Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day Three: Exploring Tracy Arm

 This is the second time we have explored Tracy Arm Fjord. The first time was on the Holland American Ship Amsterdam.  We went in at high tide and sailed all the way to the South Sawyer Glacier  This time it would be different.

Our current ship, the Zuiderdam, was much larger and the tides this time were very low.  So the ship stopped outside of the fjord and we transferred to a smaller chartered catamaran for the trip to the glaciers.

Here we are on the second deck of the tour boat watching our ship sail away towards Juneau 


This the first time I've gotten a look at the true size of the ship.  Big mama. 

This catamaran is a twin to the boat we were on.

Indeed that catamaran had received off loaded passenger from a Celebrity Cruise ship just prior to our arrival.  We would shadow each other during the five hour trip.

First we crossed over the Sawyer Bar, a terminal glacial moraine that blocks the entrance to the fjord to large ships at low tide. First thing we saw was a humpback whale. Alas I was too cold and too slow to get a picture.

Soon however we found a black bear scouring the rocks during low tide looking for shell fish and other food.

There weren't very many boats in the fjord and they were all small.

The scale of what you saw was hard to process. This photo is showing a thousand feet of relief.

This for example is South Sawyer Glacier and it is two miles away.  Those little pieces of ice in the water are pretty much full grown size icebergs and they made it too dangerous for a boat/ship of any size to approach it.  Last year we sailed right up to the glacier's face in our cruise ship.  This year we dare not go into that arm at all.  The sides inside of the fjord were often 7000 feet high and 2000 feet deep.

This berg is about the size of our boat.  Remember only 10% is showing above the water.  The bathtub ring on the rocks is the high tide line.

On the shallower south side of the fjord this berg is currently ground on a sand bar at low tide.

This is the North Arm Sawyer Glacier.

The front ice is about 40 feet high and the back face is around 70 feet.

Here the low tide has revealed how the glacier front actually hangs out over into the water.  This is where the weight of the ice causes the glacier to calve.

Without something to give it scale it looks kind of small.

One lone seal.  During the period of spring seal births there would be hundreds of mothers and pups here.  Their enemy, the orcas, do not like to swim into the icy fjords.

Back in Juneau after the 5 hour plus excursion we find our ship and rejoin it. 

Juneau is very much a straight up and down place.  Knowing we would be back here later in the trip, we opted for a nap.

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