in several places. This will only improve the contrast in the shot.
With a 28mm focus a series of shots is taken over a 180° stretch which will later be stitched into one image with the use of a photo editing program.
After our walk and extensive photo shoot we return to Glacier Camp. We are surprised that tourists hardly come here and we ask Tom why. As Tom hands us all a steaming cup of coffee he tells us that cruise shipping companies regularly approach him about the possibilities of organising excursions to this area. “It doesn’t bear thinking about that hundreds of cruise passengers would come wandering about daily during the summer months, as well as needing me to provide them with an elaborate lunch. Besides, it’s impossible to bring them here by air-boat in large numbers anyway.” “No, this is still a untainted area of nature and I am very careful with the limited license I have been given by the local authority. This is still a piece of paradise on earth and I’d like to keep it that way.”
In 1991 Paramount Pictures chose this location to shoot a scene for the film Star Trek VI. Knik Glacier was the setting for the scene in which Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy were rescued from the prison Rura Penthe on the Klingon ice planet. And that is perhaps indeed what this unspoiled and hardly visited area can best be compared with: an ice planet!
The Knik Glacier, located on the northern edge of Alaska's Chugach Mountains, is one of the largest glaciers in south-central Alaska*. The glacier is a remnant of the last ice age. During the Pleistocene, about 600,000 years ago, the Chugach Mountain Range was covered with a 2,500 ft thick layer of ice.
Surrounded by 10,000 ft high snow-capped peaks, hanging glaciers and waterfalls, the Knik Glacier created one of the most spectacular panorama landscapes in this area, just 50 milies north of Anchorage!
This 180° panorama picture of Knik glacier valley was generated in Photoshop Elements from 5 single shots, photographed with Nikon D5000.
Working on our photoshoot at Knik Glacier.
The glacier lake measures more than 15 square miles and is filled with icebergs and ice floes that have broken of the Knik Glacier. This picture was made at 8.am about 10 minutes after take-off from Anchorage airport on our flight to Amsterdam. The early morning sun is shining perfect over this wonder of ice!
Traveling in Alaska offers many opportunities for adventure, like flightseeing over Knik Glacier!
This story was published in the June 2013
edition of National Geographic Traveler.