Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day Four: Sawyer Glacier and Juneau

Pure aquamarine waters in Tracy Endicott Fjord

Bright and early yesterday morning (Wednesday), the Sapphire Princess sailed into Tracy Arm, which is actually the Tracy Endicott Fjord. We tried to get out there quickly enough to watch the ship navigate the shallow waters at the opening of the fjord, but our ship arrived before 6 a.m. and I wasn’t ready fast enough. However, Ed got out there ahead of me and got to see the captain maneuver through the narrow deep channel.

Mary watches icebergs that have broken off Sawyer Glacier.
They appear small from up here, but are large enough to park a car on!

Many of the icebergs were a beautiful blue color, but I can't remember why!

We spent most of the next 3 hours on deck, enjoying the beautiful scenery as we sailed through the fjord, carved out of the mountain hundreds of years ago by the Sawyer glacier. We sailed to the end of the fjord, stopping just a mile from where Sawyer Glacier now juts into the sea water.

Sawyer Glacier, still carving out the fjord just a mile from our ship

Just moments after we arrived, while we all stood at the rail watching, the glacier calved. Not once, but twice! That’s where a huge chunk of the glacier breaks off and falls into the water. It took a while for the sound to reach our ears, but then it was like a sonic boom! The ship’s naturalist was astounded. She said it’s rare to see one calving, but two in a row is unheard of!

We can watch the scenery from the breakfast table!

We didn’t get to see the wildlife we hoped for. I saw one seal resting on an iceberg, but he was so far away he was hard to make out. Without binoculars I wouldn’t have seen him at all.  There were no whales, no eagles, no mountain goats.

Waterfalls abound, due to the heavy rainfall.

The beauty all around us was absolutely indescribable. What an experience! By the time we sailed back out of Tracy Arm, it was raining and the wind was horrendous, but Ed and I stayed near the prow so I could see the shallow bar as we departed. I had to admire the crew’s navigational skills!

The shallows are clear to see as they disrupt the surface of the water.

Heading back out of Tracy Arm

Once we were back in Stephens Passage and on our way to Gastineau Channel, we had about 4 hours of free time until our arrival in the capital of Alaska, Juneau, at 2:00 p.m. We napped, ate lunch, and washed up our laundry in the onboard laundry room. Actually, Ed did the laundry so I’d have time to blog. That’s my man!

Mary finishes lunch with Juneau's panorama outside the window.
(It's also a nice shot of the beautiful whale's tail pendant Ed gave me.)

A view of Juneau from the ship's deck

Juneau didn’t seem to be much larger than Ketchikan, but it is the 3rd largest city in Alaska, with about 30,000 residents. It is located in an actual rain forest, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much emerald-green fauna before! It was amazing.

The next tram climbs Mount Roberts behind us.

A view of Juneau from the top of Mount Roberts

I guess that would explain why it rained the entire time we were in Juneau! Alaska’s capital gets about 100 inches of snow and 100 inches of rain each year. I’ll stay in the White Mountains, thank you!

A view of Gastineau Channel (actually, it's another fjord), where Juneau is located.

We’ve seen a great many float planes since coming to Alaska. There were lots of them coming and going in Juneau, since the town is only accessible by ship or plane. Our bus driver told us that crime is almost nonexistent in Juneau because there’s nowhere for a criminal to escape with his stolen goods!

Ed and I explored Juneau’s downtown for awhile. We bought Alaska tee-shirt souvenirs for Sarah, Jacob, and Dylan. We also stopped in a fudge shop where I bought and ate 4 oz. of delicious handmade semi-sweet walnut fudge. Mmmm!

Downtown Juneau, Alaska's state capital

After much debate, we decided to ride the tram to the top of Mount Roberts, high above the town. The tram climbs almost 3,500 feet in just 5 minutes!  We’re glad we did it. We visited the nature center; saw a beautiful bald eagle named Annie (unable to be released to the wild due to blindness in one eye after being shot in her beak); watched a short film about the history of the Tlingit tribe; checked out some beautiful native American artwork; and ate a plate of hot wings.

Annie the bald eagle

The ship didn’t leave Juneau until 10:00 p.m., but we were beat by 8:00. So we went back to the ship for dinner and an earlier-than-usual bedtime.

Mary and Ed at the visitors' center on top of Mount Roberts

Unlike many cruise passengers, who had their tour reservations bought and paid for long before the cruise began, Ed and I have just been playing it all by ear. I think it’s been working out very well!

The Sapphire Princess as viewed from Mount Roberts:
you can see 4 of the ship's 5 swimming pools!


Anonymous said...

White is the standard color and is a result of the ice and snow covering the iceberg. Blue is also from the ice which has compressed all the gas inside so much that the apparent color is blue from light scattering, much like a blue sky. The aqua green is from algae growing in the ice and is only seen when icebergs roll over exposing the previously underwater sections to view.

Jill said...

I can't even imagine having THAT kind of view during breakfast!
And FIVE swimming pools on that ship?!!