Glacier Bay is one of the wildest places on Earth. To visit up-bay by kayak, small boat or foot is to experience a kind of wild purity in all things: purity of light and reflections; the raw power of the glacier-scoured landscape; the integrity of wild sounds.
I really noticed the latter during a kayak trip to the East Arm in July. We were up near McBride Inlet, camped on the beach-skirt of a crumbling mountain. Early one morning, after a night of heavy rain, I woke to the thumps and rattles of a decent-sized rockslide on the mountainside above. The sound seemed so close that I scrambled from my tent into the gray dawn, expecting boulders to come smashing through the brush at any moment. Of course the slide was over, and it had been far away after all. But I paced the beach for a while, walking off my adrenaline rush and looking at our tiny, bright tents against the tangle of beach-fringe alder. We were so fragile, and so deep within the wildness of this place that even the sounds subsumed us: the rush of rain-swollen streams, the reports of boulders smacking into the ocean at the base of White Thunder Ridge, the breaths of seals and whales.
Gustavus naturalist Hank Lentfer has been working on a wonderful project capturing those pure, wild sounds for Glacier Bay National Park. You can hear some of his recordings on his website. Here’s a link to a lovely one of trumpeting humpback whales.