Tracy Arm is a dramatic fjord that’s about a day’s run from Petersburg, and we decided to check out the ice conditions to see if we could make it up to see the two Sawyer Glaciers this early in the season. Often the Arm is so choked with ice that it’s impassable until early-mid July, but this time it didn’t look too bad and we saw that a few smaller tour boats and one cruise ship from Juneau were going up.In the photo above, the two bergy bits were about the size of our boat, and the cruise ship in the distance is 948′ long – just to give you a sense of scale for this fjord!We even have a playlist of big bold classical music to play when we go up – it seems fitting for the grand scenery.Unfortunately the brash ice was far too dense for us to get around the last point to see the face of the larger South Sawyer Glacier, though we could see the upper part. Access to the smaller North Sawyer Glacier was pretty clear though, so we were able to approach the face keeping a good distance from the many seals hauled out on the calved ice.The Sawyer glaciers are very blue – the color almost looks fake, but that’s what it really looks like.After the long day’s run up and back, we chilled out in the anchorage, watched a sub-adult brown bear clamming on the beach……and I headed out in the kayak to check out some of the large bergy bits that were aground at the mouth of the cove.I never get tired of looking at the ice – so many colors and patterns. Some is white and some is clear and some looks blurry. I’m careful to stay clear of floating bergy bits in case they roll, and I’m also wary of overhangs that could break off… but anytime I can get close and study the ice I’m happy.
Before heading out for summer cruising, we stayed in town long enough to enjoy the annual Little Norway Festival. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Petersburg’s celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day (May 17 – Syttende Mai) where we party like vikings for four days. (No self-respecting viking would party for just one day.)Vikings and valkyries come in all shapes and sizes……and they can use different kinds of transportation to get around. Note the clumps of moss growing on their bus. But ultimately, vikings prefer ships… big ones, little ones, and even tiny ones.People come from far and wide to enjoy the festival, including Alaska’s governor and lieutenant governor (riding on the truck pulling the big viking ship), as well as Norway’s ambassador to the US.The Norwegian ambassador has been to Petersburg a number of times now… he says that in Norway they only celebrate Syttende Mai for one day, so he likes our style better. He’s also been here to bestow a special medal from the King of Norway to our harbormaster Glo.
Norwegian culture is also featured throughout the festival, with our young Leikerring Dancers…….and members of our Sons of Norway lodge who wore their traditional folk costumes (“bunads”) around town. The lodge also hosted a “fashion show” of over 70 different bunads for men, women and children from all over Norway, unique to each region.Other cultures celebrate the Little Norway Festival too, with the unveiling of a story pole at the Library carved by a famous Tlingit carver and drumming by the local Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood in the parade.We tried our hand at rosemaling – traditional Norwegian tole painting, decorating little wooden doves.We had a good time painting and learning, interrupting our artistic efforts just in time to watch the volunteer fire department challenge the police department in a contest to see who could pull a fire engine faster – “guns vs. hoses”. The “guns” (police) team won.The children’s fishing contest filled the north harbor docks with little tykes who learned to fish at an early age – these kids are serious! The herring toss and viking games were fun to watch, and of course there were plenty of Norwegian treats to eat (“made with butter and love”).
But we’ve been tied to the dock far too long, and it’s time to “fly”…