Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier

Aug 09, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

The last true day of our amazing trip began with a slight haze blanketing the mountains as the sun began to light up the cliff walls along Tracy Arm. The air had a smell reminiscent of campfire smoke from a forest fire burning on the British Columbia side of the Stikeen Ice Field. Our morning began with teams of guests and naturalists motoring up to see South Sawyer Glacier.

The towering 1,000-foot cliffs on either side of us were humbling. While admiring the cliff walls we were lucky enough to see a couple mountain goats walking about. Down at the water level, young harbor seals were frequently popping their heads out of the water and staring at us curiously, while in the distance dozens of their kin lay resting on chunks of ice. We also had the pleasure of enjoying a gushing waterfall, catch a fleeting glimpse of a harbor porpoise, as well as spotting several arctic terns. The most spectacular part of our morning though was getting to see South Sawyer Glacier calve up close. Watching the ice break and cascade down the jagged, blue face of the glacier, and then hearing it’s thunderous boom was quite the treat!

After lunch, our Global Explorers all had a chance to practice their hand at driving the zodiacs. They were quick learners. Perhaps, years down the road they will be driving their own expedition boats and joining our team of scientists and naturalists.

Then later, in attempt to end the trip with a splash, 55 of our guests put on their bathing suits, and bravely jumped into the frigid waters for a polar plunge. There were different techniques used from cannonballs, to back flips, but they all jumped in and came out with a smile.

We had an incredible week with Alaska giving us the best it has to offer. Unforgettable memories and lasting friendships have formed. It is hard to say goodbye, but we are all leaving feeling refreshed, inspired, and eager for the next adventure!

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About the Author

Dianna McKeage


Dianna has dedicated her life to conservation and stewardship. Helping people make connections with nature brings her endless happiness. With a Bachelor of Science in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism from the University of Maine, Dianna has worked as a naturalist all over the country serving with various public land preserves. As a naturalist she has had opportunities to lead expeditions and present programming through sandstone cliffs and hoodoos, upon alpine tundra peaks, through fragile taiga lowlands, along craggy cliffs in coastal temperate forests, through flowing tall grass prairies, in vast sagebrush-steppe ecosystems, along waterways in the depths of inner canyons, and through varying types of desert habitat.

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