ALASKA: 2015 LEG 3 – TRACY ARM | NW Explorations



Sleeping-in is a real challenge here in SE Alaska, given its light out at 4:30. This morning, we start to pull anchors and cast-off lines and pull-in shore ties around 6:30 to ensure we are underway by 7.

There are medium sized “bergy bits” (the term for the ice that is not quite full iceberg size) and small sized “growlers” of ice in the water (ice that is perhaps a bit big for our full sized coolers, but not as big as the bergy bits).  They are thick and getting thicker as we move up the arm.  Navigator and Ajax are ahead of the fleet, but we all slow as we approach Sawyer Island at the branch between North reach and South reach of the Glacier.  We elect to head to North Sawyer Glacier to get a better view, than attempt to push through the ice to the South arm.  We are also beginning to see seals on the ice, and don’t want to risk disturbing any of them.

So Deception maneuvers around Sawyer Island. We knock a few bigger bergy bits, pushing ice aside to help smooth the way for the fleet.  There are a few good thuds, but Deception seems un-phased.  She has been through this before…

As we head up the arm to North Sawyer Glacier, our depth finder seems to skip a few beats – drops from a few hundred feet of depth to just 50 feet of water as we pass over the glacial moraine deposited by the glacier during its retreat.

After photographs galore, we take a few moments with our engines off to listen for the sounds of this glacier’s rapid retreat from the tidal influence of the ocean; shrinking back into the valley that cradles the ice.

We do have the chance to pay witness to a small calving that still drops some impressive sized ice blocks into the water. Well – impressive on a human scale.

As Deception re-engages its engines, Lucas on board climbs down to the rear swim step to fish some growlers of ice out for the cooler, from the size of a human head to a good 50 pound hunk, we select some beautiful clear, prismatic glacial ice to offer to the fleet for their coolers.

Cocktails tonight aboard Deception – perhaps Scotch on the (ancient) rocks tonight?

After we arrive back in Tracy Arm Cove and raft the boats, we launch the fleet’s dinghys for some further exploration around the cove.  Navigator calls in over the radio that they have sighted a bear on the beach on their way into the cove and through our binoculars we can just make it out.   We head over in that direction in the dinghy’s, but of course by the time we arrive it is long gone.  We explore the bergy bits in the water instead, examining the textured blue ice.

As we are returning to the fleet a call comes in over the radio from Todd and Judy out on Telita’s dinghy.  We respond.   Radio silence.  Again, they call. Again, we respond.  Silence.  So Deception’s dinghy heads out of the cove to try and find Todd and Judy.   (Don’t worry Dennis, we indeed find them!)  They are idling a hundred feet off shore, where a mother grizzly and her three cubs have emerged from the bushes.  She doesn’t seem particularly disturbed by our presence.  She lumbers back into the shrubbery and back onto the beach and meanders her way over driftwood and around the rocks.

We watch her for some time as she makes her way along the beach eventually settling down to rest in the tall grasses just up from the tide line. We head back to the raft with some incredibly pictures and perhaps the most wonderful bear encounter we could ask for.

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