Field Notes

 

What's it like to travel with National Geographic? Take a look at these reports from the field.

By Kim Heacox
April 2004

It began with the Ice Age—or so it seemed—as we motored deep into Tracy Arm, a 25-mile-long rock-ribbed vault festooned with waterfalls, tidewater glaciers, and diamond blue icebergs. Sunshine spilled over the high mountain walls as we gathered on deck, coffee and hot chocolate in hand, cameras at the ready. After breakfast we took to the Zodiacs through gardens of icebergs and listened to the white thunder of icefalls off the face of Sawyer Glacier…towers of ice plunging into the sea.

Afternoon found us in Williams Cove, where we paddled kayaks and hiked on the fringe of the lush, green Tongass National Forest, a temperate rain forest, one of the rarest biomes in the world. Returning to the Sea Bird, we found the lounge set up for a wine-tasting party, complete with cheeses, salmon, and chocolate.

After dinner, southbound in Frederick Sound, we gathered on deck in fading light to watch humpback whales sound and feed. One whale in particular spy hopped next to the Sea Bird again and again, rising out of the slate gray water like a giant dark orchid, a blossom in the sea, staring back at us as we stared at it. Then slowly it sunk away to end a wondrous day.

An interview with Wildlife Ecologist and Naturalist Casey Anderson by Ford Cochran


What's most wondrous to you about visiting Glacier Bay and the rest of Alaska's Inside Passage by ship?

When it comes to having the FULL Alaska experience, this is the only way to go. You get to feel the full grandeur of the glaciers, the mountains, and the sea all in one itinerary and you get to come face-to-face with the diverse wildlife that call it home.

When you talk to travelers about Alaska, what are a few of the key things or themes you share?

Alaska is still a frontier. When you travel to Alaska, you step back in time, its apparent untamed spirit and its vastness are humbling. Alaska is a place where you really feel how small you are in this BIG world.

What sorts of things have you seen while aboard the ship?

Alaska certainly is where the sky, mountains, and sea all come together in a perfect way and in a big way. To be in a Zodiac among stellar sea lions feeding on fish and to look to the sky at eagles swarming for the scraps and then to peer to the shore to see a brown bear waiting his turn…. It is truly amazing… and then you realize that YOU are part of it all, right there in the middle!

What would you tell someone who was considering coming to Alaska on this trip, but needed some convincing?

If you are considering a trip to Alaska, and you want to experience Alaska to the fullest… this is the only trip!

What was your favorite wildlife encounter during the voyage?

There were so many to choose from… grizzly bears interacting with wolves, a gathering of over 40 orcas, bubble-net feeding humpbacks, the list goes on and on. But I really was moved by the Dall’s porpoises. They seemed so playful and excited to experience us, coming from so far away as fast as they could swim to bow surf the ship’s wake and to look up at all of us looking at them. It was an awesome moment of sharing.