One traveler’s firsthand experience in an awe-inspiring Alaska setting
As Seabourn Sojourn made her way into Endicott Arm, she arrived at her stopping place deep in the heart of the coastal mountains. Some of us were content to enjoy the spectacular scenery from the warmth and comfort of the ship; there are a variety of spaces for relaxing with a view. Others were busy gearing up for time outdoors as the Expedition Team prepared for optional Ventures by Seabourn™ excursions by Zodiac®, kayak and catamaran.
The magic of the rain here soon made itself obvious. Towering cliffs surrounded us, gleaming in the veiled light. The wet rock showed every fascinating detail sculpted in the tough, resistant rock by the advances of the massive Ice Age glaciers that scoured this area dozens of times. As it rained, temporary waterfalls appeared everywhere we looked. They plunged from astonishing heights down steep fjord walls and into the sea. Any one of these beauties would warrant its own park in more populated parts of the world, complete with visitors’ centers, hiking trails, parking lots, and busloads of admirers. Here there are hundreds of these cascades and none of them have names.
This is one of the first heavy rainfalls after an unusually warm, dry summer. The downpour gathered strength in the mountain watercourses above us. The larger, more permanent waterfalls near the ship grew many times greater than their normal volume. The turned shades of beige, reddish-brown, and even dark grey as more sediment fell into their flows. The bright turquoise water of the fjord became marbled with the tawny shades of sediment plumes. The reddish tints offset the colors of the jewels of the fjord; a constellation of ice floated by, newly calved from the face of the tidewater glacier looming in the mist ahead of us. Some pieces were no larger than a storybook crystal ball. Some were a glowing, milky white; others were dark, clear, and almost void of air bubbles and fractures. The largest bergs emanated the quality of deep, unreal cobalt blue light that can only be seen on overcast days like today, best accentuated by a wash of fresh rain.
Those of us lucky enough to be rewarded with a close-up immersion in the magic of this place motored around in Zodiacs®, paddled kayaks, or rode on that catamaran with its enclosed cabin and snack bar. Our eyes filled with the sight of the fantastic colors and shapes of floating ice. Our lungs were treated to fresh fossil air, trapped inside layers of snow falling hundreds of years ago. That air was compressed into minuscule bubbles as that snow was squeezed into ice. It snapped, popped, and fizzed around us as the salty sea melted the bits floating next to us. We spotted dozens of curious Harbor Seals swimming nearby, keeping their eyes on us in turn.
We took in the overwhelming sight of Dawes Glacier. It is difficult to gain a sense of scale here and we’re surprised when we find out we’re not as close to the jagged cliffs of ice as we think. When enormous sections of the glacier calve into the sea we don’t just hear the thundering booms with our ears, we feel it in our chests.
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The shorelines on either side of us are zones of sudden, chaotic change. The stereotype that geology is boring evaporates. Our hearts race, though the fjord is plenty wide here and we observe this rare phenomenon from a distance. Our jaws hung open as a sound like a runaway freight train echoes around us and entire sections of debris lose their grip and flow down the cliffs, looking like waterfalls made of earth. It’s a sight most of us have never seen, and one we didn’t expect. We thought we’d spend most of our time here admiring the glacier, but the tumbling rocks stole the show.
There’s nothing like a day in nature to help us appreciate a cozy lounge, a hot drink, and a delicious meal. It’s a fortunate traveler who has a ship like Seabourn Sojourn to return to after a day of magic in the rain. We dried off wet gear and got comfortable and cozy again as the ship made her way out of Endicott Arm. Night fell and still the rain came down. After the evening’s dinner, drinks, and entertainment we tuck in easily, looking forward to whatever adventures the next day holds.
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