'Unsettling' calving at Portage Lake caught on video
What was going to be just another day of photo shoots on Portage Lake for Paxson Woelber and his girlfriend quickly turned into a lesson from Mother Nature.
On Wednesday, Woelber recorded a sheet of ice he said was nearly 70 feet tall fall crashing into the lake.
"It was pretty unsettling," Woelber said. "It's not knowing what the glacier might do next that is a little bit more nerve-wracking."
Portage Lake is formed from a glacier that is quickly receding towards the mountains. The lake, which has only been visible since 1914, is quickly becoming a tourist destination for many. However, the calving of the glacier shows just how important it is to remain aware.
"The swells were lifting up the plates and we just kind of went up with them and went down and the ice kind of made noises," Woelber said. "Grating sounds, water splashed around, but we stayed completely on top of it."
Chugach National Forest District Ranger Tim Charnon says it's events like this that highlight the importance of respecting Alaska's wilderness.
"Calving of a glacier is quite common," Charnon said. "It's unpredictable. It could happen a couple of times a day or it could go a couple months without a calving event."
Matilda Guerra, a nature lover visiting the area Thursday, said she understands the risks associated not only with the glacier but all of the state's backcountry.
"It's just part of Alaska life and the part of what draws the people here is the adventurous spirit, yeah, but nature is obviously to be respected," Guerra said.
Charnon says because of the unpredictability of nature, you always need to stay informed. Doing so is as simple as knowing about the recent trends in temperatures, how thick the ice is in an area, and how long ice has been there.
Also, if you are going to be out on Portage Lake or doing anything that Alaska has to offer, you should tell a friend or family member just in case something were to happen to you. It's about respect and vigilance.
"I saw a lot of comments on Facebook of people saying, 'Portage Lake is always dangerous, this is why I never get on Portage Lake,'" Woelber said. "That's really not the case; there's 6 inches of good strong ice out there, and that's enough to support a snowmachine. One of the takeaways is that you just need to be really aware of specific risks wherever you are skating."
If you are looking for a safe spot to ice skate that is monitored and checked daily, Anchorage Parks & Recreation provides an updated list here.
Correction: Quotes in this story have been edited to accurately reflect what was said.
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