LeConte Glacier and Petersburg

Jun 21, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


It was yet another stunningly beautiful day in Southeast Alaska, though today felt more like Alaska and a tad less tropical than previous days. Though the forecast called for rain, we felt only a few drops, and enjoyed the welcome cloud cover. After breakfast, we hopped into our expedition landing crafts and cruised the entrance of the inlet leading to LeConte Glacier. The glacier was too far away to see, but its presence was evident all around us in the form of floating ice: massive icebergs, huge bergy bits, lots of growlers, and plenty of brash (all technical terms for different sizes of ice chunks). This is a terrific area, with massive pieces of ice the size of multi-story mansions resting in the water. Most of the icebergs are a thrilling turquoise blue, almost seeming to glow from within. Looking up at the ice, we felt very small. A few bald eagles were spotted on trees and ice, as well as a few harbor seals. This is prime seal pupping season, and we are in the perfect spot to see them: harbor seals choose to give birth near glaciers because there is plenty of ice to rest upon and some protection from killer whales. 

Today, however, a seal or two met an untimely demise. Near the end of our cruise, we encountered a group of orcas swimming with purpose into the mouth of the inlet. At least one large male let us come near enough for an exciting encounter as it came to the surface for air. A few others tailed behind. We had to break contact before witnessing any seal carnage, but we were certain that the orcas were well fed today. 

After lunch, we docked in Petersburg, a quaint town of about 3,000 residents, most of whom are involved in the fishing industry. We strolled the docks with our undersea specialists to hear about the fishing fleet and commercial fishery, flew over the Stikine Icefield, walked downtown with our photo instructor, and crossed to Kupreanof Island for a trek into the muskeg. Muskegs are wet boggy areas with very interesting botanical finds. Strolling on an elevated boardwalk, we found fascinating plants with adaptations like those you would find in a desert ecosystem. We even saw copious amounts of carnivorous sundew plants, some of which contained the decaying carcasses of their last meals! 

Before dinner, a Petersburg local came aboard to answer questions about living in Alaska and discuss local fishery and conservation issues. It was a terrific day, and we celebrated the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

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About the Author

Emily Mount

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Emily grew up in Niwot, Colorado and Pullman, Washington. Her love of nature began as a child during family vacations spent hiking, camping and exploring the mountains and deserts of the west. In contrast to her outdoors interests, Emily pursued an intensive young career as a classical violinist, culminating in degrees in history and music performance at the University of Washington.  

About the Videographer

Mark Coger

Video Chronicler

Growing up in a military family, Mark Coger has been traveling most of his life.  While living in Japan, he developed his passion for videography.  He began his venture in the field of video production by filming numerous events for a local high school and the military community before moving to Southern California, where he obtained his degree in filmmaking at California State University Northridge.  From there, he went on to produce and direct his first major short film, An American Journalist which was screened at the Method Film Festival.

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