Monday, June 26, 2006

Dawes Glacier

6-19-06 STEPHENS PASSAGE: The ‘Sea Bird’ set sail last night about 11:30 pm. I awoke about 6 am and went up on deck to see a narrow fjiord, the Endicott Arm, with floating ice and harbor seals with new pups basking on the ice bergs. With the ship’s apparent wind, it was freezing. I retreated for warm clothes. After breakfast, we took zodiacs from the ship through the floating ice to the base of the Dawes Glacier. We saw the glacier calving with a big splash and a big wave and a few seconds later a loud crash. The glacier had medial and lateral moraines looking like dark stripes of debris painted on the blue ice. The sides of the fjiord as very steep with hanging glacial valleys entering from the sides with waterfalls and secondary glaciers high up some of those valleys.

The vegetation goes from none at the glacier to lichen, to alder shrubs and grassy stuff to spruce and finally hemlock forests as you get further away from the retreating glacier. Some of the ice was incredibly blue. To get through the ice field, in spots, we had to push ice out of our way. It was thrilling.

After lunch we cruised back out the Endicott Arm. On a flat island made from a terminal moraine we saw a brown bear [grizzly] with three cubs, all of then eating beach rye grass. We also saw more eagles and a bunch of sea birds. Late in the afternoon, we went ashore in Wilson Cove. Some of us kayaked while Judy and I did a short hike, guided by a naturalist, through the temperate rain forest where we were meals for mosquitoes. After dinner we headed south in Stephens Passage for Petersburg.

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