From Black Bears to Bald Eagles, Explore the Icy Fjords of Alaska
Listen. The continual rush of ice floes. The cracking and popping of shifting ice walls. The lapping of frosty wakes against jagged mountainsides. The occasional calls of Arctic terns, harbor seals and splashing orcas at play. And then… the astounding thunder as massive sheets of turquoise ice break free from the cliff’s edge and plunge nearly 250 feet beneath the water line. This is the beautiful symphony of Sawyer Glacier, set center stage in Tracy Arm Fjord. At more than 30 miles long, and a classic fjord in its narrowness and surrounding mountainsides, Tracy Arm is a dramatic runway that leads to the twin glacier faces – North Sawyer and South Sawyer – filled with icy wonders sure to captivate all who visit.
As an active tidewater glacier, Sawyer’s faces routinely “calve,” or break free from the jagged surrounding mountains. “Small” pieces may be the size of a car, while other massive blocks might be the size of multiple semi-trucks, have calved intact into the fjord to form some of Alaska’s largest icebergs. The glacier’s might reaches far beneath the surface, too, as calving ice chunks break free and plummet below the waterline (fjord depths reach 600 feet) to eventually rise and settle like icy islands. Such events are common in Tracy Arm, which is located approximately 45 miles south of Juneau. Floating ice ranging from a few inches in diameter to more than 30 feet across follows the currents like a busy watery freeway, and some of Alaska’s greatest creatures follow along.
Migrating orcas and other whales and sea lions are frequently spotted in Tracy Arm, while harbor seals prefer to rear their young pups on and around the chunks of ice. Turn your gaze shoreside and you may find mountain goats cavalierly navigating the rocky walls. Tracy Arm’s narrow passage allows for closer views of these agile creatures, as well as black bears and bald eagles, who also roam the forested mountainside.
What’s in a Name?
Tracy Arm was named for Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Franklin Tracy, who served under President Harrison in the late 19th century. But it’s the namesake of its location – in the heart of the Tracy Arm-Fjords Terror Wilderness – that conjures an imposing image. The name of the wilderness region was earned in 1899, when a naval crewman paddled into a narrow waterway that connected Tracy Arm to sister fjord Endicott Arm, and was trapped for six terrifying hours in the ripping tides.
The power and beauty of the more than 600,000 acres of the wilderness – about 20 percent of which is covered in permanent ice – continues to astound as explorers and quest into this realm of ancient ice and thriving new life.
Tracy Arm is one of several astounding sites you’ll explore in Alaska with Crystal’s 2019 summer sailings. Book your adventure now, and prepare for nearly endless sunlight and natural beauty in North America’s last frontier.