2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 3 – Tracy Arm Cove to Sawyer Glacier | NW Explorations
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2022 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 3 – Tracy Arm Cove to Sawyer Glacier

We woke to light fog and quickly disassembled the raft in anticipation of our trip up Tracy Arm fjord to the Sawyer Glaciers. Both glaciers are tidewater glaciers that extend from the Stikine Icefield 20 miles up the mountain all the way down to the water’s edge. At their face, huge blocks of ice, some a large as a building, calve off the face and fall into the water, creating icebergs that eventually float out to sea.

As we travel up the arm, the sides of the fjord become steeper and higher, and trees become smaller and more scarce. This is due to timing of the original retreat from the shallow moraine that we passed over yesterday as we entered Tracy Arm. As we move closer to the glacier, we enter an area that was covered by the glacier more recently and there hasn’t been enough time for the rocks to be broken down into soils and therefore few trees are able to grow.

Its challenging to get a sense of scale. The rock rises vertically out of the water thousands of feet above us and narrow waterfalls cascade down the walls from unseen lakes in the snow and glacier capped mountains above us. As we approach the glaciers, we need to decrease our speed and pay close attention to the bergs in the water, some are small “bergie-bits” while others are bigger than our boats!

As we made our way about a quarter mile from the face of the South Sawyer glacier, we gazed in awe at the sheer size of the glacier towering over us. Again, the scale is difficult to determine without reference, but large yachts look like children’s toys, and seals hauled out on bergs look like tiny dots. Smaller blocks of ice drop off and sometimes give clues as to where to expect bigger pieces to fall.

The sound of the ice creates a loud, “CRACK!” like a loud gunshot. However, the sound arrives after the collapse. We witnessed a huge wall about 200 feet above the water’s surface and probably almost as wide, fall forward and create a huge wave that lifted a 170 foot yacht up to an awkward angle and then plunge into the trough. Its tender was lifted to the crest and then completely disappeared into the trough!  They retreated to a safer distance shortly afterwards. We simply felt the swell and that is why we don’t get too close.

Seals haul out onto the ice with their pups, they have come here to avoid predators and raise their pups in relative safety. After two hours, we traveled onto the smaller North Sawyer for a quick look and Jane spotted two mountain goats high up on the rock walls. That was a treat because they are difficult to spot and are rarely at a low enough elevation to photograph.

After a long day, we returned to Tracy Arm Cove to raft and anchor. Everyone was tired and we made dinner and settled in for a quiet evening.

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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