We traveled north from Petersburg overnight. In the early morning hours, we turned east out of Stephens Passage, crossing Holkham Bay and beginning our journey through the narrow and steep-sided Tracy Arm fjord. As day broke and the forested walls above us gradually transitioned to recently deglaciated slopes of stone and pioneer plants, we were surprised and delighted to feel the warmth of sunlight on our faces. Clear blue skies afforded us the opportunity to gaze all the way up to the bare peaks and icefields towering thousands of feet above us. As National Geographic Venture reached Sawyer Island, we sat down to breakfast. We were filled with anticipation for a morning of Zodiac cruises amongst drifting icebergs to the face of South Sawyer Glacier.

We were exhilarated by the opportunity to approach huge, impossibly blue icebergs – some of the largest our naturalists have seen here – and to see harbor seals and their pups on ice against the backdrop of a dynamic, ever-changing wall of calving ice. Unexpectedly, a band of wild Vikings visited us before our return to the ship!

In the afternoon, we sailed back out of Tracy Arm, soaking up sunrays while marveling at endless waterfalls and snowfields. Soon after re-entering Stephens Passage, we were treated to a seemingly endless gathering of humpback whales. The show continued through recap, dinner, and beyond, with whales surfacing on all sides of us. Blowing, breaching, diving, logging, and even audibly vocalizing at the sea surface.

Dramatic evening light filtered down and sparkled on the water as we came together to watch our impressive, collectively created slideshow. It was an incredibly stunning evening that capped a beautiful week together here in Southeast Alaska. As we celebrated new friendships, unforgettable memories, and the spirit of exploration, we also reflected on our newfound respect for and connection to this extremely special and wild place.