Jul 08, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird
“...shut in by sublime Yosemite cliffs, nobly sculptured, and adorned with waterfalls and fringes of trees, bushes, and patches of flowers, but amid so crowded a display of novel beauty it was not easy to concentrate the attention long enough on any portion of it without giving more days and years than our lives can afford.”
So wrote John Muir more than 100 years ago as he too ventured into the area we know now as the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness. This protected spot is over 650,000 acres in size and abounds in wildlife such as harbor seals and bald eagles, which we had many fortunate sightings of throughout the day.
We traveled 30 miles through the glacially carved fjord of Endicott Arm. The granite mountains towered well over 1,000 feet almost straight up from the crystalline waters we traversed. This emerald bay seemed more like an alpine loch than a thalassic basin. Awe and humility for such an ancient and megalithic domain was humbling to all. Our adventures for the day highlighted this truly special location.
We woke up crossing the narrow, shallow bar and entering Endicott Arm. After a stretch class, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast then quickly organized into groups for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding in the deep fjord. Admiring the ice that floated around our kayaks, we all realized how cool today’s start really was.
After lunch aboard National Geographic Sea Bird, we got back into our expedition landing crafts and headed farther up the fjord. We pulled up right next to the dramatic waterfalls and watched harbor seals swimming in the frigid bay and others taking it easy, hauled out on the ice floes drifting in the ever-changing current. Pushing further up into the fjord, swerving around bergy bits and brash ice, we finally reached our goal of the Dawes Glacier. At one mile wide, from one side of the mountain to the other, the glacier was truly one of the highlights of our trip. The size of this cerulean glacier that connects with the Stikine Ice Field was absolutely breathtaking.
We returned to the ship, enjoyed a farewell dinner and cruised out of Endicott Arm and into Holkham Bay toward our destination of Juneau. To be one of the few people to see, interact with, and truly savor Alaska was an opportunity of a lifetime—and a glimpse of what it must have been like during the Ice Age. Seeing with our own eyes how much the glacier has receded in such a short time will hopefully provide an incentive for us to help and preserve this wild place!
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