Daily Expedition Reports
Tracy Arm and Stephens Passage

Kimberly Baldwin, Naturalist, August 2019

  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 25 Aug 2019

Tracy Arm and Stephens Passage

  • Aboard the National Geographic Quest
  • Alaska

Today is the first official day of our voyage into the wild places of Alaska. We woke up in the stunning Tracy Arm Fjord, a corridor forged by ice and filled with ocean. As our ship wound its way forward, we enjoyed the views of the mountain and rockscapes towering on either side of us until all our eyes were drawn to the same place. We turned one final corner and came face to face with the majestic force of nature responsible for all that we were seeing; a tidewater glacier.

Tidewater glaciers are rivers of ice that have journeyed all the way from their original icefield to the ocean. They bulldoze their path forward, scraping and absorbing rocks and plants off the mountains along their journey. They churn up all the minerals and plants into a silty sandy slurry that mixes with freshwater underneath the glacier and gets spewed out as the ocean’s protein shake. These nutrients are vital to the entire marine food web of Southeast Alaska. The plankton need the nutrients to survive, and everything in the food web, the black bears along the beach, and the humpback whales in the water, relies on the plankton in some way to survive. The glaciers are the lifeblood of our ecosystem – and seeing them in all their majesty is truly inspiring.

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