Le Conte Glacier and Petersburg

Jul 03, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

It was a rare day! This is Southeast Alaska and it rains, a lot. It’s a temperate rainforest. There’s a reason why the forests are so green! There’s plenty of daylight and plenty of moisture. Locals laugh about putting seeds in the ground and jumping back to get out of the way. We grow some pretty incredible gardens here. This part of the Inside Passage (also known as the Alexander Archipelago) gets a whopping 130 inches of rain a year. And on summer solstice (just a couple of weeks ago) we got 18 hours and 18 minutes of daylight. Notice that we aren’t talking about sunshine, but rather hours of light. A full day of bright, hot sunshine is so rare that locals call it “severe clear.” We have to dig in the medicine cabinet to find the sunscreen.  But today, we awoke to a bluebird day that was stunning: not a cloud in the sky, not a ripple on the water. At 7:00 am our Zodiac excursions began, and right off the bat we found something rare – a huge iceberg with a full grown adult bald eagle perched on the top, and nearby was a lovely view of the moon.  And with a little careful “cruising for composition” our trusty Zodiac drivers put us in the right spot for the perfect image. It was an outstanding morning of slaloming around cerulean blue bergs using some of our newly acquired photographic skills! And then it was time for Petersburg.

A muskeg is a rare biome. Only 10% of Southeast Alaska is made up of this unusual landscape. It’s a soggy, boggy, acidic wetland with a variety of unusual plants including the tiny but mighty insect-eating sundew. And if that wasn't exceptional enough, how about celebrating the 4th of July on the 3rd? Alaskans are so excited about summer holidays, they extend them as long as possible. When you wait all winter long for summer days, why not combine two of them to celebrate one holiday! So Petersburg had festivities all day today with more even more events planned for tomorrow and fireworks are yet to come tonight. We plan to drift away from the city lights and watch the fireworks from out at sea. Never done that before! It should be the perfect ending to an unusual day. And that rare blue sky...still there at 10:00 pm. Wow!

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About the Author

Melanie Heacox


Melanie Heacox has been a career naturalist with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) for over 30 years. Her assignments included Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Katmai, Denali and Glacier Bay National Park where she met and married Kim. Her career led her across Denali by dog-sled, down the Colorado River in a raft, up the Grand Teton by pitons and ropes, and through Yellowstone by snowshoe. She also served on the NPS Prince William Sound Oil Spill Task Force.

About the Photographer

Ryder Redfield

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Growing up at the base of the Cascade Mountains in the tiny Oregon town of Sisters meant that Ryder was surrounded by wilderness. A childhood of hiking, fishing, hunting for arrowheads, camping, and upland bird hunting resulted in the outdoors feeling far more comfortable than hectic city streets. His passion for the outdoors has perpetually grown and, upon graduating from the University of Oregon, he embraced his wanderlust with even greater vigor. His adventures eventually led him to working with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic as a photo instructor.

About the Videographer

Bradford McArthur

Video Chronicler

Bradford McArthur has been shooting film and photos since the 1990's (pre-digital dinosaur!) Committed to filming isolated regions and untold stories through a message of conservation, McArthur founded Forever Exploring Productions in 2009. As a former professional rock/alpine climber and whitewater kayaker he has shot adventure films all over the globe for brands such as Arc'teryx, The North Face, Olympus and many others.

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