Glaciers

Sometimes we get forget to re-visit places that are popular in our area, such as the Tracy Arm wilderness. It’s frequented by cruise ships and some go-fast tour boats from Juneau, so some years we tend to overlook it. This year, we said… why not?

The image above shows Tracy Arm – it’s a gorgeous fjord, with some wiggles and sharp turns. I don’t understand why, but it’s not unusual for these glacial fjords to have 90-degree bends, and at each turn, the scenery just keeps inspiring awe. At the head of the fjord there are two glaciers – North Sawyer and South Sawyer. If you look at the lone red pin on the left, you can just make out the shallow bar and narrow opening, which was the farthest that those glaciers had pushed some time in the past. Glaciers are like bulldozers, carving a path through the mountains and pushing the rocks and debris along.

How big is big? Here’s a photo of a 1100′ cruise ship just coming around the Big Bend, 7 miles away from us. It looks pretty tiny, doesn’t it? Cruising in fjords reminds us how minuscule we really are.

The sides of the fjord are studded with waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, as well as some U-shaped glacier-cut valleys off to the sides.

It doesn’t take long before we’re dodging ice in the water – big ones and little ones, blue ones and white ones and clear ones…

There is a set of fairly tight S-turns as we get closer to the glaciers, and it’s impressive to see a cruise ship negotiate them! They have to slow way down, and we assured them we would hug the shoreline to stay out of their way.

Although we were enjoying the dramatic scenery, playing big, bold classical music to add to the feeling, we were saddened to come upon these two glaciers – significantly smaller than when we last saw them a few years ago. It’s like watching an old friend decline. Heartbreaking. In the photo of the North Sawyer glacier above, you can see the bare rock higher up the mountainsides, scoured by the ice in the past.

The South Sawyer (above) was also noticeably smaller, with less ice in the water and fewer seals (those dark blobs on the foreground ice). It’s still beautiful, but for how much longer?

It takes all day to cruise up to the glaciers and back down to the anchorage. Fortunately, the anchorage is shallow enough that ice doesn’t usually get in there, though we’ve had that happen in the past. The bird activity was incredible – huge flocks of scoters, and plenty of goldeneyes, and harlequin ducks.

Oystercatchers perched on the rocks with the lovely mountains in the distance…

…and I had a visit from a mink while out in the kayak. They’re so curious, and this one stood up and checked me out a few times, then scampered towards me to get a better look.

A pair of eagles were feeding on the remains of something – first, a juvenile took some bites, and then an adult took over. I’m trying to practice my bird-in-flight photography, and caught a few shots when the adult decided to move to a nearby tree.

We loved our re-visit of Tracy Arm, and were glad we ignored the couple of cruise ships – it was a lovely day, and the fjord is plenty big for those behemoths and us, with room to spare.

2 thoughts on “Glaciers

  1. Lucky you! We had to turn around – way too much ice blocked us from going as far as we wanted.

    Will you be spending time at Fords Terror? One of our many favorites.

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