Tracy Arm and Sailing North

Jun 28, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird


Early in the morning, before our entire intrepid group was awake, we crossed the “bar” at Holkham Bay. This terminal moraine marks the spot where one massive glacier once stood but has since receded into several steep glacial valleys now surrounded by the Tracy Arm Fords Terror Wilderness Area. The National Geographic Sea Bird headed northeast, up the fjord named Tracy Arm. As breakfast and coffee were served, we passed through the high walls that were once scraped smooth by the movement of the massive glacier. Floating icebergs, sparse near the entrance to the valleys became more numerous until we finally could take the ship no further. As South Sawyer Glacier peeked through the curves ahead, we deployed the inflatable boats and headed in further for a closer look.

At times, navigating the ice field was slow-going as we weaved through bergy bits, growlers, and brash ice and avoided the ubiquitous Harbor Seals resting on the ice. These were mostly mother and pup seals, near the end of weaning period. Some of the pups were almost as big as their mothers, nearly ready to head out on their own after 3-4 weeks of nursing. Finally, we nearly reached the glacier, as close as we could get with the thick ice cover. South Sawyer Glacier rested in the bright warm sunshine.

Back at the ship after our expedition, we were greeted with a well-deserved lunch of freshly grilled hamburgers with all the fixings – a perfect complement to the sunny day outside. We retreated out of the glacial fjord taking in the new perspective of the “other” side of the steep walls. Stopping only for towering waterfalls and a lone Brown Bear, foraging in the dropping tide.

We re-emerged at the bar, greeted by a humpback whale lounging near the shallow entrance. But we needed to press on, with much water to cover to our next destination. As we headed back into Stephens Passage, more humpback whales were spotted and we watched them dive lazily under the warm afternoon sun before we again headed north towards Lynn Canal.

After a dinner of beef tenderloin, seared local rockfish, and bean cassoulet, the evening was open to relax in the evening sun, relax in our cabins, or enjoy each other’s company with a cocktail or tea in the lounge. We took advantage of the early evening to rest up for an early and adventurous day tomorrow in Haines, the adventure capital of Southeast Alaska.

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About the Author

Ashley Knight

Undersea Specialist

Ashley was raised in the high desert of Sedona, Arizona and escaped to the sea as soon as she was old enough. She developed a love for the oceans when she began scuba diving as a teenager and this has led to a career intertwined with the sea. Her simultaneous career as marine scientist and undersea specialist have given her opportunities to explore the kelp forests of California's Channel Islands, the coral reefs of the Florida Keys, and the rocky reefs of the west coast spanning from Monterey Bay to the Oregon Coast to British Columbia, the fjords of southeast Alaska, and the ultimate cold water of Antarctica.

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