Alaska

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.

We leave from Juneau on Saturday evening, ending up in Ketchikan on Saturday morning.

We leave from Juneau on Saturday evening, ending up in Ketchikan on Saturday morning (of the following week).

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).

We were beginning to think black & white photography might be the way to go

We were beginning to think black & white photography might be the way to go

Still lots of snow on the mountains

Still lots of snow on the mountains

Tracy Arm is known for the steep, rugged walls. We didn't see any wildlife as we cruised by.

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.

Diehards up early and out on the bow

Diehards up early and out on the bow

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.

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.

Yes - the fellow next to Lou is wearing shorts and a t-shirt!

Yes – the fellow next to Lou is wearing shorts and a t-shirt!

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 Glaciers 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.

We can see the glacier - and there is a lot more ice in front of this one

We can see the glacier – and there is a lot more ice in front of this one

Fortunately, the sun came out for awhile, and the reflections provided nice photo opportunities

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 ...

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 !!!

The first skiff is lowered into the water

The first skiff is lowered into the water

A group of adventurers heads off ... will they get stuck in the ice?

A group of adventurers heads off … will they 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.

Captain Dano was handling our skiff - he was previously the Captain of the Wilderness Discoverer, but was getting ready to take over the S.S. Legacy

Captain Dano was handling our skiff – he was previously the Captain of the Wilderness Discoverer, but was getting ready to take over the S.S. Legacy

Laurie was our Expedition Guide for the day - she told us lots about the glacier, and about ice bergs, growlers, and bergy bits

Laurie was our Expedition Guide for the day – she told us lots about the glacier, and about ice bergs, growlers, and bergy bits

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

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.

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 blue ice makes a nice backdrop as the skiff goes by ...

The blue ice makes a nice backdrop as the skiff goes by …

The shapes and colors of the icebergs were mesmerizing - other worldly...

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

From the skiff, we were able to get close-up photos of the glacier face

From the skiff, we were able to get close-up photos of the glacier face

We took a lot of photos at the glacier

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 –

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