Stephens Passage

Jul 04, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


We arose early while sailing in Stephens Passage, and to our delight in the distance we saw a humpback whale calf side-lunging repeatedly. It was determined that this calf was practicing behavior while its mother was feeding or searching for food. Off in the distance on the other side of the bow we saw a Dall’s porpoise zipping through the water creating rooster tails of splashing water. Suddenly a humpback whale surfaced near the ship but dove quickly when it realized how close it was to us; how exciting! As we turned into Holkham Bay we began to see “bergy bits” – large pieces of ice that had calved from Sawyer Glacier and floated down the fjord. Beautiful shapes of turquoise blue hues began to float by regularly. We explored the face of Sawyer Glacier while on the ship, and after lunch we launched Zodiacs to explore amidst the ice and up to the face of glacier. Harbor seals and pups popped their heads up in between the ice. The ice calved and swells sloshed against the sides of the fjord. After an exciting round of ice-watching, we sailed back down Tracy Arm into Holkham Bay and Stephens Passage to a golden setting sun.

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About the Author

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

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