Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 28 Aug 2022

Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier, 8/28/2022, National Geographic Venture

  • Aboard the National Geographic Venture
  • Alaska

We have made it here to Southeast Alaska. A truly wild place that deserved a truly wild start to our expedition. We found that wild start here in Tracy Arm, a part of the Tongass National Forest that spans over five million acres.

The Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area is a rugged, 728,000-acre wilderness area located about 40 miles south of Juneau. It sits on the northern coast of Alaska and contains peaks over 6,000 feet in elevation with glaciers that flow into Tracy Arm Fjord (the largest fjord in Southeast Alaska).

The fjord itself stretches for 30 miles and can be very narrow in some places. It's surrounded by mountains, which makes it perfect for ship cruising. The waterfalls that cascade down the steep mountainsides are beautiful and make for wonderful photos. Here we also found glaciers calving into the sea, which is important for the ecosystem and also makes for stunning photography.

It is important to remember that we are not the only ones who have explored here. In 1879, John Muir first explored Tracy Arm. He was enthralled by the glaciers calving into the sea and the blue icebergs. He wrote in his journal that it was “a day of wild beauty never to be forgotten.” The founder of the Sierra Club went on to recall that, "Glaciers calving into the sea and blue icebergs were all about me, and I could not have imagined a more beautiful dreamland.” This sentiment was shared by all of us here as well.

After winding through the fjord, we eventually made our way to South Sawyer Glacier, our ultimate destination for the day. As we loaded into our Zodiacs to go exploring in the fjord, we could hear the sounds of South Sawyer calving. As we approached through the ice field, slowly but surely, we eventually came into full view of the face of South Sawyer and watched the glacier calve for several hours. This beautiful sight was embellished by hundreds of harbor seals resting on the icebergs in front of us, periodically looking back to listen to the calving behind them.

Tracy Arm was a beautiful first stop on this seven-day expedition here in the remote wilderness of Southeast Alaska, and what will come next may have a hard time competing with this place.

Photo caption and photographer: Visiting Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier. Photo by Kayvon Malek

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