Alaska Cruise Report: Endicott Arm & Fords Terror

From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska June 4, 2010

This morning we woke up to a beautiful blue sky and the steep rocky walls of Endicott Arm, a narrow fjord that runs 25 miles to Dawes Glacier. Stretch class was held on the bridge deck where we practiced our yoga poses as small icebergs floated by.

After a delicious breakfast, we ventured by Zodiacs into the stunning glacial melt waters under the mile-wide ice wall of Dawes Glacier. With blue building-sized icebergs floating amidst the waters, we toured around, getting close looks at harbor seals and Arctic terns. A special surprise, a harbor porpoise came to get a better look at us, and we enjoyed this close encounter with the curious creature.

The towering walls of Endicott Arm are beautiful as they rise skyward, sparsely carpeted with green vegetation and streaked with veins of minerals. The rock faces have immense U-shaped gulches which were carved over thousands of years from the moving glaciers. They are reminiscent of Yosemite National Park and give a clear understanding of the corrosive powers of water, both frozen and liquid.

We also learned how the icebergs and glacier give off their iridescent blue color. Under the weight of 50 meters of heavy ice, and hundreds of years of time, the lower ice becomes compressed into a material so dense it absorbs all colors of the spectrum excepting blue, radiating the azure hue.

Back on board, we started cruising north and several guests were treated to the sight of cow harbor seals pupping on the protected ice flows. It is a government regulation to stay at least 100 yards from the animals, but we could still get a good glimpse of the whiskered animals.

Our destination for the afternoon was to be Fords Terror Wilderness. Named for a man in 1889 who rowed into the canyon at slack tide, Ford’s Terror can only be navigated during such conditions. As Ford discovered after he entered the narrow inlet, changing tides can bring about six-foot standing waves, so it was a special treat to be able to enter the canyon by Zodiac and explore the beautiful fjord. At the northernmost end of the inlet, one Zodiac spotted a brown bear meandering along the shores of a grassy meadow. The tides were turning, so we all returned to the ship before Ford’s waves could trap us in the fjord.

It was a perfect day to end our trip in Southeast Alaska, and our guests, members of the New York Yacht Club, reminisced with photos, stories, and many thanks during recap hour in the lounge. A rainbow shown through the cloudy skies outside, offering us yet another photo opportunity and one more reason to celebrate a fantastic journey.


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