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Sawyer Glacier Calving, Alaska

09-19-2014

By Kent Redell, expedition guide, Wilderness Adventurer

The circumstances of this week presented the ideal way to experience Southeast Alaska. It started with a series of low pressure systems which brought what seemed to be endless rain. After two days of non-stop drizzles and downpours, guests were having trouble drying out before we took them back out into the field. I always enjoy reinforcing that although temperate, Southeast is a massive rainforest, and therefore, having a visit without rain is not the "authentic" Alaska experience. The storms eventually blew out and brought a stretch of stellar weather, the kind that makes someone accustomed to typical Alaska weather like myself sweat profusely.

Calving event, Sawyer Glacier, Southeast Alaksa

While in Tracy Arm, Sawyer Glacier seemed to be relatively stable, and the terminus was hardly calving at all. Just when I thought we weren’t going to see much action, a sedan-sized piece of ice fell from the top of the terminus, some 200 feet from the water. The noise seemed to shake our insides, and the splash sent water flying well above the terminus. It was all I needed to get the guests in my skiff all excited, when several minutes later we saw what was by far the largest calving event the Wilderness Adventurer has seen all season. The entire face of the terminus was sheared off, and the event took all of our breaths away. The skiff was silent as passengers sat in awe. Surprisingly, there was little to no splash. All the energy was channeled into a set of three massive breaking waves.

After the calving-icebergs and bergy bits, Southeast Alaska

Everyone began to get anxious as we watched these breaking waves move down the fjord, carrying car sized pieces of ice with them and we maneuvered the skiffs to find the best positions to ride it out. The energy of these ferocious waves dissipated after 150 meters or so, and created rolling swells the skiffs could manage. Everyone was dumbfounded by what we had just seen and I assured my guests that while calving events happen nearly every day in the summer season, to witness a calving of such magnitude made them a privileged group of adventurers. Seeing how the guides and crew reacted created enough energy to share for days to come. Today was one of the first times this season I found it difficult to use my go-to saying of “just another day on the Adventurer.



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