I just returned from a week-long cruise to Alaska. It was amazing to spend time in a place where the Living Earth was so blatantly ALIVE — changing land, with geological contours reshaping themselves before your very eyes; changing waters with 20+ foot tidal swings, and flowing ice rivers crashing into the sea; changing skies with dancing mists and clouds and rain. Cruising – in a single day – revealed a complete, 200-year ecological succession story along the length of Glacier Bay. It began with the bare rock, recently exposed by receding glaciers. The next step was the arrival of mosses & lichens, which clung to the bare rock and began to crumble it into soil. Then, there were the first few pioneer herb plants and low-growing shrubs. Then, the first few trees to establish, followed by a young forest, and at last, a majestic stand of old-growth rainforest, swirling in mist. WOW!!! A sampling of images, for your enjoyment:
A tidal glacier, calving:
A receding glacier (note the river of ice, which no longer reaches the sea):
Pioneer mosses and lichens on bare rock:
Hills covered in low herbs; a field of saplings on lower ground:
A full-blown temperate rain-forest:
The power and speed of change evident in these landscapes reminds me of just how powerful Mother Earth really is, and how well she is able to recover from dramatic climate changes. In an age where worries about human-generated climate change have caused so many people to despair, this story — written in land, sea, and sky — also gives us a reason to hope.