Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alaska - Day 3: Tracy's Arm Fjord

Day three we woke up to the densest fog. Such fog. We couldn't even see the the water from the deck. This, is apparently, very common. So common in fact that in the last two years the Disney Wonder ship hasn't made it up 30 mile Tracy's Arm Fjord to Sawyer Glacier in the last two years. So we headed off to a "Character breakfast" with the cruise directors announcement that the fog and ice conditions were not looking good and the trip might be cancelled. I was worried. Trying not to be but seriously, I wanted so badly to see this fjord. It's narrow (in some places just big enough for the cruise ship to fit) and 1200 feet deep, surrounded by 7000 foot mountains. Ending at an active glacier.
John being Goofy. The things we do for kids.
After meeting Goofy, Pluto, Minnie and Mickey we dropped the kids off at the kids club and we made our way up to deck to see that the fog was lifting. Elation! I grabbed the camera and we joined our fellow Alaska lovers on the front of a VERY windy deck. We jockeyed for a position behind the wind shield at the front of the deck.

It is hard to know how many landscape pictures to share. The truth is that pictures completely fail. After a few lame attempts at panoramics you just feel a little helpless in the photography department. I will share a few here but it really is nothing like being completely surrounded on all side like we were.

After a few minutes John pointed out dozens of spouts of water all of the area in front of us. He claimed it was whales and I nodded politely but didn't think that it could possibly be whales because there were just too many of them. I had no alternative explanation but it was just too many! Too easy. We weren't on a whale watching venture - just on the deck of the ship. But sure enough - it was whales. According to the naturalist that was on board with us, once you see a whale tale it is diving deep and you won't see that particular whale again for 10-12 minutes.

It was chilly - and insanely windy if you were on the other side of this shield. So there were staff passing out hot chocolate and mulled wine for those brave souls on deck. Oh the suffering.

This is on the approach to Tracy's Arm Fjord. Those are some small bits of glacial ice floating all the way out from the glacier. See how blue it is? That's because is takes 12 feet of snow to make one foot of glacial ice. By the time that snow has been compacted the oxygen is squeezed out and the structure of the ice absorbs every other color expect blue. Blue it reflects.

We had to dip back inside the ship at this point for a champagne tasting. I arrived breathless and dressed way to warmly. I spent the next hour shedding layers. The constant instruction from the cruise director was to "dress like an onion" and it was important. I learned a lot about champagne - mostly because I knew absolutely nothing previously. For example, the reason that the bubbles come up from the bottom of a champagne flute all from one spot instead of from all over (like pop) is because they scratch the bottom of the flute so it's the deepest part of the glass.

We rushed back up on deck with the kids just as we were entering the Fjord (btw-how cool is that word?).

Acting on the advice from our waiter we grabbed an outdoor table at the restaurant on the back of the ship so we could eat lunch and view the whole time.

These are my people. The people camped out on deck with their giant cameras (not that I have a giant camera lens except in my dreams) and hats and jackets - ready to be in Alaska and experience it all. However, the weather was INSANELY nice this afternoon. Close to 70 degrees. By the end of the cruise the cruise director told us that in his 2.5 years of cruising in Alaska he's never seen such nice weather.

There were dozens of water falls. So many I couldn't keep track.

I like this picture because it shows how close we were at some points to the sides of this Fjord. The ship took on a local pilot because it obviously takes a lot of specific knowledge and skill to navigate a huge cruise ship down passages this narrow.

These are 7000 foot peaks in many places.

That is a glacier on the right - a different one from huge Sawyer glacier that we were headed towards.

One just wants to start singing, "The hills are alive..."

I knew we were having a special moment when I saw all sorts of crew members out on deck with their cameras oooing and ahhhhing right along with us. Almost none of them had ever seen this before. The naturalist on board was narrating for about half the time and even though he has a very low-key (non-Disney) tone of voice he was clearly extremely excited to be a part of this too. This was no humdrum Alaska cruise moment.

This is part of the "S" curve - some of the turns were so sharp that it looked like the ship was going to run into a mountain straight ahead before the turn came into view.

We saw several seals. Apparently a few weeks before we arrived there was a whole colony calving here.

There in the center of that V is the first glimpse we had of Sawyer Glacier.

The ship is able to get to half a mile from it. They had to cancel the smaller boat excursions that could get up closer because of the amount of ice in the passage.

Thanks to Colin for the picture!

On our way back out of the Fjord we enjoyed to much emptier decks and leisurely pace. The whole trip was about 5 hours long and I enjoyed every second of it.

The older kids swam in the heated pool. Still seemed to cold to swim to me but they had absolutely no problem with it.

After dinner we headed out to have a Great Twirl in the golden hour.

The boys weren't terribly into the twirling so just jumped and ran around being generally rowdy.

We put them to bed and headed back up for sunset. These sunset pictures were taken about 10:30 pm. Sunrise was (apparently - I never saw it in person) around 3:30 am.

Does it get any more beautiful then a moon rise is Alaska?

1 comment:

  1. I think your pictures do a pretty good job of showing the beauty of the landscape! :)