2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 3, Day 3 – Tracy Cove to Sawyer Glacier | NW Explorations


2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 3, Day 3 – Tracy Cove to Sawyer Glacier

Today started with light sprinkles and broken overcast skies. We unzipped the raft and set out in anticipation of an opportunity to view two of the world’s few remaining tidewater glaciers during our 32-mile voyage up Tracy Arm to the Sawyer glaciers.

The area surrounding the cove is composed of forests of Sitka spruce and Western hemlock, it was in this area we spotted a Black bear at the base of the cliff on the southern shore feeding on barnacles that blanket the rocks.  It offered the opportunity to notice the anatomical differences between the Brown bear in the cove and this smaller Black bear.

As we approached the elbow, the evergreen forests gave way to bands of alder and willow shrubs near the picturesque Ice Falls where we paused to allow for a photoshoot. Traveling through this fjord is an awe-inspiring adventure! The vertical 3,000-foot granite walls require that you 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. Rounding the point, the crevasse-riddled face of Sawyer glacier comes into view. The surface of the bay is filled with all sizes of bergs. We weave our way through to a relatively clear spot about half mile off and 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.

Seals hauled out on the ice came here to have their pups protected from both terrestrial and marine predators. The icebergs collected along the south wall provide a sanctuary for hundreds of seals and their pups. 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.

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 see our Brown bear friend plying the beaches for barnacles and other intertidal treats. We reassemble our raft and settle in for dinner and a relaxing evening. Bob catches two more monster Dungeness; they will eat well tonight!

P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. charters@nwexplorations.com 

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