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College Fjord, Alaska

College Fjord, Alaska visits College Fjord, Alaska. In the summer of 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman, president of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Washington Academy of Sciences upon advise from his physician to take a sea voyage as an antidote to stress, funded a scientific expedition along the Alaskan coast. The two-month expedition, intended initially as a family vacation, eventually gathered an illustrious group of scientists, naturalists, writers, and artists, and combined scientific research with leisure activities.

It was the Harriman Expedition party who named College Fjord as well as the glaciers that line it. The dozen or so glaciers lining this fjord were named for the Ivy League schools that members of the party attended. On the northwest side of the fjord, the glaciers were named after the women's colleges, such as Smith, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Wellesley, Barnard, and Holyoke. On the southeast side, the glaciers are named after men's colleges Harvard, Yale, Amherst, and Dartmouth.

Some of these glaciers have retreated since the original Harriman Expedition, but not the largest of them: Harvard. Harvard is 1 1/2 miles wide, approximately 225 feet high at its terminal face, stretches below the waterline up to about 120 feet, and reaches back to the Chugach Icefield nearly 24 miles away. This giant of College fjord is slowly advancing, calving literally tons of ice into the fjord each day. These glaciers parade down, some of them 3,700 feet to the mile, from the steep mountains. No place else is there such a density of tidal glaciers.

There are often harbor seals hauled out on the ice floes in front of Harvard glacier throughout the summer. It's also not unusual to see large rafts of sea otters together, grooming their luxuriously dense fur, slipping beneath the surface to dine on crab, or simply floating with their babies nestled on their chests watching with curiosity as we pass by.

Last Updated : Feb 2015
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