Endicott Arm in Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness

Jun 04, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

To say that our experiences today set the bar high for what Alaska’s coastal wilderness has to offer would be an understatement. After cruising south overnight from our embarkation port of Alaska’s capital, Juneau, National Geographic Quest awoke to a wonderfully misty morning as we made our way into the fjords of Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness area. Passing by an increasing abundance of bergy bits through the towering granite walls, excitement soon turned to complete awe as we wove deeper into Endicott Arm and laid eyes on the spectacular Dawes Glacier.

Bundling up after breakfast, we headed out to explore the glacier by Zodiac. Impressive waterfalls carved their way down to the glacial waters, algae-lined rock faces showed the drop in the tide that left large icebergs grounded atop moraines. Bald eagles watched as we passed by their cliffside posts, while misty clouds cleared above to expose mysterious hanging glaciers high in the branching U-shaped valleys, sculpted under thousands of years of geological forces. Among the scattered low-profile pieces of ice, harbor seals peaked curiously, heads just high enough out of the water to show their long whiskers, dark eyes and small ear holes. Cracking sounds of “white thunder” snapped our attention back toward the 200ft high face ahead as Dawes cut its losses to return ice to the tidewaters below.

With views of the glacier behind us over lunch, we made our way back down the fjord, eventually branching off to explore Fords Terror. Approaching the winding narrows and increasingly turbulent waters, we spotted our first brown bear on the shore. Learning about South East Alaska’s temperate rainforest after dinner, sightings of humpback whales helped to wrap up an excellent first day of our expedition.

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About the Author

Maya Santangelo

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Maya was born and raised in Southern California, where her curiosity for the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Relocating to Sydney, Australia with her family at 11 years old, she learned to scuba dive, eventually becoming a PADI Instructor. Her fascination for the underwater world undoubtedly fueled her interest to study marine biology at James Cook University. Working as a professional guide in some of the world’s top dive destinations, including Palau and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Revillagigedo Archipelago, Maya realized a passion for sharing her love for the ocean with others, and the value of citizen science in the dive industry.

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