Our weather luck held and we woke to the sun streaming through our windows. We excitedly pulled anchor, anticipating a great day ahead. Today’s cruise would take us up into the deep fjord of Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer Glaciers. These are tidewater glaciers that extend all the way from the snow fields in the mountains to the sea. As they retreat, giant icebergs calve off of the faces creating the many bergs we’d been seeing in the water.
We began our cruise up the fjord with an ice sculpture naming competition. For each berg we passed our crews called out what they thought it looked like, and the answers continued to get more and more creative as we cruised. The snow-capped mountains towered around us as we traveled deeper into the fjord. The mountain sides steepened as we continued on our way until both sides were sheer granite cliff faces with vegetation clinging to every small crack and crevice.
As we neared the South Sawyer Glacier the ice thickened and we slowed our pace and got into single file for the final approach to the glacier. As we rounded the bend the deep blue ice face came into view. It’s challenging to maintain a sense of scale among these massive mountains, glaciers and ice flows. The face of the glacier is about a half mile across and the bay immediately in front of it was full of ice bergs, bergy bits and growlers. On the ice we encountered harbor seal mammas that had just given birth to their pups. A few of the pups were so brand new that there were still blood stains on the ice and we could see the umbilical cords attached.
We navigated our way up close to the face, maintaining our quarter mile distance. We sat and watched for a while as small pieces broke off of the sides and bounced noisily down to the ocean. As we sat and watched, a large boom resounded around the bay and we saw a giant portion of the ice face calve into the sea and create a huge splash that rocked our boats. It is amazing to see these glaciers up close and in person and witness the full force of the power they contain.
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