The Tracy Arm is a deep fjord located about 45 miles south of Juneau.  It is entered via Stephens Passage and provides boaters with stunning views of tall mountains close on either side.  These mountains are covered in glaciers and replete with numerous waterfalls.  At the back of the fjord are the North and South Sawyer Glaciers, which spew off house sized chunks of ice into the passage.  

We got up at 5 AM to enjoy the entrance into Stephens Passage and to see mountain scenery up close.  Binoculars and telephoto lenses got a good workout as we photographed waterfalls of every description, captured unusual ice flows, and saw a few Stellar Seal pups on the ice as well as mountain goats on the high glaciers.

As we approached the back of the fjord, the ice became thicker, and eventually we had to stand away a distance of perhaps five miles from the South Sawyer Glacier.  

Regardless of whether one views global warming as a man made disaster, or a cyclical phenomena, the evidence is irrefutable that the faces of the Sawyer Glaciers, as well as virtually all glaciers in Alaska, have receded in the last two decades by distances of 30 or more miles.  

Our naturalist for the cruise was a woman who had been a missionary kid in Fairbanks in the 50s and 60s.  She showed old photographs of her family standing on glaciers dozens of miles out into what is now water.


We broke out of a dense fog as we entered Stephens Passage for the spectacular two hour motor to the Sawyer Glaciers.

photo: Phil Johnson

Ribbons of waterfall bring snowmelt off the high altitude glaciers.

photo: Phil Johnson

Joyce Lynn Maslin enjoys the trip down the fjord.

photo: Don Webster

Don and Pat Webster.

photo: Doug Nelson

The South Sawyer Glacier in the Tracy Arm. For scale, the glacier is about five miles away.

photo: Jim Peterson

This ice flowed at the bottom of the glacier, evident firstly because it is deep blue.  Blue ice has experienced high pressure, forcing the oxygen out of the ice and giving it the color.  Secondly, this ice picked up mud, which it scoured from the valley at the lower extremity of the glacier.

photo: Jim Peterson

The Golden Princess, our sister ship, arrives behind Jojo and Pat.

photo: Don Webster

Passengers from each ship waved and shouted.

photo: Jim Peterson


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