Tracy Arm Wilderness encompasses two large fjords known as arms. Today, we had the pleasure of exploring Endicott Arm. Icebergs, cascading water, wildlife, scenery, and a glacier made our adventures exquisite. The Dawes Glacier is three quarters of a mile wide at its face and 250 feet tall from the water’s edge. Our expedition vessels launched early this morning for a chance to travel through the floating ice and view the magnificent glacial face. Evidence of glaciation littered the fjord and increased the closer we journeyed to the face. Several calving events occurred throughout the morning, ensuring every guest had a view of the falling ice. Harbor seal mothers and their pups looked at us curiously as we kept a safe distance from the towers of ice. After our morning expedition landing craft cruises, we ventured out of Endicott Arm and explored Holkham Bay. Numerous birds and whales accompanied us for the remainder of our time in the Tracy Arm region.
National Geographic Sea Bird
During the morning, we explored the scenic cove of Pavlof’s Harbor on the southeast shore of Freshwater Bay, Chichagof Island, and area known for its healthy salmon stream. We were optimistic that we might still see a bear during our last day exploring Southeast Alaska. We were not disappointed! At the base of a small waterfall, we spotted a coastal brown bear casually gorging itself on salmon as we watched, spellbound, from the safety of our expedition landing crafts only a few yards away. The bear, enjoying its meal, seemed oblivious or at least indifferent to our presence. For nearly an hour, we watched the animal devour fish after fish until it calmly walked up the river bank rocks and into the forest. Late summer and early fall is the time to fatten up and prepare for the long winter ahead. Come November and the onset of snow, brown bears will leave the coastline and head to higher elevations near or above treeline. Biologists debate whether bears truly hibernate or just den up and sleep during the winter. Pregnant sows will give birth to tiny, one-pound cubs while sleeping within the den and nurse them until spring. We returned to the ship after our morning adventures for lunch and were relaxing in the lounge when another bear was spotted on the beach south of Pavlof Harbor. Although more distant than our first encounter, we all enjoyed another exceptional sighting of a coastal brown bear. But the wildlife viewing wasn’t over yet! As we sailed south along Chatham Strait, we encountered a pod of killer whales swimming nearby. Crusing alongside the pod, we counted a group of about ten that included one large male. His large dorsal fin rose nearly six feet above the water‘s surface. Guests spent the remaining time reading or chatting with friends. We wrapped up our day with the captain‘s dinner followed by the guest photo slideshow, which we enjoyed as we sailed toward Sitka through Peril Strait. Have we seen it all? Hardly! But we left with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that we saw a lot! And maybe one day we‘ll return and finally see some elusive moose!