On April 11, a trio of hikers witnessed a spectacular icefall at Portage Glacier in Alaska, which was caught on camera and shared widely on social media. The ice fell into the frozen Portage Lake, creating waves that rippled beneath the frozen surface, briefly threatening the safety of the onlookers.
Portage is a retreating glacier located on the narrow neck of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, where the legume-shaped extension meets the mainland. In January, GlacierHub posted “Glacier Hugging Is the New Tree Hugging” with a series of photos depicting glacier-huggers at Portage Glacier. The inherent instability of glaciers makes them dangerous for visiting up close, especially during the spring, as the hikers in the above footage experienced.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that Anchorage resident Jason Rouch Jr. — who was hiking at Portage Glacier on that morning and preparing to photograph the glacier — felt like “something intense was about to happen.” Rouch was there to photograph the glacier with a couple of friends on a socially-distant outdoor excursion.
“It just fell and it seemed like slow motion,” Rouch, 25, said in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News. His Facebook video of the calving event, which has been viewed more than 93,000 times and shared more than 4,000 times, included the following caption:
😱😱😱 I was blessed to experience this INCREDIBLE, RARE, and SCARY moment today. The weather was once again amazing here in Anchorage, so I decided to do another hike out to the Portage Glacier.
I wanted to get a photo fairly close but still in a safe spot so I walked over to land next to the glacier. Very shortly after I got to land, I heard the ice begin to crack, and each second it grew more intense. So I pulled out my phone and took this video! A giant piece of ice the size of a house weighing probably tens of thousands of pounds fell right in front of me!
I think this will be my last time on the ice for this season, since it’s all cracked up now. Usually I get a bit closer, but just yesterday, a great friend Cindy Carlton warned me that if the glacier calves, sometimes the ice chunks can fall under the ice and create a wave buckling the ice upwards. Thank you for your excellent advice! If you hadn’t warned me, I would’ve still been on the ice, and a lot closer.
“If people are going to go out there, they should use caution,” Rouch told the Anchorage Daily News. “I would say, 1. Keep your distance away from the glacier, and 2. I wouldn’t travel alone if you do go out there.”