The morning sun peeked over the two-thousand-foot sheer granite walls of Tracy Arm Fjord to find the guests of National Geographic Venture standing in awe of the surrounding beauty. After a week of traveling in the massive expanse of Southeast Alaska, we were for the first time tightly bordered by the walls of this breathtaking fjord.

Morning operations had our guests divided into two groups, taking turns riding our small Zodiacs near the face of the famed South Sawyer Glacier. We could not have asked for a more exquisite morning to visit the behemoth of blue ice. The temperature was warm, and the sun painted the glowing outline of the glacial seracs in gold. Along the floating ice, harbor seals lay in the sun. Some pups were nursing—the last few of the season that haven’t yet left their mothers. Others were popping their heads up near our boats and enjoying their first days of independence. It was an educational experience for sure, but we were here for the action of calving. On either side of the glacier large cracks were heard as minivan-sized boulders of ice careened down. Then a few cracked in the middle, splashing into the water and sending the surrounding gulls into a frenzy. As our time was coming to an end our prayers were answered in grand fashion. A gigantic spire of ice, two hundred feet tall, slowly cracked and came loose. It moved as if in slow motion — not breaking apart, but leaning until finally plunging into the water below as one massive hunk. From our distance it took a couple minutes for the impact to reach the boat; then the waves lifted our small vessel and showed us the force of these geological wonders.

Later that day we collected photos for the guest slide show and positioned National Geographic Venture for our polar plunge. Well… maybe it was more like a “temperate” plunge considering the favorable conditions in Alaska this week. Fifteen brave guests — along with a number of staff and crew — jumped excitedly off the stern of our ship to swim in the chilly waters exiting the Tracy Arm Fjord.

It has been a tremendous week of experiences and memories for guests and staff. As we sailed toward Juneau to disembark, we shared our final meal and drinks together. Our guests also enjoyed a wonderful tribute to their adventure: a slide show of their own photos. Here’s to many more memories on down the road!