Rolling Thunder

At Glacier Bay there are sixteen tide water glaciers. These are gigantic moving rivers of ice that keep splitting apart and dropping pieces of ice, some as large as three story buildings, into the ocean. When the ice splits it sounds like rolling thunder. We could hear the rumbling as we watched the tidewater glacier calving icebergs into the water. When the ice hits the water, it creates a huge wave and floats away as an iceberg.

Tracy Arm, like Glacier Bay, are fjords in the Southeast Alaska that are long narrow arms of the sea bordered by steep cliffs formed by glacier erosion. Tracy Arm's steep 2000 foot granite walls rise straight out of the water and are decorated with beautiful cascading waterfalls. The 30 mile arm is no more that half mile wide at its upper end. Calm water is the norm in Tracy Arm as the steep and narrow fjord walls provide protection from stormy weather and strong winds.

While most of us are familiar with two to three foot tides, Alaska has some of the largest tides in the world. Twenty foot tides are common and can move quickly.

To get to the glaciers on the water, we must navigate though the icebergs. When the tide is going out, so do the icebergs. When the tide comes in, it will bring any icebergs that are still close, back in. Often we'd be forced to push icebergs away from the bow of the Zodiac in order to get through the ice fields. Timing is everything, as it is easy to get trapped by the icebergs which can crush a large ship. My partner and I were eerily reminded of the Titanic and its terrible fate.

Traveling on the Zodiac gives us the benefit of getting quite a few miles inland and up rivers into some very remote places on the giant islands of Southeast Alaska. It also rewards with the viewing of 360 degrees of continuous raw beauty such as amazing glaciers, waterfalls, caves, tide pools and miles and miles of astounding coastline.

Floating around on the Zodiac, as we sat surrounded by ice, we could feel the chilling cold wind sweeping off the glacier face. For hours we watched in absolute awe as a gallery of icebergs floated past us on their way out to sea.