In the morning, before the fleet got under way, Eldean pulled their crab pot to find their bait licked clean by, not crabs, but a host of green sea urchins. Jack thoughtfully kept the whistle clean herring bones to show the group and everyone was flabbergasted at how the urchins got through the mesh wire of the bait grate to so thoroughly enjoy the herring and chicken scraps. The answer to this mystery is that the urchins both did and did not pass through the grate. The round, hard body of the urchin, with its many green spines, could not pass through the wire grate, however, the urchin’s many extendable tube feet could pass through the grate, secure a bit of fish and bring that back to its five toothed mouth. What a feast they had! While not what Eldean was planning, we all certainly enjoyed the opportunity to see urchins in action!
After breakfast and roll call, the fleet set out to visit two of Alaska’s 51 tidewater glaciers, the South Sawyer Glacier and the Sawyer Glacier. The Sawyer Glacier has been retreating since the end of the Neoglacial period, also know as the Little Ice Age, which ended 270 years ago. At its largest, Sawyer glacier reached the entire length of Tracy Arm, carving the fjord, an underwater U-shaped valley, that Mother Goose fleet cruised on today. The fleet may have only traveled 25 nautical miles to get to the face of the glacier, but our trip took us hundreds of years back in time. The fleet wound our way through icebergs and rounded mountain tops, everywhere we looked we saw evidence of glaciers. The hillsides bore deep horizontal grooves, called striations, that were caused by the glacier dragging boulders into the mountainside as they passed. Decades of snowpack fed waterfalls that cascaded down sheer rockfaces, the etching work of the water just barely starting to alter the truly monumental glacial formed landscape. Part way up Tracy Arm the fleet took a moment to enjoy particularly picturesque Olca Falls before continuing on to the South Sawyer Glacier.
Fortunately, the path leading to South Sawyer was not choked with ice and the fleet was able to get close to the terminus of the glacier. In true Mother Goose form, all the boat followed in line behind the lead boat Deception as we wound our way through the ice to the glacier. Protected ice field such as this one offer excellent pupping habitat for Harbor Seals, and we just happened to arrive at peak pupping season. The ice was dotted with baby harbor seals, and the sound of pups cooing for their mothers filled the air punctuated only by the bone-shaking sounds of the glacier calving. The fleet watched in awe as ice chunks the size of a three story building broke off from the glacier and crashed into the water below. As Craig from Discovery said, “There are no words to describe it.”
On our way back, the fleet stopped by Sawyer Glacier which has retreated to the point of almost completely clearing the water and returning to land. This is a monumental point in this glaciers life as it will cease to be a tidewater glacier once it retreats onto land, and instead become an alpine glacier. During our return trip to Tracy Arm Cove, Deception announced the winner of the iceberg sculpture competition was Grand Adventure who spotted a 30 ft shoe- a loafer to be precise. Congrats Grand Adventure! The fleet settled into Tracy Arm Cove after an exhilarating day. That evening the fellows from Eldean graciously joined Deception’s crew for dinner. Jordan smoked an absolutely delicious brisket and the maple brussels sprouts were eaten enthusiastically. We certainly enjoyed your company Eldean!