Sawyer Glacier and Williams Cove

Aug 02, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Lion


We began our morning sailing into Tracy Arm Fjord, one of the jewels of the Tongass National Forest and the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world. There is nothing quite like waking up to impressive views of steep fjord walls blanketed with the leaves of green alders, willows, and sporadic patches of Sitka spruce. The skies were blue, however, shade still dominated inside the steep U-shaped valley as National Geographic Sea Lion navigated its course towards the junction of Sawyer and South Sawyer Glacier.

Southeastern Alaska, offers an endless variety of impressive topography, but perhaps nowhere is the scenery more grandiose than in Tracy Arm. Here, glaciers have carved not the comparatively crumbly rock smeared onto North America by the accretionary process, but the roots of volcanoes. Granite and gneiss, resistant to erosion, form soaring cliffs that ascend to domed summits, and fjords that drop straight to astonishing depths.

Since John Muir’s visit of this area in 1880, glacial retreat has split Tracy Arm’s glaciers in two: Sawyer and South Sawyer glaciers. This morning, we opted for Sawyer. Hopping into our inflatables, we negotiated through ice and stopped at many towering waterfalls. Bergs here come in endless variety. Some are gigantic, others tiny and delicate. Not only were we witness to several large calving events, but on our way to the glacier face we were greeted by a posing harbor seal perched on a piece of ice. To cap off the glacier tour, the guests were intercepted by by a friendly crew of “Vikings” who served us hot chocolate in front of the glacier!

After such an intimate morning experiencing the raw beauty of Sawyer Glacier, our fleet of inflatable boats were lifted, and the ship headed towards our afternoon operations at Williams Cove. Long and medium hikes were offered to give our guests one last opportunity to stretch their legs along the shore and forest as well as with our fleet of kayaks and paddle boards. What a wonderful last day here in Southeast Alaska!

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About the Author

Shawn Lucas

Divemaster

Shawn’s love of the outdoors began at an early age when he would play the game manhunt with his neighborhood friends in the forest behind the development they lived in situated in the tiny upstate hamlet of Wappingers Falls, New York. As long as he can remember, the forest had always beckoned and sparked a strong sense of exploration and wanderlust. 

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