The Alaska season has begun….
From the ship, National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska May 9, 2010
Williams Cove-Endicott Arm
Words alone cannot describe our first day on the National Geographic Sea Lion. Cruising through the night we awoke around Holkham Bay, named by Captain George Vancouver in 1794 for a town in Norfolk, England. Blissed by the blessing of blue skies we knew it was bound to be a beautiful day! After breakfast we departed for activities in Wlliams Cove located on the northern shore of Tracy Arm. Some explored via kayaks while others ventured into the emerald forest and bog of the Tongass National Forest. What a great introduction to the panhandle of Alaska and the world’s largest contiguous temperate rainforest. The bog seekers experienced their rite of Alaskan passage bushwhacking through the blueberry understory while the unseen blue grouse made deep and resonating calls. Reaching the bog we were amongst waterfowl taking advantage of a landscape transformed by beavers and we welcomed the easier, yet soggy terrain. In the process of leaving the beach we had transformed not only with the healing of our laughter but passing from the life aquatic into beautiful forest to an otherworldly scene where minute carnivorous plants made the sphagnum moss their home. Below us walkers encountered tracks of a young bear while kayakers reveled in the awe of landscape.
After lunch we explored the depths of Endicott Arm and the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness. A wilderness area (of 600,000+ acres) set in the 17 million acre national forest was an experience we will long remember! During lunch I noticed a smoky haze affect rising from the forest to realize suddenly that we were experiencing a pollen explosion of the Sitka or hemlock forest…what a great image of wind-pollinated plants. Further down the fjord we saw an amazing assemblage of sea birds (some having difficulty getting aloft), a young humpback whale, mountain goats and increasing amounts of icebergs that were a great precursor to the finale of the day.
Little did we realize how lucky we were just to be approaching Dawes Glacier. Not only were we able to get up close and personal with a 200’ wall of ice, but wow did it deliver! Dodging bergy bits and growlers we approached the tidewater glacier while passing harbor seals on ice. Awed by the magnitude of what had carved this amazing landscape was only enhanced by it’s calving, an experience that will be hard to describe to anyone who did not share the space of our Zodiac. What is not to love about Alaska!