THE STUNNING SCENERY OF ENDICOTT ARM FJORD ALASKA
Our early morning wakeup call came at 5:00 am. The night before the captain of Celebrity Solstice had made it clear to all of the passengers onboard our 7 day cruise to Alaska that although the hour of arrival would be early, we would not want to miss the stunning scenery of Endicott Arm Fjord Alaska. As the call came in I sprung out of bed with great anticipation, anxious to see what was to be a major highlight of our trip. Peering out of the large porthole on one side of our aft-facing suite I got a glimpse of what was to come here in the Endicott Arm Fjord of the Inside Passage.
What I observed were small pieces of ice known as “brash ice” that began as icebergs but have melted down over time. These bits of floating ice had come from the Dawes Glacier which we would encounter as the grand finale of this cruise down Endicott Arm Fjord. The weather forecast for the day indicated that it was about 40 degrees outside, so I threw a jacket over my PJ’s and headed out to our aft-facing veranda to take in the spectacular scenery.
As I mentioned in a previous post, there are lots of perks associated with occupying a “Suite” on cruise ships. On our cruise to Alaska one such perk was an invitation (to suite occupants only) to enjoy the views from the helipad, the most forward facing spot onboard Celebrity Solstice. Since we would have the exact same view from our aft-facing suite, we elected not to join the group up on the helipad. Plus, that would require that I get dressed, something I wasn’t keen to do at 5:00am.
The original itinerary for our cruise called for us to visit the Tracy Arm Fjord. However, ice formations prevented us from doing so. Instead we were able to navigate Tracy’s sister fjord, the Endicott instead.
Tracey Fjord is considered to be the most majestic of all of the Alaskan fjords. It’s narrow passage with steep cliffs carved by glaciers are said to be breathtaking. While Endicott Fjord is not quite as narrow and has fewer twists and turns, what it does have is spectacular Dawes Glacier at its end. So we were not disappointed to learn that a substitution had been made in the itinerary through the Inside Passage.
It was hard to imagine that Tracey Arm Fjord could have been any more beautiful than what we witnessed on our slow journey up this simply awe-inspiring fjord.
The combination of the azure blue water…
dozens of plunging waterfalls…
stunning rock formations…
and soaring cliffs stretching over 3,000 feet high above the ice blue waters was a sight to behold. Glacier ice had carved not only these mountain valleys but also the deep water fjord, scouring out the bottom of the sea. Famed naturalist John Muir said of this very area, “I felt as if I was leaning up against the cheek of God,” and I too felt an overpowering sense that god indeed had a special plan when he created Alaska.
As we inched further down the narrow passageway small icebergs called “Bergy Bits” became more prevalent.
Dwarfed by our giant cruise ship, a private yacht and its dinghy joined us on our journey down the narrow fjord, and seemed a little too close for comfort.
Content looking seals used the bergy bits as liferafts, as did migrating birds.
As we got closer and closer to Dawes Glacier, actual icebergs came into view. Fresh water floats on salt water, thus the icebergs float. If one listened closely one could hear the pops and snaps of air escaping the ice as it melted and broke free from the floating icebergs.
It was amazing to see how blue these ice formations were. Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue. Watching the drifting blue ice just inches from the side of the ship was thrilling! However, I couldn’t stop thinking of the sinking of the Titanic! That’s because the naturalist who was narrating the entire journey over the television told us how what we see of the icebergs on the surface of the water is less than half of what lurks below the surface.
After over an hour of sailing down the fjord the announcement was made that we were approaching Dawes Glacier. From our aft balcony I leaned over the side, craning my neck for my first glimpse of what we had really come to see.
There she was, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch the 500 year old ice. Dawes Glacier stands over 200 feet tall, with another 250 feet of glacier hidden below water.
Our captain was very proud of the fact that over the next few minutes he would maneuver the ship to make two complete turns on a dime, slowly spinning what he called “doughnuts” so that no matter where you were on the ship, at some point during the spin you would be facing the glacier.
A glacier is a body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. As we observed the towering mountain of ice, we got to see several chunks of ice break off into a thunderous dive into the water. Called “calving,” this is how new icebergs are born. Dawes Glacier is a very active glacier and thus is producing lots of new icebergs. As we observed the calving process the on board naturalist explained that currently this area of Alaska is in the middle of a 10 year warming cycle. Since emissions pollution contributes to the warming, our ship was built to use a cleaner burning fuel in an effort to create less air pollution. It was good to know that our carbon footprint was slightly reduced as we took advantage of nature’s bounty.
At this point Celebrity offers an excursion where passengers can disembark the ship right here at Dawes Glacier and board a waiting smaller boat for a closer look at the glacier and Endicott Fjord. That would have been a fun excursion.
It was a bittersweet feeling as the ship made its final turn and began its journey back down Endicott Arm. I watched as the slow moving ship left a lovely ripple in the otherwise still waters. The whole experience was simply awe inspiring, and is one I shall never forget.
If you’d like to watch a video of the area here’s a good one produced by Princess cruises. I’m sure our journey on Celebrity Cruises was a very similar one. ENJOY!
So there you have it: THE STUNNING SCENERY OF ENDICOTT ARM FJORD ALASKA
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All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.