Tracy Arm and Stephens Passage

Aug 25, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Today is the first official day of our voyage into the wild places of Alaska. We woke up in the stunning Tracy Arm Fjord, a corridor forged by ice and filled with ocean. As our ship wound its way forward, we enjoyed the views of the mountain and rockscapes towering on either side of us until all our eyes were drawn to the same place. We turned one final corner and came face to face with the majestic force of nature responsible for all that we were seeing; a tidewater glacier.

Tidewater glaciers are rivers of ice that have journeyed all the way from their original icefield to the ocean. They bulldoze their path forward, scraping and absorbing rocks and plants off the mountains along their journey. They churn up all the minerals and plants into a silty sandy slurry that mixes with freshwater underneath the glacier and gets spewed out as the ocean’s protein shake. These nutrients are vital to the entire marine food web of Southeast Alaska. The plankton need the nutrients to survive, and everything in the food web, the black bears along the beach, and the humpback whales in the water, relies on the plankton in some way to survive. The glaciers are the lifeblood of our ecosystem – and seeing them in all their majesty is truly inspiring.

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About the Author

Rachel Crane

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Rachel is a Marine Ecologist, Master Scuba Instructor, and USCG 100-ton licensed Captain. She grew up homeschooled on an alpaca farm in Upstate NY, where her passion for the outdoors was initially cultivated. After attending a marine science summer camp in her teenage years, she fell in love with the ocean, and went on to earn degrees in Ecology and Marine Biology at Unity College in Maine. She spent time in Florida at MOTE Marine Laboratory researching coral disease ecology but found herself drawn into Eco Tourism as a way to more directly be involved in educating the public about our marine resources. Working with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic has provided her the perfect balance between exploring, science, oceans, and mountains, while seamlessly allowing her to share her knowledge and passions in a meaningful and fulfilling way. She is often as excited, and smiling as widely, as those experiencing expeditions for the first time!

About the Photographer

Kimberly Baldwin


Family vacations to the Jersey shore engendered a deep love affair between the ocean and Kimberly Baldwin. But growing up in landlocked Pennsylvania proved challenging for a hopeful marine biologist. College afforded the opportunity to earn a B.S. in Marine Biology, work for a marine consortium in Virginia, and marine institutes in the Florida Keys and Catalina Island, California. This was followed by a master’s degree in education while stationed in Mallorca, Spain. Other employment was equally colorful. Early on, Kimberly worked for a summer in Denali National Park washing buses and backpacking 3 nights a week in the tundra and forests. She guided guests on bird and whale trips in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and taught fourth graders in American Samoa. For the past 15 years Kimberly instructed science courses at a private high school in Costa Rica; teaching: A.P. environmental science, physics, chemistry and leading marine biology students on worm digs, conchology studies, tidal pool explorations and snorkel trips. There are a few more marine biology students in college these days thanks to her classes. She is now with you and ready to share her knowledge of the briny environment.

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