Whales, sea lions, and otters are the only traffic for Glacier Bay rangers

PARK RANGERS ARE ON EVERY CRUISE SHIP THAT TOURS GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK, but the massive ships don’t stop when they power into the bay, which means rangers have to board the boats while they’re still pushing through the water.

A typical summer day for a ranger in Glacier Bay begins at 5 a.m., an hour before the first ship arrives. The rangers gather supplies for the day, board a 10-passenger boat, and head out to meet the cruise liners. The cruise captain and the captain of the NPS boat determine which side of the vessel the rangers will board, and once the ranger boat is in line with the cruise ship, the captains will match the speeds.

“To us on the vessel, it seems like it’s stopped,” says Steve Schaller, who has been a ranger in Glacier Bay for a decade.

Dry bags full of gear are passed up first, and then a ladder is lowered for the rangers, who climb five or six rungs into an opening on the side of the cruise ship. Though it can be a scary climb at first, Schaller says it quickly becomes exciting.

“It’s pretty thrilling once you’ve been doing it a few times,” he says.

The wind, scenery, and wildlife sightings kickstart Schaller’s senses, and he says the commute always leaves him more alert for the day.

Though passengers are often asleep when the rangers board each morning, the evening departure is a popular time for passengers to wave goodbye to the rangers after they climb off the cruise ship and start their water-commute back to shore.

“We always call it one of the most exciting commutes imaginable,” Schaller says.


Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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