Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness

Jun 28, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Unexpected was this voyage’s buzzword and theme: The entire week was filled with surprises, and it didn’t take long for the magic to begin. After dinner on the first evening as we left Sitka behind, a coastal brown bear was spotted ambling, and not ten minutes later a black-tailed deer. As bald eagles later circling beneath a rainbow, there was no question we were off to an abundant start.

But never did we expect killer whales on the first morning of our trip. Over the next six days the fortunes did not abate: bow-riding porpoises, a mama brown bear with her golden cub, sea otters with their pups, a glimpse of the elusive minke whale, and humpback whales corralling fish, breaching, flipper flapping, and tail lobbing. Then there were the Steller sea lions up close and personal, both kinds of puffins, mountain goats and the lofty Fairweather Range rising 15,000 feet into the sky. And the wonders didn’t just include wildlife, we were lucky to sail with an incredible team of MIT National Geographic ocean explorers who explained and deployed a high-tech data device that appeared at first glance like Star Wars’ BB8! And just when we thought we’d seen it all, today happened!

We knew that it might be possible to watch a giant calving at Dawes Glacier, but to be honest, icefalls don’t always happen when we’re there, or when we’re looking at the right spot. But on a trip full of wondrous moments, this calving was definitely a highlight. And the splash must have been 200 feet high! And that’s not all – the only thing noisier than the thunderous calving of a glacier is a whole bunch of eager Global Explorers learning to drive zodiacs and then plunging into the 45 F degree waters for a full embrace of their environs. The most unexpected part was that the kids weren’t alone. We’ve never seen so many adults join in.

So how do you sum up a week like this – here’s what some of the kids offered in a single word: unbelievable, magical, magnificent, unforgettable, incredible, amazing, invigorating, insane! And finally the most delightful surprise of all was an entire week of sunshine!

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”

—Hunter S. Thompson

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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.

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