Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tracy Arm Fjord and the Sawyer Glacier

Aboard the MS Westerdam, at anchor in Sitka, Alaska...

Finally, a little break in the weather occurred yesterday that allowed us to take full advantage of one of the most interesting sights of the cruise. The Westerdam eased its way for about 25 miles inland in the Tracy Arm Fjord, en route to the Sawyer glacier at its end. It seemed odd for the huge ship to be threading its way up the ever-narrowing strait, its confines exaggerated by the sheer rock cliffs jutting upward 2,000 feet or more on each side of the vessel.

When the captain entered the fjord, a navigation display that aired on each stateroom television showed the speed of the ship constantly slowing from 20 knots to 15, then 10, then 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and then to a dead stop. The dead stop came at a wide bend in the fjord where the Westerdam waited for another cruise liner to pass as it sailed outward to the sea, its passengers having already seen the glacier that was the quest of the day:
 



Once the other liner had passed, the captain slowly eased ahead, occasionally turning slightly to avoid an ever-increasing number of small icebergs that had calved off the glacier ahead. As we approached the glacier at the end of the fjord, the ship turned sideways in the channel to allow a broadside view of the jagged blue ice that was the end of the glacier on its slow but inexorable journey down the mountain to the sea.
 
Small Icebergs in Tracy Arm Fjord
As we arrived, the sun finally broke through the overcast for the first time since our departure from Juneau and illuminated the glacier very nicely for some good photography. As we stood there, taking in our first close sighting of a glacier, a huge chunk of ice, easily the size of a multi-story building, suddenly broke away from the glacier and fell downward and outward, crashing into the sea, as if in slow motion due to its size. A few seconds later, a sound like thunder reached the ship and a small tsunami-like wave began racing away from where the ice had impacted the water. 
 
At the Glacier Just After the Calving
The passengers collectively gasped at the spectacle, at once realizing they had witnessed a large calving that most visitors do not get to see. Naturally, we were thrilled and, although I did not get a photo of it, it will be etched in my memory, and I thought that it almost made up for the bad weather that had plagued us up to this point.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I do not appreciate it enough each day.

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