|Alaska Log #6
Tracy Arm, Alaska
July 9, 1999
(Click on each photo to see it full size)
In order to visit North and South Sawyer Glaciers, boats anchor in the cove
at the entrance to Tracy Arm, the only place that is shallow enough 50 feet.
Everything else is 350 to 1,000 feet! The chief entertainment for the evening is to go out
in the dinghy and try to net a softball-sized piece of blue floating glacier ice for
cocktail hour. If you remember fifth grade science, there is much more under water than is
visible above. Jan had to relearn this lesson on the first bergy bit that he tried to
scoop in, as it almost pulled him overboard. We also had the pleasure of watching a bear
browsing for dinner along the beach.
In addition to all this excitement, we watched the arrival of a
small cruise ship that had to anchor at the mouth of the cove because of the other eight
boats inside (more boats than we had seen in weeks!). About 11 PM, with much clanking of
anchor chain, the ship had to move because a huge iceberg was floating down on it. We kept
trying to remember the tune from Titanic, perhaps a bad omen, since we still had to face
the icebergs ourselves.
To visit Sawyer Glacier we motored all the way up the 23 mile fjord on
the one sunny day in the last three weeks!!!! of steep, smooth black rock called
Tracy Arm. For most of the way up and back we dodged icebergs of all sizes with Signe on
the bow spotting and Jan steering. The hardest bergs to see are the same turquoise color
as the water, but hard as rocks. We were almost to the glacier with one more turn to go
when we got into pack ice without a visible trail through. We hovered for awhile while two
charter boats sent their dinghies in for a view. There was no way either of us was going
to go in alone in a 10 foot inflatable dinghy, so we circled and enjoyed watching the sea
lions floating on their own small icebergs.
Finally, a Californian in a big
motorboat blasted a trail through, and we followed him right in to North Sawyer Glacier,
which drops right into tidewater. I figured it would be like the Nisqually Glacier on Mt.
Rainier, but no. It was made of immense, jagged teeth of ice and snow, coming all the way
down to the water, with the bottom layer so compacted over the eons that it was brilliant,
deep, azure blue. While we were in front of the glacier, three huge chunks broke off into
the water sending up huge splashes and crashes. Raven looked incredibly small next to all
that ice. Since the pack ice had closed in again, we followed the California boat out.
Down the fjord we went again, all 23 miles. It was a very long day, but definitely worth
it. A few photos are attached.
When we got up to leave the next morning for the long trip to
Juneau, the narrow, treacherous entrance to Tracy Arm was completely fogged in and clogged
with icebergs. We relied again on our trusty computer mapping system, GPS and radar.
Amazing how electronic navigation has made these trips so much safer. Early in the day, we
saw a huge blob on the radar screen move slowly by us about a mile away, without ever
seeing it through the fog. After listening on the VHF, we realized it was the Sky
Princess, one of the largest cruise ships on the Inside Passage run. Whew.
We spent a few interesting days in Juneau, but we'll talk about that
in the next log.
Regards . . . Signe and Jan