At one point in Alaskan history, prior to this land being known as Alaska, you couldn’t go almost anywhere without running up against a glacier. During the Pleistocene, an ice age that lasted until 20,000 years ago, and even later into the Little Ice Age, a localized ice age that lasted until 1750, the predominant feature of the land was ice. Today almost all of Alaska’s glaciers, of which there are thousands, are shrinking in size. Very few glaciers are tidewater glaciers; that is glaciers that terminate into the ocean rather than on land.
Today Mother Goose traveled to see two of those remaining tidewater glaciers, Sawyer Glacier and South Sawyer Glacier. To get to the glaciers, the fleet cruised up the tracy arm fjord, expertly navigating between icebergs and smaller bergie bits floating in the waters. The glacial etched cliffs towered above the boats, with innumerable waterfalls cascading down etching the rock face further. Perched in the cliffs, and diving into the waters below, were some Black Legged Kittiwakes. A small relative of gulls, kittiwakes choose to make their nests in precarious cliffs to protect their young from hungry foxes, martins and bears. Another clever mama, the harbor sea, had parked her young pup on a near by iceberg. Baby seals can dive as deep as their mamas, and must remain on shore while mom hunts for fish and squid. An ice field seems like as good a place as any for some baby seal daycare!
The fleet got to the face of Sawyer Glaicer by mid-day, and spent lunch watching thousands-of-year-old ice calve into the fjord. Glacial ice, unlike regular ice, has been compressed so heavily that the ice crystals change shape becoming extremely dense. Now instead of reflecting light, the dense ice crystals absorb all light waves except blue light waves, which results in our eyes perceiving the ice as a beautiful, luminous blue color. How magnificent!
Eventually our time at Sawyer Glacier came to a close and the fleet decided to make their way back down Tracy Arm, heading back to Tracy Arm Cove for our evening anchorage. On the way, Thea and Patos spotted orcas! Nice spotting! These orcas were Transient Orcas, whose diet consists of marine mammals, including the harbor seal and harbor porpoise we saw earlier in the day. This family was busy cruising in among the ice, traveling along the shoreline with smooth and powerful movements causing them to glide through the water and ice. After a very full day the fleet anchored out individually, all our boats scatter about Tracy Arm Cove being rocked to sleep amongst the ancient ice.