On this beautiful and cool Alaskan morning, magical mists drifted across the fjord near the entrance to Endicott Arm and softened the rough edges of the rocky landscape. Grounded icebergs of translucent azure shone through the thinning fog. The clouds briefly opened to reveal waterfalls spilling down the glacially-sculpted walls, and then the cloudy veils closed in again.

As the day unfolded the scene grew ever more dramatic, and National Geographic Sea Bird anchored in a small fjord off the main glacial valley. The deck crew swiftly and skillfully launched our fleet of Zodiacs, brightly colored kayaks, and paddleboards. Soon our adventurous explorers set off to experience up close another special part of Southeast Alaska’s seemingly endless wilderness.

At least half of our intrepid guests capped the morning with a polar plunge (brr), while the rest of us cheered, sipped hot chocolate, and photographed the chilly fun from the bow.

After lunch, layers of waterproof gear, boots, hats, and gloves obscured most of our new friends’ silhouettes; we boarded small boats and worked our way through berg-y bits toward the tall blue face of Dawes Glacier. Huge waterfalls cascaded all around us and lush green bands of Sitka alder decorated the bare expanses of exposed rock. Here and there clusters of magenta river beauty flowers added a splash of bright color to the already spectacular view.

About twenty harbor seals were lying calmly on a flat iceberg as we passed; by now most of the area’s harbor seals have weaned their young and headed to the mouths of salmon streams to feed. Dawes Glacier’s front was quiet and nearly free of ice as we approached and photographed the gigantic expanse. But there were still surprises in store, as great chunks of blue ice suddenly thundered into the sea. We cheered for the exciting calving and yet, it is both a happy and sad experience as we end our Southeast Alaska journey tomorrow in Juneau. Who knows what the future holds for this glorious icy wild blue place.