Low-lying clouds shrouded the mountains around Tracy Arm as National Geographic Sea Lion cruised the winding glacially-carved fjord towards the glaciers that were creating the ice floating around us. The day started off with wildlife sightings of a humpback whale diving in the ice and North American bald eagles perched on ice.
The Tracy Arm Fords Terror Wilderness Area encompasses both Endicott Arm and Tracy Arm. Endicott Arm ends in a tidewater glacier, and Tracy Arm ends in two tidewater glaciers–Sawyer Glacier and South Sawyer Glacier. The vessel made its way to Sawyer Glacier in the morning, where we set out in kayaks to enjoy the ice and waterfalls of the area.
Over lunch, we passed by Sawyer Island, which had not yet been carved and revealed by the ice of the glacier when John Muir explored the area. In the afternoon, we set out in zodiacs to make our way towards the spectacular South Sawyer Glacier. Most of the larger pieces of ice that we passed by were host to harbor seals, either laying alone on the ice or mothers with pups. The harbor seal pups lounging on the ice have all been born within the last few weeks and will gain around 40 pounds by the time they part ways with their mothers because of their rich diet.
We navigated the Zodiacs closer to South Sawyer Glacier and took some time to enjoy the scenery. As the glacier calved, we watched as the swell moved the ice and seals around the fjord. Just as the last Zodiac was turning back towards the ship, from the ocean emerged a towering piece of ice larger than the vessel. In contrast to the thunderous and disruptive display that were the calvings we had seen, this large iceberg had broken off from underneath the glacier and surfaced slowly and gracefully. What a fantastic way to end the day.
Photo caption and photographer: Waterfall near Sawyer Glacier. Photo by Andy Putnam