Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm & Ford’s Terror Wilderness

Jul 26, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Some days are just too hard to put into words. It’s tough to imagine how such an action-packed week eploring Alaska’s coastal wilderness could possibly be wrapped up. After cruising north overnight from Petersburg, National Geographic Quest awoke to a wonderfully misty morning as we made our way up into the fjords of Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area. Passing by an increasing abundance of broken glacial ice, our eager anticipation grew with every corner we turned through the towering walls. Bundling up after breakfast, we headed out to explore Sawyer Glacier by Zodiac. Impressive waterfalls carved their way down to the turquoise waters as pigeon guillemots and Arctic terns flew by. Colorful flowers dotted the sides of the steep cliffs among the varying levels of vegetation growth, indicating the story of glacial movement and succession over many years past. Rounding the corners of the fjord, jaws dropped as we laid eyes on the deep blues of the exposed tidewater glacier face, towering 200 feet above the surface. As we enjoyed our hot cocoa delivered by the Lindblad-famous cocoa Vikings (deck and hotel crew), Sawyer treated us to various displays of impressive calving activity and the cracking sounds of “white thunder”.

With views of the glacier behind us over lunch, we made our way back down the fjord. As we headed into William’s Cove for our afternoon activities, we gathered out on deck to enjoy exciting views of a small pod of transient killer whales. After the show, our Global Explorers learned to drive Zodiacs, followed by a polar plunge in the Alaska sunshine, for those brave enough to test the chilly waters. As we cruised into Stephen’s Passage, we enjoyed the final recap of our trip from our natural history team. Wrapping up dinner, news of yet another wildlife sighting shifted our evening plans as the outer decks quickly filled again. The sun lowered on the horizon, clouds layered mystically between the mountains, light danced perfectly on the glassy calm waters, and countless humpback whales broke the surface.

Blow after blow, fluke after fluke, we couldn’t believe the spectacle all around us. Camera shutters clicked all around, but soon stopped as we tried our best to just take in this tremendous scene. As the light disappeared, we bid farewell to the whales and made our way back into the lounge to enjoy the slideshow presentation of our trip, put together by our photo instructor Michelle Theall. bubble-net-feeding humpback whales, foraging brown bears, feisty Steller sea lions, calving glaciers, hunting orcas, rafting sea otters, blue icebergs, banana slugs galore: It’s hard to believe everything we have experienced in just a short time. Moments, days, a week—memories that will certainly last a lifetime.

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About the Author

Maya Santangelo

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Maya was born and raised in Southern California, where her curiosity for the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Relocating to Sydney, Australia with her family at 11 years old, she learned to scuba dive, eventually becoming a PADI Instructor. Her fascination for the underwater world undoubtedly fueled her interest to study marine biology at James Cook University. Working as a professional guide in some of the world’s top dive destinations, including Palau and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Revillagigedo Archipelago, Maya realized a passion for sharing her love for the ocean with others, and the value of citizen science in the dive industry.

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