Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness

May 21, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird

Immense, spectacular, vast, exquisite, wild, and breathtaking…I doubt there are enough superlatives to describe the incredible Tracy Arm fjord. Winding our way through bergy bits and past unnamed waterfalls cascading thousands of feet down sheer granitic cliffs, we spotted seabirds skipping across the water, mountain goats high above us, and near the waterline two bears.

Bears have only recently left their winter dens and are busy foraging. The upper intertidal zone is one of the best food resources in spring, and the two bears we spotted were intently scraping up mussels and barnacles. Both of the bears were black bears, though their coloration varied. Black bears may be black, cinnamon, white, or even blue—glacier bears—so color isn’t a very good indication of species. Brown bears, also known as grizzlies, have a hump of muscle above their shoulders and a dished face. The absence of that hump and the straight nose on these bears were the easiest characteristics to distinguish.

Mid-morning found us speeding toward South Sawyer Glacier in our trusty expedition landing crafts with binoculars, cameras, and...sunglasses! Our day in this picture-perfect wilderness was all blue sky, blue ice, and calm water. Melting snow up above fed the dozens of waterfalls sweeping down the sheer mountainsides. In the ice-filled water near the glacier were harbor seals, most likely females near their pupping time, and in the air, arctic terns recently returned from Antarctica flew by with small fish in their beaks. It was truly awe-inspiring to witness the arrival of spring in Southeast Alaska.

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About the Author

Bette Lu Krause


Bette Lu's adventurous spirit has taken her around the world by sea — those adventures include tramping about the oceans on old break-bulk freighters, navigating the South Pacific Ocean and on to Antarctica on research vessels as well as several seasons in the Alaskan arctic dodging icebergs in the Beaufort Sea.

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