We woke to clear skies and sunshine, perfect weather that will allow us to see the top of the peaks inside the fjord. We unzipped the raft and set out in anticipation of an opportunity to view two of the worlds few remaining tide water glaciers during out 32-mile voyage up Tracy Arm to the Sawyer glaciers.
Tracy Arm cove is surrounded by spruce and hemlock forests as is most of the land in SE Alaska. However, as we move up through the fjord, we will notice some dramatic changes in foliage. Approaching the elbow, the evergreen forests give way to bands of alder and willow shrubs near the picturesque Ice Falls where we pause for a photoshoot.
Traveling through this fjord is an awe-inspiring adventure! The vertical 3,000-foot granite walls require that your crane your neck to see the peaks rising another thousand feet or more. This elevation gain, added to the 1,200-foot-deep water under our boats is evidence of the power of glaciers as they slowly lumbered seaward, pulled by the force of gravity, gouging, and shaping the landscape as they went. The walls are polished in some places or scarred with horizontal scratches in others, more evidence to the power of the glacier that once ground its way down through this fjord. Textbook examples of hanging valleys and U-shape valleys draw your attention, filled with verdant green meadows as far back as the eye can see.
As we neared the top of the arm, smaller bergs became more numerous, and we began to see our first haunting blue icebergs composed of ancient highly compressed ice. Passing the island that divides the two arms, the crevasse-riddled face of Sawyer glacier comes into view.
The surface of the bay is filled with bergs of all sizes. Although we were up here only eight days ago on Leg 5, the organization of the bay is very different. Some of the larger bergs that were against the south wall providing refuge for seal moms and their pups are now scattered throughout the bay. Seals come here to have their pups protected from both terrestrial and marine predators. The icebergs along the south wall provide a sanctuary for hundreds of seals and their pups.
We weave our way through to a relatively clear spot about half mile away. Moving thru the ice we notice a large ice burg suddenly become destabilized and break apart creating a horizontal avalanche of ice to avoid. The show begins with a thunderous roar as a massive chunk of ice falls from the glacier front, almost 200 feet high. It creates a great splash causing a swell that will reach us in a few minutes. The thunderous crash of the calving ice acts as a dinner bell for Arctic terns and kittiwakes as it stuns the krill and brings them to the surface.
Konstantine has brought a drone and he is able to fly it over the seals without disturbing them. I look forward seeing his bird’s eye footage. After about an hour and a half, we make our way back to Tracy Arm Cove. The journey back is equally as exciting as we hug the opposite wall and view the scenery from new vantage points. Upon arriving back at Tracy Arm Cove, we remake the raft and settle in for another quiet evening.
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