A quilted cloud blanket hung lightly overhead as the ship eased down Stephens Passage this morning. By the time we reached Tracy Arm most of that cloud layer had stretched and thinned until blue dominated the sky, and the mountains of Admiralty Island, still dressed in their formal whites after a winter of heavy snow, cast dramatic shadows across their north-facing slopes.
Not far into Tracy Arm, flanking a ribbon of water falling hundreds of feet down the glacier-weathered fjord wall, were five black bears dining on rock weed and barnacles just above the waterline.
Following lunch, we boarded Zodiacs and kayaks and headed out for adventures to see South Sawyer and Sawyer glaciers, respectively.
Finding a path through the floating ice by Zodiac was not without challenge, not only due to the difficulty of navigating the ice maze, but because of the abundance of harbor seals hauled out on the ice, many with pups.
A highlight for a few of us was an adult bald eagle flying near the face of the glacier carrying what appeared to be a seal umbilical cord in its talons. Knowing that somewhere nearby was a very newborn pup, we were extra careful to keep our distance and not unsettle the resting pinnipeds.
By kayak, we passed a not-long-for-this-world, waterside snow bridge straddling a rainbow-producing cascade—one of at least a dozen waterfalls along our route.
Accompanying us on our paddle were a handful of pigeon guillemots who, uncomfortable with our apparent armada, ran across the water on bright red feet, escaping our path only to settle back in front of us and flee again. And again. And again. juncos foraged on the rocks. Barn swallows tended their nests. Guests in kayaks posed for photos in front of waterfall and glacier.
Following our excursions, Captain Johnson edged us up the fjord, where Expedition Leader Jeff Phillippe regaled guests and staff with information about the glacier before we settled in for supper, tired, inspired, and excited about coming adventures.