Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lindblad in Alaska: William’s Cove and Tracy Arm

Pic: Guests explore on Zodiac in Southeast Alaska, Tracy Arm, calving ice. South Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm - Fords Terror Wilderness area in Southeast Alaska, USA. ( Michael S. Nolan )

by  Robert "Pete" Pederson, Lindblad Expeditions Natural History Staff 

Monday 18 June 2012. 

For many people, just the word Alaska conjures up adventures and glacier-filled wildness. Our day satisfied all those requirements. Early in the morning we passed into Holkum Bay, where floating bergie bits were being used for perches by eagles. Six stood upon one hunk of ice, and another allowed us a close approach to enjoy its magnificence. Later one flew along next to the ship and allowed many of us to photograph a flying eagle, as shown in today's expedition report. Our ship's officers anchored in William's Cove where we were briefed on life aboard the ship, how to maneuver a kayak, safely board a Zodiac, keep from being mauled by bears and get the most out of our camera gear. Later most of us hiked up to a muskeg or sphagnum bog to see what ten percent of the flatter, more poorly drained land of the Southeast looks like. No one lost a boot, but we enjoyed the sucking sounds of retrieving them. Devils club left only a couple of spines in tender hands for a memory of what you shouldn't touch in this verdant, wild landscape.

Sailing into Tracy Arm is like entering a scenic cathedral. Towering walls festooned with forests and hanging gardens, waterfalls that trickle and fell from the heights, massive hanging valleys thousands of feet above you, grassy benches and snow-filled cracks with glaciers and horns in the distance all help qualify this as perhaps the most beautiful place in Southeast Alaska. The beauty of the rocks is stunning as well. With a name like the Coast Range Metamorphic and Granitic Complex, a hint is given as to how special it is. Granite is so resistant that most every scratch made long ago by the 5000-foot deep glacial ice is still here. Quartz intrusions had been injected, twisted, sheered, squiggled and stretched into a dizzying array of abstract lines that covered the walls.

By the early afternoon we had made our way to a view of South Sawyer Glacier. We passed harbor seals on floating ice like the one in the photo. Once in Zodiacs we were able to make our way closer to the glacial front. We made a special effort to not disturb the harbor seal pups and their moms. They were halfway through their six-week suckling period before they will be weaned and abandoned to feed on their own. Trying to make a living with so little experience is difficult, and much of the fat reserve gained while suckling is used up. It's crucial that the pups remain undisturbed during this last bit of this easy life.

South Sawyer Glacier showed a tremendous amount of deep glacial blue on much of its face and a magnificent calving was shared by all. The largest block that peeled away and tumbled into the sea was seen by many guests on the ship as well as those in Zodiacs. Recap and dinner were enjoyed as we passed out of the fiord and on to new adventures.