June 21, 2022 Day 25 Reid Inlet to Russell Island Passage 39 miles- 2024 total miles
We woke up and moved our anchorage to be closer to the glacier and land so we wouldn’t have to paddle as far, or walk as far up to the glacier. Chris got out the dinghy, I got out warm clothes for everyone because everything I’ve heard said that the glaciers make everything colder. There is even something called a Williwaw where cold wind comes off the glacier. Once we were all outfitted for the cooler temps and had bear protection we got in the dinghy and rowed to shore.
We were on the left side (looking at the glacier) and we got there as the tide was going out. We walked towards the glacier over massive rocks and small hills. We would make some progress and then we would come to a stream made from glacier melt. Chris had on tall boots, Ryan’s were next biggest, but us silly girls had ankle boots. Some of the streams were easy for all of us to cross, but some were too deep for the girls’ boots, and some even too tall for Ryan’s boots. Chris carried the kids across some of the streams to keep their feet dry. I did think to wear my rain pants on this outing so I tightened the ankles up tight around my boots and I crossed the stream that way. It worked and I stayed dry! We crossed 3 or 4 smaller streams until we got to a huge stream that we just couldn’t cross.
When we got as far as we could there were huge chunks of ice just laying there. Some smaller ones that the kids could throw in the water, and some massive ones that the kids could climb on. It felt like we were on another planet! I kept telling Chris this was one of the highlights not only of the trip, but of all the things I’ve done before. To be at the mouth of a giant glacier, watching my kids climb on the ice, was just amazing for me. The kids were having a blast and Chris was as well!
We climbed up a hill to get a closer look at the glacier and noticed we were actually now standing on the glacier. There was a crack in the wall of the glacier and other crevices were just below us on the other side of the “hill”, all this was covered in dirt and rocks. Some ice was peeking through and it reminded me of a geode (those round rocks you can break open that have crystals inside). We could hear water running through this crevice and hear cracks and ice falling into the water. While we felt safe enough where we were standing, watching the ice fall into a pit of water felt a bit too eerie, so we climbed down.
We explored this area for several hours, then it was time to get back to the boat so we could go see Margerie Glacier, which is a tidal glacier, and watch it calve icebergs! Back to the dinghy we went. The tide was lower so it was easier to cross the streams we had previously crossed. Everyone made it back to the dinghy with dry feet.
When I got in the dinghy Chris told me to use my foot to help push off, without thinking I stuck my leg out and got a boot full of water. Disappointing since I did so well crossing all those streams. At least we were almost back to the boat so I could dry off.
We made it back to the boat without a hitch. I started putting all the warmer clothes away and hanging things up to dry. Chris put the dinghy up and got the boat ready to head off on our next adventure. We had been gone for about 2 ½-3 hours on this outing. Before pulling the anchor we turned the boat battery back on and turned on the VHF radio.
As soon as we turn on the radio we hear another boat say something like “LilTeal”, which is our boat name, or whale tail. Chris looked at us and asked what the lady on the radio said. I said “Oh something something whale tale.” Chris heard “Lil Teal” and Lillian heard “Lil Teal”. Chris messaged back asking them to repeat what they said. (Some boats have AIS which will tell other boaters your boat information. You can see the boat information sometimes before you can see the boat. Our boat does not have AIS so it was weird someone was messaging us using our boat name.) I assumed if someone was messaging us it was to find out how the anchorage was in Reid Inlet, or to see how many boats were here, something like that, but it was weird they used our boat name…
The lady on the radio, boat “St. Juvenaly” repeated her message, that was in fact for us, “Lil Teal”, and asked if we were in Reid Inlet. She told us there had been a distress SOS call sent and they were trying to contact us. The Coast Guard was sending a helicopter, and a ranger boat was on its way. We told St. Juvenaly that we were not in distress and we didn’t see anyone that was. While Chris was talking I checked the radio we took on land (the radios have a distress button) and it was off, so not that one. Chris then went to check his EPIRB that he wears on his life jacket and sure enough it had been activated. An EPIRB is a personal emergency device. It can activate when it is submerged in water (man overboard, or boat sinking) or you can hit a button calling for help. The EPIRB that sent out a distress call only has the button you push, we have another one that stays on the boat that is water activated. Chris wears this one on his life jacket in case he falls overboard or needs to call for help quickly. Our EPIRB is registered with our vessel name, passengers on board, and emergency contacts. It sends our distress call to the Coast guard along with our information and location. While we’ve been in Alaska we have had little to no internet, phone service, and a lot of time no VHF radio. Without this device, if we had an emergency no one would know.
Chris told “St. Juvenaly” that we did accidently activate our EPIRB while we were out hiking, but we were not in distress. The St. Juvenaly was then able to message the lodge, who then worked on canceling our distress call.
A lot of times on the VHF radio you only hear one side of a conversation. You hear the boats that are near you, but may not hear who they are talking to because those people may be too far away. Sometimes boats can work as a relay passing on messages to where they need to get. We did hear St. Juvenaly’s side of the conversation, repeating what we told them, then asking if they were free to go on their way or if they needed to keep waiting. They got the all clear to leave. Once they left we had no more radio contact with anyone. (Everyone with a radio on was too far away for us to communicate with.)
