Tracy Arm
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 27 Aug 2022

Tracy Arm, 8/27/2022, National Geographic Quest

  • Aboard the National Geographic Quest
  • Alaska

Early risers caught sight of the buoy marking the channel into Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness. The marker guides boats of all sizes through a narrow channel cut into an ancient terminal moraine that formed when the Dawes and Sawyer Glaciers joined and flowed into Holkham Bay nearly fifty miles from their current termini in Tracy and Endicott Arms. We sailed for nearly three hours through the northern fjord of Tracy Arm before launching Zodiacs to explore the scenery up close to the face of the South Sawyer Glacier. The water was choked with ice that varied in size, all the way up to iceberg scale, exceeding five meters above the water’s surface! Sharp eyes observed mountain goats on a steep rock slope along the south side of the fjord. One guest counted over a hundred harbor seals lounging on the ice floes. Though rather quiet today, the South Sawyer Glacier must have been calving extensively to produce this floating ice.

Surrounding the glacier and exposed with crystal clarity are rocks that formed deep in the crust below an ancient volcanic arc. Most of the cliff faces exposed a complex of metamorphic gneiss and granitic rocks with cross-cutting veins adding counterpoint to the fabric of the country rock. It’s a sight that will raise the blood-pressure of anyone fond of “pretty rocks,” and I know at least three geologists on board were occupied by trying to work out the relationships exposed along the walls of the fjord. In a word, this location is spectacular, possibly exceeding some of the extraordinary wildlife sightings we’ve seen throughout the week. It could not and did not disappoint!

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