Thursday, September 25, 2014

Alaska day 5 Cruising Tracy Arm

Sawyer Glacier

Tracy Arm is a narrow fjord that meanders amongst the mountains for over 30 spectacular miles. The pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is the amazing Sawyer Glacier. After breakfast i went from deck to deck, starboard to port side for a couple hours, back and forth looking at new and awesome scenery every time. It was an overcast day, not raining or snowing but pleasantly cool outside.
Suddenly someone shouted "BEAR" and all eyes searched where the man pointed. It took me awhile as i didn't have binoculars but i eventually spotted a black spot on a patch of green so i knew that was it. He was just minding his own business, perhaps eating berries and he was oblivious to all the humans on board a ship scrambling to get a good view and pics of him. A location guide named Kainoa in the Crows Nest gave a descriptive commentary all the while keeping his eyes peeled for whales, seals,mountain goats, eagles and other birds and wildlife. Meanwhile at the ships outdoor pool a group had gathered to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge into slightly icy water. The participants all received achievement certificates as proof of their bravery. I continued criss-crossing the ship as i didn't want to miss anything and got lucky when Kainoa spotted a mountain goat with the area being 1/3 of the way up the steep rocky mountain in front of us. He said look for a white dot on the patch of grass and that is a mountain goat. If that were true i believe i saw many mountain goats as there were white dots pretty much everywhere on what was being called "grass" but which i already knew since yesterday that it was actually patches of Spruce trees spread out in the stunted groundcover way that they grow on these cold, windy, rocky cliffs. From a distance it does look like grass and simplifying it made it understandable for people to know where to look.  Unfortunately my little point and shoot camera couldn't make out the mountain goat clearly enough to get a better pic and maybe my white spots on green were just rocks. Later on it was orcas jumping and they're real easy to see and recognize so i know got them identified correctly. Too bad i wasn't swift enough to get a pic of them. 
We were on a cruise to Tracy Arm 4 yrs ago and i could tell the difference of what's left of the glacier today. It's melting really fast and i don't know if the presence of the cruise ships sailing into the fijord to see the glacier calving and releasing tons of charts of ice is one of the causes or not. They say no, that cruise ships have nothing to do with it but i feel it must have some kind of effect and they're just not ready to admit it yet. But if so, will they ever? And if so, what can they even do about it? I think it's contributing somehow. Each of the 500+ ships in the season have furnaces and cooking stoves with an average of maybe 2000+ people on each ship. That sort of boggles my mind and i think it must have some effect but maybe just a drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of things? Four years ago i think the glacier was almost twice as big as it is today but then again it was my first time to see it and i was impressed so i might be looking through rose coloured glasses. Back then  enormous charts of ice calved off and crashed into the water with much ado with their crackle and pop sounds and people cheered in delight each time. If i remember correctly we were told at that time that the glacier had retreated over 20 miles in previous years. That info made me feel heartsick. This time no calving happened however there were lots of small chunks of ice in the waters of the Sound. I suppose this could be the difference between May and September. I will attempt to retrieve pics of what the south Sawyer Glacier looked like in 2010 to compare with my pics taken in 2014. I know that some years glaciers grow and some years they retreat. I just hope it's doing the normal thing at it's usual time and is not constantly retreating every year.

We ate in the dining room which was our the last formal night and it was pleasant sitting at the center aft window looking at the wake of our ship. We finally met our table mates, a nice couple about our age who live in New Westminster, just across the river from us. We both ordered the filet mignon and lobster which was cooked to perfection.  I also had a very tasty 3 mushroom soup, a prawn cocktail, baked Alaska and espresso for dessert. Afterwards we went to the stage show which featured magicians Romy and Remy. They had some tricks and we had a few laughs. Wasted twenty bucks in the casino and then meandered our way around taking in the entertainment along the way. We eventually ended up in the Lido for cookies and coffee which should have finished us off but then we couldn't pass up an ice cream cone on our way out.

 The Norwegian Jewel; we passed like two ships in the day
 The black dot is a bear; actually a pretty good sized bear too.
 You can see him a little better here

 Looks like grass from afar but it's actually Sitka Spruce. It doesn't grow very tall here but each tree has a trunk with it's roots in the cracks and fissures of the rock. The top growth spreads 30 ft. or more like a ground cover all blending together in the cold, windy conditions of Alaska
 The mountain goat is there somewhere

 The ice crackles and pops as it mingles with the salt water

 The mountain goat is the white dot on the,...i couldn't make it out either

Howa'a' for good night, pronounced "howah - ah"

Haida Tribe members are primarily found in southeast Alaska. Haida is a linguistic isolate with no proven relationship to any language family.

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