After talking to St. Juvenaly Chris turned on his delorme (satellite messaging/location device that only sends texts) and messaged his dad that we were OK. After doing that we checked the messages we had from the delorme. Bryan (Chris’ dad) had messaged us the same message over and over. Basically saying we needed to contact The Coast Guard. They received an SOS message from us and if we were OK we needed to call the coast guard, Bryan gave us the phone number to the Coast Guard) or radio someone letting them know we were OK. I’m not sure how many messages we had like this. They started almost two hours prior and he sent them maybe every 10-20 minutes or so.
Chris and I just felt sick about it all, mostly that our parents had thought something was wrong for hours and hours. We felt terrible that the Coast Guard was sending a helicopter and other people were out, coming to help us.
After Chris told his dad we were OK we had him call the Coast Guard. (We still had no phone service, and now that the St. Juvenaly left we had no way to radio anyone.) Bryan told us that the Coast Guard said they were glad we were OK and that it happens all the time and to enjoy our trip. Our distress call was officially canceled and we were free to go about our day.
My parents were in Mexico during this and were in contact with the Coast Guard just like the McBrides were. Chris’ Mom was also in contact with my parents giving them updates as Chris sent them. Again, we just feel terrible about this.
After this happened this is what we know so far. When we were either loading into the dinghy or getting out of the dinghy at Reid Glacier, the EPIRB got set off. We had no idea it got set off. It was about 9:30 AM that it would have been set off. We spent a few hours on land walking around and exploring. We did bring a VHF radio with us in case of an emergency. I had it on originally, but Chris wanted to save battery and was worried it would get set off so he turned it off. We got back in our boat and finally turned on the VHF radio after we were settled. We were back in the boat about 20 minutes before turning on the VHF radio.
St. Juvenaly is the tour boat that leaves from Glacier Bay and takes passengers to see the glaciers. According to their website they leave at 7:30 AM. Reid Inlet is pretty far from Bartlett Cove, and pretty close to Margerie Glacier. Margerie Glacier is where the tour boat was headed before turning around to go back to the lodge. We would not have been able to hear them on the radio until they were close to us. When we talked to them they were at the mouth of Reid Inlet. I am assuming due to their size they would not be able to enter the inlet. I am not sure how long they were trying to reach us on the radio, but it was after Chris turned off my radio. Which means they were trying to get a hold of us for one hour or less. They also had a way to contact the lodge/Coast Guard to let them know we were OK. I do know their tour was delayed because of us and I do feel terrible about that. I am grateful they were there even just to alert us that something was up.
I do know that our emergency contacts on our EPIRB are our parents. I do know the Coast Guard contacted them. We set up tracking on our Delorme so our parents knew we were at Reid Inlet. I also know Bryan was trying to get a hold of us for about 2 hours. I don’t know how long after the EPIRB went off that they called our emergency contacts.
We also know a helicopter was sent out to find us as well as a ranger boat, but we don’t know how close either of them were to us before they got the canceled distress call. We never saw either of them though.
That means after sending an SOS on an EPIRB it would take over two hours to get rescued. I know with the EPIRB the Coast Guard needed to do their due diligence to make sure it was as accurate as possible. We were in a very very remote location as well, just good to note.
I also know that we were just having the best day totally unaware and somehow that makes me feel extra bad for our families.
We have talked to our parents a little since then and I know they were worried, but they are glad we are OK. They are all glad we have a way to get a hold of someone if there is an emergency and they are glad they know it works.
We are really really grateful for everyone who dropped everything to make sure we were OK. We still feel terribly about it.
After that excitement the only thing left to do was to go about our day like nothing happened. We pulled up our anchor and headed out. We made it to Margerie Glacier and spent time watching the glacier calve. It was very amazing to see. Huge chunks of ice would fall off and some of the splashes went up higher than the glacier. Big waves would form from the falling ice. There was a little island there that would block most of the waves.
When we were there we did see an UnCruise ship there. Its passengers would get off in dinghies and in kayaks and get pretty close to the glacier. They even got off on that little island and walked around. I am more convinced that an Uncruise would be awesome!
There was another c-dory, a tour boat, there as well. It would get really close to the glacier, hang out to the side of the glacier, then make its way across the glacier to go hang out on the other side. We weren’t brave enough to get that close, but I felt like we were planety close enough. Truly spectacular!
We saw a bald eagle on an iceberg and that was really awesome to see as well.
We got to our anchorage site. It’s not very protected and it’s pretty wavy out. So far no one is sick from it, and I hope no one will get sick, but man, I’m tired of rocking. It’s kind of like someone just keeps poking you over and over and over. It doesn’t hurt, but I just want to yell, “STOP!” Hopefully the rocking will stop sometime in the night.
Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. How awesome to be in Glacier Bay National Park!
Ryan’s Thoughts: We hiked up to a glacier and sent an SOS call to the Coast Guard on accident. And we saw a calving glacier.
Lillian’s Thoughts: Today was a big day! First I woke up and for breakfast I had a granola bar, then we walked up to a glacier and icebergs, then got back to the boat. Then Coast Guard radioed us to ask if we are in distress and it so happened that when we were hiking we accidently hit the SOS button. So that was a whole thing. And then we went and went to another glacier that can calve and we watched that for a while it was amazing! Now we got to our anchor spot and mom is making dinner which is hot dogs and she spilled them everywhere! And now it’s bedtime. Good night!