Alaska Cruise Report: Tracy Arm and Williams Cove

From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska August 29, 2010

This morning at 7 AM the National Geographic Sea Lion was far into the stunningly beautiful fjord called Tracy Arm. The ship was surrounded by steep mountain walls, yet there were no jagged mountaintops; this landscape has been slowly rounded and polished by glaciers over thousands of years. There was some green vegetation growing on the slopes, and we sighted a handful of mountain goats grazing at high elevation.

After breakfast, we boarded Zodiacs for closer looks at the Sawyer Glacier. We looked closely at low icebergs – shades of blues and whites floating in milky-green water. Along the way towards the glacier’s face, we passed a couple of waterfalls, and as we listened to the sounds of water, we could also hear the sounds of small chunks of ice popping, as air inside them warmed and escaped. The glacier’s massive, blue-white face occasionally rumbled from the inside, giving off sounds like thunder. At times large chunks of ice tumbled from the glacier’s top, more than 150 feet above the water’s surface. It was fascinating to watch; we never knew what would happen next. A harbor seal’s head might surface nearby, or a mass of ice might tumble right off the wall of ice ahead of us.

When our glacier watching was done, we returned down the fjord, and by mid-afternoon we were at Williams Cove. Here some of us went kayaking, and many of us investigated the forest. We were introduced to Sitka spruce, western hemlock, mosses, lichens, and some of the edible berries of this lush, green, temperate rainforest. In the bay, harbor seals occasionally raised their heads to peek at paddlers. Before dinner, three wilderness rangers spoke to us about their jobs helping to protect this precious parcel of wild land for us, and for future generations. As we went into dinner, they paddled off in their own kayaks to continue their work here.

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