As we depart the glacier face there is one more chore… A team is assembled on the back deck, the coolers mustered and the fish net brought down. We must load ice.Along with the large, pretty bergs floating around the fjord, there are rafts of small chunks about. Much of this ice is just the right size to load into our coolers. Football to basketball sized chunks of ice are perfect. Don’t try to net anything larger, you will be unable to lift the net out of the water.
The ice will last for weeks in the coolers, cooling freshly caught fish, drinks or veggies. I have on occasion dumped glacier ice in Juneau Harbor two weeks after picking it up. We have multiple coolers on board, usually secured on the upper deck out of the way. These will be filled with frozen fish for the flight home, but for now simply serve various utility tasks.The best ice is found in the crystal clear pieces. From the lower levels of the glacier this ice was under enough pressure to squeeze all of the air bubbles out. This is old ice, possibly thousands of years old, at least centuries. It is as clear as fine crystal, crystal that can be eaten. This ice tastes clean and melts slowly, served under whiskey or soda. Pieces of this fine ice are carefully kept in a clean cooler for use through the remainder of the voyage.
It is convenient if we visit a glacier at the beginning of the trip, supplying the boat with ice. We can make ice in the little galley ice maker, but this is nothing like the glacier ice, in quantity or quality. With Tracey Arm or Endicott Arm just south of Juneau, a visit can be planned early in the voyage. Glacier Bay can be scheduled in the first few days if headed east. Everyone wants to visit the glacier, this is just an added benefit.
A little glacial silt or salt water is not real problem, as they melt, the chunks of ice wash themselves clean. We are quickly left with pieces of clean ice. We fill the upper deck coolers, we fill the big fish box on the back deck, we take a few small chunks directly to the galley to be used for after glacier cocktails as we cruise out of the fjord.