Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier

Aug 11, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird

Fog surrounded National Geographic Sea Bird this morning as we made our way south to the opening of Tracy Arm, a deep fjord on the mainland of Southeast Alaska. We disembarked and rode in expedition landing crafts to the beach in Williams Cove, just inside Tracy Arm. On shore, we divided into groups and ventured into the beautiful forest to enjoy a hike. As we walked, we marveled at the lushness of the undergrowth and mosses, which seemed to grow on everything.

Our trail wound through the forest and back out onto the beach, where the tide was exceptionally low. The sun had burned away the fog and the day turned bright and gorgeous. On the beach, we examined intertidal creatures and seaweeds covering the rocks. We saw sea stars, crabs, worms, mussels, fish, and more.

We had a fantastic lunch aboard Sea Bird before jumping back into the expedition landing crafts for a closer look at South Sawyer Glacier. As we drove, the icebergs surrounding us were spectacular! We were amazed at the deep blue color of the ice—a function of how all but the blue wavelengths of light are absorbed as they pass through the ice. Besides the icebergs, we saw harbor seals up close. And of course, the glacier itself was amazing. We waited patiently for the glacier to calve, and we were rewarded when some large chunks of ice broke off and crashed into the water below with a boom. It was the perfect way to end our adventure together in Southeast Alaska.

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About the Author

Ivan Phillipsen


Ivan is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He has participated in studies of a diverse assortment of organisms: aspen trees, cactus wrens, aquatic snails, frogs, and beetles. He holds a M.S. in biology from Cal State San Bernardino and a Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University. The population genetics of freshwater animals was his area of focus. He has published a series of papers on the evolutionary biology of amphibians and aquatic insects. Ivan’s scientific work invariably involved backpacking into remote wilderness areas to find his secretive research subjects in their natural habitats.

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