Calving Glacier

Nature’s Trump Card

Just when you think you’ve seen and experienced it all, nature throws in the trump card!

Our passengers were just sitting down to enjoy their last meal together, the Captain’s Dinner, when the excited whisper came over the Captain’s radio. What could possibly be so important as to interrupt this special occasion? After all, our first 9-day trip of the season had delivered all that we could have dreamed of and so much more that we never expected!

Let’s start with the weather. Coming to Southeast Alaska where rubber boots are a daily fashion, one must learn to embrace the typical cool damp air as low clouds hang tightly to the Hemlock-Sitka Spruce trees. To our surprise, cloudless blue skies and 70-degree, sunny days accompanied each day’s adventure (much to the delight of our passengers). Therefore, we all anticipated the endless sunsets as each evening painted a different watercolor for us. Lingering for hours in the protected flat waters of the Inside Passage watching the shades of pinks and purples reflecting from sky to sea, we enjoyed this all to ourselves without another soul, boat, or sign of civilization around, connecting deeply to our awe-inspiring natural world.

Never knowing what nature might deliver, our wildlife encounters proved to be absolutely spectacular. The humpback whales we saw put on remarkable shows! Hearing the blows of their expelled air just as they began to dive revealing the ‘thumbprint’ of their flukes will be a memory imprinted on our passengers for a long time to come.

We also had faced the raw power of nature and watched glaciology in the making as South Sawyer glacier, located 30 miles up the narrow winding jade colored Tracy Arm was quite active and proved to be a wonderful treat! This tidewater glacier calved regularly, creating thunderous noises that echoed through our beings. Arctic Terns would swoop down by the dozens and pick up the krill found in the disturbed waters below from the sinking of the ice. The sunshine warmed our faces and coincidentally the glacier itself may have contributed to the increased activity it displayed during our several hour visit at one of nature’s greatest shows.

What would we take home with us that maybe we didn’t quite expect? As each day spent together created deeper bonds, newfound friendships were formed with promises of near future visits. A spirit of the wilderness and raw beauty of Alaska coursed through our freshly oxygenated veins. A deeper understanding of the Southeast Alaskan culture was conveyed, having visited native communities and felt the beating drums resonating through our bodies, reminding us of the Tlingit beating hearts and their adage of “pulling together”.

So what could have possibly topped all of these experiences in order to demand an interruption from the Captain’s Dinner? Why only a pod of Resident killer whales announcing their arrival as they played and jumped along the surface of the water against the backdrop of illuminated mountains. All passengers rushed to the bow and enjoyed these true icons of wilderness. After many minutes passed, eventually the group of orcas, at least ten strong, swam right towards our boat and dipped underneath it as they made their exit out the other side. Guests embraced and tears of joy fell as we all felt the overwhelming humbled nature of our place in this magnificent natural world, and were appreciative of such a grand final act given by Mother Nature herself.

Here in Southeast Alaska, just another day in the office! Never to be taken for granted.

By Lisa Culpepper

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