We made it to Juneau! This past week has been wild. Whales and glaciers sum up the highlights, but there is so much more to tell!
Thursday we left Petersburg and headed out to see our first glaciers in Thomas Bay. It was not long before the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and we found ourselves bundling up. The glaciers have a weather pattern of their own, so we were getting some pretty strong head winds as we went into Thomas Bay. The Baird glacier was impressive, but is not a tidewater glacier- meaning it has retreated enough that no longer touches the ocean. We couldn’t get too close because it was too shallow. To the north was a small bay that had a river mouth, so we took a few minutes to cast the fishing poles. No salmon for dinner that night, unfortunately, so we continued on to Portage Bay to anchor that evening.
The next morning we woke up early to make some miles and as we were eating breakfast, I spotted the first spout. Whale spout, that is. I looked around, and realized there were whale spouts and soundings in every direction. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by dozens (!) of humpback whales eating and playing around in the Fredrick Sound. We barely moved the boat, and the whales were so close to the boat, we could hear every sound. The giant breath and sound of spray each time they surfaced. They were so large, they could have easily overturned the boat-humpbacks are typically around 50’ long and weigh between 30-50 tons. Despite their enormity, they move with gracefulness and confidence. They are playful, swimming in groups and sounding synchronously. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and definitely not something you could ever plan. I have been on whale watching tours, but this far surpassed any experience you could have on a tour boat. With the engine off, we bobbed with the tide and just watched as the humpbacks moved around us.
Eventually we decided we had to keep moving, but even as we rounded the coast into Stephens Passage we continued to see spouts in the distance. We finally found anchorage in Holkham Bay at the entrance of the Tracy Arm- a fiord that has two tidewater glaciers at the end. We woke up Saturday to fog and rain, so we opted to wait out the weather a little before heading up the fiord. While we were waiting, we had our first bear sighting! A grizzly mother and cub were playing and wandering the beach near our anchorage. The fog lifted and we began our cruise up the Tracy Arm. The scenery was dramatic, to say the least. Steep mountains swept out of the deep fiord with clear signs that glaciers had carved their path many years ago. Waterfalls trickled down the steep rock and beautiful valleys merged with the water.
At the end of the fiord are two glaciers, the North and South Sawyer Glaciers. The further back we pushed, the more icebergs were floating in the water. After we made the split to go to the south glacier, the ice was so think, it took constant navigation. Kevin maneuvered through it nearly flawlessly and we only brushed into a few small bergs. Once we got as close as we could go, we were surrounded by seal pups lounging on the ice and swimming in the water. There were a couple of really large icebergs that had calved off of the glacier previously that we were near. At one point, my dad started pointing and a large chunk, around 15’x15’ broke of of the larger berg. The calving ice caused the whole berg to be thrown off balance and it slowly overturned, so in the end, it appeared to be half the size as it had originally. It was a reminder of how unstable the ice around us truly is.
We navigated out through the area of thick ice and next visited the north glacier. It was also a tidal glacier, but clearly much less active. There was no ice floating in the water at all, and the water appeared to be a browner color. It is interesting that the two glaciers right next to each other were so different. Even the rocks that surrounded the glaciers looked different. By the time we started heading back, we realized it was already 3pm and we still had 23 miles to go to the entrance of the fiord, so we decided to anchor in the same bay that we had the previous night.
Sunday, yesterday, we woke up early to push toward Juneau. It was an overcast morning, which eventually turned into a steady drizzle. No more 80’s and tank tops in this part of Alaska! We arrived in Juneau around 3pm and moored our boat in the Harris Harbor. Alisha happens to live about two blocks away from the marina, so we have been lucky to have a dry place to shower, do laundry and use the internet! We had great pizza and beer for dinner and today we spent all day exploring Juneau and grocery shopping!
We will be taking off tomorrow to head north toward Glacier Bay!