5/19: Tracy Arm & Sawyer Glaciers

Here is a recap of our itinerary for Week 1.  We set sail (technically, started the motors) from Juneau on the Wilderness Discoverer, and will tour the Eastern Coves on our way south to Ketchikan.



Our destination on our first full day of cruising was Tracy Arm and the Sawyer Glaciers.  We cruised during the night and were into Tracy Arm when I woke up early (which would be the drill for most of the week). Tracy Arm is known for the steep, rugged walls. We didn’t see any wildlife as we cruised by.

It was still early, so there were no announcements over the loudspeaker, but our first stop was North Sawyer Glacier (also called just “Sawyer” Glacier).  This is the less impressive of the two Sawyer Glaciers, but it was exciting for us to see our first Alaskan Glacier up close. Even Lou got up early to check out the glacier and take some photos. The photos in this report are a combination of mine and Lou’s.

We stayed a short time at North Sawyer Glacier, then ventured to South Sawyer.  I had read a lot about how so few ships get into Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glaciersi this early in the season, so wasn’t sure what to expect.  We got very close – perhaps another advantage of being on a small ship. Fortunately, the sun came out for awhile, and the reflections provided nice photo opportunities

We got even closer – I believe we were within a mile of the face, but my memory fails me  …Seeing South Sawyer Glacier this close was only the beginning.  Soon, the crew began to lower the skiffs into the water and we were going to get our first chance to get out on the water in the small boats – I hope we don’t get stuck in the ice !!!

It was our turn to go out on the skiff at mid-morning.  We put on our rain gear and our life vests and easily boarded the skiff (more about that later).  It did rain a little while we were out, but nothing to dampen the excitement.

This harbor seal took a good close look at us – harbor seals come to the glacier to have their pups since they are protected from predators.

We saw some calving – and felt it too, as the waves rocked the small boats. You can’t get too close to the ice bergs because much of their volume is underwater, and they can tip over at any time.

The shapes and colors of the icebergs were mesmerizing – other worldly…

We were out on the skiff for over an hour – everyone got a turn in one of the small boats.  It was after lunch before we finally picked up anchor and set off for the rest of the day’s adventures.  The experience at the glacier exceeded our expectations of what cruising on a small boat would be. Don’t forget to click a photo to see larger pics in a slideshow.

Categories: Alaska, Week 1, Wilderness Discoverer

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