At daybreak, National Geographic Quest was cutting through the icy waters of Tracy Arm Fjord, flanked by towering walls of sheer granite. In this space, our expedition vessel seems quite tiny, and scale becomes impossible to judge. On an overcast day like today, the mountain peaks climb right through the cloud cover. Guests breakfasted in the shadow of Sawyer Glacier with waterfalls in every direction. Not a bad way to start the day! Being in position so early in the day gave us the opportunity to offer extra activities. Those who chose to get a little closer to the water had the opportunity to paddle out in kayaks to view the glacier’s face. Anyone who was still a bit sore from our adventurous day in Petersburg had the option of a guided cruise with one of our naturalists.
For much of the staff, our daily tasks only add to the anticipation of our visit to South Sawyer Glacier. South Sawyer is a towering wall of blue ice hanging in the tides that always offers an extraordinary viewing experience. Guests were quite vocal about their enjoyment of the morning as they entered photos for the guest slideshow, prepared for disembarkation, and enjoyed lunch. However, the staff was well aware that the best was yet to come.
As we left National Geographic Quest, we traveled through geologic history, through an empty trail blazed by millions of pounds of ice. Sheer cliffs of granite gave way to twisting masses of metamorphic rock until we could go no further due to the floating field of ice. Upon the ice in the distance, we started to make out harbor seals, and not just a few but dozens. This year’s mothers were resting safely on the ice as the birthing season fast approaches. The booming of calving ice inside the glacier echoed throughout the fjord as we waited. Eventually we saw a few small bits splashing into the water from the face of the glacier. Then, we saw what we were waiting for. A spire of blue ice the size of an apartment building crashed into the water below, drawing applause from the boats floating near one another. But wait! Before we knew it, we were being charged by a merry band of pirates! The ship’s hotel staff snuck up on us in bearded disguise with a boat delivery of hot chocolate. Spiked drinks were available for those interested.
After all were on board, we rested briefly before preparing for the Polar Plunge! A few brave souls opted to swim between Zodiacs in the icy waters of Tracy Arm before dinner was served. Our night ended with our ship pointed toward Juneau as the world premiere of the guest slideshow played on the screens in the lounge. We heard lots of laughs and lots of “ooohs” and “ahhhs” before a final round of applause to end the night. It was a perfect last day to end an unbelievable adventure.