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Thursday, June 3, 2010

5/31 Sawyer Glacier

One full month off the dock today. We passed the 57th parallel as we moved up Tracy Arm to North and South Sawyer Glaciers. It was a 21km one way trip and we knew if the ice was too thick we might not make it to the glacier face. The high cliffs all around us were wonderful. Waterfalls crashing towards the sea from what seemed like miles above. The powers that had passed by millions of years ago slowly grinding and pushing and growing huge chasms and fissures in solid rock is mind boggling.

North Sawyer Glacier has retreated well onto land but we passed it on our port side as we slowly made our way towards the face of South Sawyer Glacier. It was weird really. Being on your own boat working your way slowly through cliffs and ice bergs. The bergs getting thicker and thicker.

Bright white bergs, glowing blue bergs and thousands of small bergie bits. It took us 6 hours to go 21 km. We were passed by two cruise ships and one expedition boat all likely coming from Juneau. As we got within sight of the glacier it seemed that we couldn't make it further. The pieces were bigger and closer together...we could hear them banging against the hull. The guide book suggested you post a look out on the bow with a boat hook to push away the bergs but the ones that were small enough to push didnt really matter and the ones that needed pushing wouldnt budge. The expedition boat passed us at about 8k off to our starboard side, hugging close to the cliff as we were reaching the end of our ability to move through the ice. It looked like there was a path along the cliff and he made it wider so we slipped in behind him and worked farther up.

The huge cruise ship that had passed us earlier just slowed down to almost nothing and pushed through. But the ice filled in so fast behind it that following it was not really an option plus following it close would mean we would only have a birds eye view of the ass end of a cruise ship. So we worked our way over behind the smaller excursion boat and slipped into the empty spaces he left in his wake.

By this time we had worked close enough we could see the glacier face pretty well. There was one large piece that calved off as we approached but we were still at a safe distance. Many of the pieces floating by had a seal pup or two that mom had stashed while she fished. They just stared at us as we passed by. The ice is startlingly beautiful. The shapes and sizes are endless. There was an odd familiarity to them. At a glance they reminded me of a thousand origami animals floating in the current. Large and small peace cranes and dragons and birds of every design. And every piece slowly changing into something new as the vantage point shifted. And the noise! I never imagined that the ice bergs would make so much noise. A constant rush of clicking and sloshing and splashing and dripping as they all swirled and ebbed along the currents and with the motion of the passing boats.

Eventually the ice got too thick (and Kat got more worried) so we turned around and headed back towards our anchorage. It was an awesome experince, the sun stayed with us all day inspite of the forcast and we even spotted a couple of humbacks on our way to and again home from the glacier. We are both tired.....all that work keeping Island Bound safe...tomorrow we head to Juneau.

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