South Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area, Southeast Alaska
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 02 Sep 2022

South Sawyer Glacier, Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area, Southeast Alaska, 9/2/2022, National Geographic Sea Bird

  • Aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird
  • Alaska

At daybreak, the entrance of Tracy Arm was alit with the glow of the rising summer sun. Those awake to view Sumdum Glacier were in awe of its transcendent beauty. Those still asleep (jetlag is as powerful a force as any glacier) were nudged awake by the comforting rocking of National Geographic Sea Bird. Our first shipboard breakfast saw conversations flourish and new friendships materialize. The ship was abuzz as we approached the location where we would drop our Zodiacs and explore the glacier at eye-level.

Our rounds of Zodiac cruising were truly Southeast Alaskan: torrential rains inspired uproarious laughter and hilarious photos. Forewarned of such conditions, our intrepid explorers pressed on, zipping through fields of bergy bits and growlers. At the face of South Sawyer, the calving was phenomenal. Magnificent spires saw their edges eroded and cascaded to the depths below. The tidal waves crashed and caromed off the walls of the fjord and into our Zodiacs, and from the top of the waves, we had unparalleled viewing of harbor seals. Most pups-of-the-year are now weaned off their mother’s milk, and they approached our craft with cautious curiosity. Each boat made time to enjoy moments without the dialogue of a naturalist so they could hear the magnificent sounds of calving and the crackling of ice as it depressurized. Our experience in Tracy Arm was one of transcendence for many guests, who expressed profound awe in the presence of ice that can move continents.

Evening was characteristically lively. After a warm shower, veteran naturalist Rob Edwards gave a fantastic presentation that illuminated the cryosphere in greater detail. The evening’s recap was both funny and informational, but perhaps the greatest highlight was Shannon Malone’s famed iceberg recap, in which she deciphers the creatures within the ice. I write this after giving a presentation to introduce ecology and the story of the Tongass to all, setting the scene for the next three days. Now dark, the waves and rain once again bid us good evening, their sounds the perfect auditory backdrop for a deep slumber.

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