Bears, Whales and Ice

What – MORE bears? Haven’t we seen enough already? (No, you haven’t.) We were on our way north up Chatham Strait, and just had to make a stop at Pavlov Harbor on Chichagof Island – it’s a good stopping point on the way to Juneau via the northern route. And Pavlov just happens to be a great place to see brown bears!

Sow and her two cubs

We only had one afternoon to hang out with the bears, and the action was a little slow at the falls, but still… bears!

We couldn’t stay longer – we were meeting friends in Juneau and had to keep going, but it’s a safe bet that there will be more encounters with large brown furry things before the summer is over. In the meantime, we saw another large mammal – the humpback kind. This one was pec-slapping – making a pretty good racket by slapping its long pectoral fins back and forth. In the video, you can hear the delayed “whomp” after the fin hits the water. We could feel it!

We continued on towards Juneau, rounding the top of Admiralty Island to see the lighthouse at Point Retreat.

Making the hairpin turn around the point, we could see a fog bank towards Juneau. It was pretty to see, and fortunately it cleared up before we got there.

We met dear friends from New Jersey in town – they were there on a cruise ship for the day, so it was pretty cool to spend a little time with them. On our way out of town, we passed by a huge private yacht that we saw a few times over the summer. “Dreamboat” is 295′ long, built in 2019 for $180 million, and is owned by Arthur Blank – owner of the Atlanta Falcons football team. Tough life. The tender (small boat) shown in the second photo is probably 45′ long, and it’s just one of a fleet of boats carried by the mother ship.

Dreamboat

Preferring glaciers to yachts, we headed south down Stephens Passage towards Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glaciers. As we crossed the shallow bar at the mouth of Tracy Arm, we could see the Sumdum hanging glacier. The name comes from the Tlingit language and represents the booming sound of ice breaking off.

We anchored nearby in a protected cove, and I headed out in the kayak to investigate some large blocks of glacier ice grounded in the shallows near the entrance bar. The colors and shapes are amazing, and the blue of the ice really stood out against the gloomy sky.

When you look closely, you can find some surreal formations and shapes, rocks trapped in the ice, crystal clear ice, blue ice, and all manner of textures. It’s mesmerizing.

Unfortunately, our plans to visit the Sawyer Glaciers were thwarted by the weather forecast. A big front was heading our way, and the wind was going to blow hard for days. We needed to move to a well-protected anchorage, and position ourselves for a planned trip up to Pack Creek a week later, so we cruised across Stephens Passage and tucked into Gambier Bay well in advance of the storm. It was an easy ride across, and we had a nice whale escort.

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