Taku Glacier Flight

“How much do you weigh?”

To be safe, I added a couple of dozen pounds or so to the real number. This is an answer I often lie about in the opposite direction, but because it was being used to calculate the flight-worthiness of a seaplane holding six people currently indulging night after night on a cruise vacation, I was content with bulking up.

We took off from the Gastineau Channel, which separates the city of Juneau from Douglas Island, and enjoyed a birds eye view of breathtaking waterfalls, glaciers, icefields, and ocean waterways.

Climate Change in Real Time

Of particular note was the view of Taku Glacier, one of the largest of the major glaciers in the region. It also has the distinction of being one of the single thickest glaciers in the world (it measures 4,860 feet from surface to floor).

What we didn’t know at the time was that Taku, the stubborn glacier that was seemingly unaffected by climate change, was in fact retreating.

Last fall, NASA released satellite imagery showing chunks of ice missing from the the front line of Taku. The retreat began in 2018, coinciding with the high temperatures that summer. While glaciers do go through periods of retreat, this one is 80 years ahead of schedule.

According to glaciologist Mauri Pelto, who has studied the Juneau Icefield for three decades, Taku was predicted to continue advancing for the rest of the century. Of 250 glaciers that Pelto has studied around the world, Taku was the only one that hadn’t clearly started to retreat…until now.

Eco-conscious Travel

The news is a stark reminder that even though Alaska’s natural world may seem vast and endless, it’s truly vulnerable and delicate. One small way you can diminish your tourism footprint in Alaska is to be sure that you use companies that are Adventure Green Alaska (AGA) certified, like my friends at Weight Wings Airways.

AGA is Alaska’s only sustainable tourism certification program and companies earn it when they commit to supporting local communities through employment and sourcing, adopting sustainable use and recycling efforts, and respecting local customs and Alaska Native cultures as a way of doing business.

When booking a tour, look for the AGA logo shown below:

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