Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tracy Arm

Tracy Arm is fjord about a 25nm long, and located just a little bit south of Juneau.  At it's head, it forks, with tidal glaciers at each end.  At the head of the north fork is the Sawyer Glacier, and at the head of the south fork is the South Sawyer Glacier.  Like many of the fjords and inlets in Alaska, it is too deep to anchor anywhere, so you need to anchor in a cove just before entering the Arm, then make a day trip up and back.  In our slower boat, it's a full day affair, but wow, what a day.

All around the anchorage are ice bergs drifting.  They calve off the glacier faces and drift out into Frederick Sound.  Sometimes they find their way into the anchorage, so you need to be ready to fend them off at any time.

Ice berg hovering outside the anchorage

We had a typical Alaska overcast day, but little to no active rain.

Typical Alaska day

There are dozens of waterfalls emptying into the Arm.   Mist and low clouds add lots of drama

Here is a much bigger berg working it's way out towards the sound.  It's about 200' long.

In the picture below we are approaching South Sawyer Glacier.  In the crotch of the mountains you can see the glacier, and  right along the waterline horizon you can see a wall of ice debris.

South Sawyer Glacier in the distance

And lots of scattered bergs, including a sail boat for perspective.

Bergs and a sail boat in Tracy Arm
As we got closer, look what was coming out.  The down-side of being close to Juneau is the amount of traffic.  You are never even close to being alone in Tracy Arm, but it's still well worth while.  The other unfortunate thing is the plume of smoke from these cruise ships.   That's not a cloud or mist hanging over the water.  That's the ship's exhaust blowing out ahead of it.  The cruise lines claim it's glitter and pixie dust, but we know better.

Cruise ship with a cloud of exhaust.

And here we are getting slowly closer and closer.   We were able to make it through one or two bands of ice, but never closer than around mile from the glacier's face.  It was totally packed with ice.

Below are some shots up close by South Sawyer Glacier

South Sawyer Glacier calving

South Sawyer Glacier

The ice is forever shifting around and on the way out we encountered quite a wall that we had to pick very slowly through.  We had a couple of sail boats right behind us taking advantage of the path that we made.  On the radar below you can see how dense the ice was.

Choked in by ice

Next we went to the north fork to see the Sawyer Glacier, and this time there were no other boats.  What a difference.  We were able to get up very close to the glacier itself, as well as a number of ice flows around it.  Our chart showed us about 3/4nm inland from the face of the glacier, so clearly it has receded a bunch since that chart was last updated.

Sawyer Glacier

The patterns and colors of the rock walls were amazing.  Notice how smooth it has been worn by the glacier as it receded.

Rock wall bordering Sawyer Glacier

Sawyer Glacier

On the way out, we continued to enjoy may more bergs

This last berg had a visitor

Eagle on ice berg

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