South Sawyer Glacier
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 19 Jul 2022

South Sawyer Glacier, 7/19/2022, National Geographic Sea Lion

  • Aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion
  • Alaska

It is our first full day aboard National Geographic Sea Lion, and it has truly started off strong. After traveling through the night from our embarkation port of Juneau, guests woke up this morning to views of sapphire-blue icebergs floating by their windows. We made our way into Tracy Arm and headed towards a wall of ice hundreds of feet high that is known as South Sawyer Glacier. In one of the most striking environments Alaska has to offer, guests were treated to sights of soaring granite cliffs on either side of the ship, ice of all sizes drifting down current from their birthplace, and an occasional curious harbor seal watching us with large, dark eyes.

After a delicious breakfast provided by our galley and hospitality crew, we had an incredible opportunity to move from our own ship onto smaller Zodiacs. From the Zodiacs, we got an even closer, firsthand experience with one of nature’s greatest forces: a tidewater glacier. Sitting on the edge of a small inflatable boat, no more than a dozen people per vessel, we weaved through an ever-moving field of ice towards the towering wall that is South Sawyer Glacier. After learning about the ecological and anthropological history of this area, guests had the chance to simply sit and observe as the glacier did something that is very normal but a true marvel to witness: glacial calving. Unexpectedly and without announcement or warning, chunks of ice the size of buildings tore themselves off the outer wall of South Sawyer, plunging into the sea below. The sight of this action is something pure, marvelous, and humbling, and it can only be matched by the thundering sound that echoes after the splashes soar through the air following the crash.

Our time experiencing glacial calving was made even more exciting by the presence of a few hundred harbor seals. Both adults and small pups sat mostly idle on small patches of flat ice. Occasionally, a dome-shaped, grey mottled head would break the surface of the water, staring straight at us with overwhelmingly charismatic eyes. The seals, the sights, the sounds, and the sensations all make these experiences wholly incomparable.

After a warming lunch, we offered guests the opportunity to kayak or standup paddleboard around the fjord. Bits and bergs of ice floated through the water as if they were concerned with only one thing: moving forward.

We enjoyed presentations by the natural history staff, delicious food and drinks, and excellent and comfortable new company. We are all ecstatic about how this trip has started, and we are excited to see where the next several days take us.

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