Today was an emblematic Southeast Alaska day. National Geographic Quest made her way into Tracy Arm Fjord early in the morning to position for a morning operation at Sawyer Glacier. The mist hung mid-mountain as we navigated through the twists and turns of the Coast Mountain Range bedrock. Like sandpaper, the sediment and rocks in the glacial ice have scraped, buffed, and polished the rocks that tower above the sea, giving them a shine even on the most cloud-covered days. The Zodiacs hit the water surrounded by icebergs more than double their size, lazily pitching with the swell.
The power of refrozen and pressurized snow, transformed into glacier ice, carved a stunning and deep U-shaped valley that was then intruded by the sea. This inlet is Tracy Arm Fjord, and it is particularly narrow, at times no more than half a mile wide. The fjord is bound by cliffs that ascend more than 3,000 feet with waterfalls cascading down the sheer rock walls into jade colored inland sea. Named for a Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Franklin Tracy, this fjord is a truly dramatic Alaskan gem.
Tracy Arm fjord forks and ends in two lively glacier faces. The dynamic twin Sawyer glaciers are active tidewater glaciers, which are rivers of ice that calve or break off into the sea. The water at the end of the fjord is nearly 600 feet deep and when an underwater calving takes place, the ice remains intact, giving us Alaska’s largest icebergs. Underwater calvings rise from depths of hundreds of feet and then surface like massive blue submarines. These icebergs clog the fjord with shades of blue so deep you think they are made of glass.
Today, the young Global Explorers were put to their final test, and a Zodiac driving lesson was offered for the brave and adventurous. A few were complete naturals and loved the feel of the wind in their face. After an exciting morning at the face of South Sawyer glacier, a small pod of transient orcas was spotted. This group of mammal-eating killer whales casually passed, allowing for incredible views and photo opportunities. National Geographic Quest then retraced her route to find a perfect place for the highly anticipated Polar Plunge. A great endcap activity to an epic week of adventure.