Tracy Arm is one of the most beautiful fjords in Southeast Alaska known for its glacially carved valleys and deep blue icebergs this breath-taking waterway winds 30 miles before ending at spectacular Sawyer Glacier. The glacier is not terribly large but the steep terrain over which it flows down the mountain compacts the glacial ice making it very, very solid. Sawyer is a tidewater glacier, or a glacier that ends in the sea. Because of how compact it is, Sawyer is unusual in that the ice appears very, very blue and calves off very, very large pieces of ice. The deep blue color is created as all the colors of the spectrum are absorbs except blue which is able to escape the ice; the deeper the blue the more compressed the ice. The very compressed ice is also responsible for the huge chunks of ice that crack off the glacier producing inordinately large icebergs especially for the size of the glacier. Many cruise ships no longer explore the entire length of the fjord, instead visitors can board smaller, faster boats that can zip right up to the glacier’s face. The combination of the glacier’s deep blue color and large icebergs makes it one of the most popular in Alaska.
Last week passengers on the Tracy Arm Fjords tour boat had the show of a lifetime. The boat was an acceptable distance away when the glacier where it stopped and positioned to watch the glacier. After a while it started to calve. Normally one piece will fall, perhaps two, resulting in a thunderous boom, splash and wave. It is always exciting to see. Well, on August 8, 2011, passengers on the Tracy Arm Fjords tour boat saw the glacier calve but it did not stop. Huge pieces of ice crashed down causing more ice to fall and it just kept coming! The splash was so large it covered the boat. The following wave swamped the vessel sending chunks of ice up over the top decks. One lady fell and broke her leg. Were it not for the proper positioning of the boat it could have ended very badly.
Just goes to show you never can take Mother Nature for granted! The entire incident was captured on film. To see it (and I recommend that you do) go to the following YouTube link!