Alaska Glacier Bay

Tarr Inlet: The End of the Line

Thursday, October 15, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

It was a different day entirely. While Monday had been sunny and bright with a heavy haze weighing down the air, Tuesday began with low clouds filling the main channel. The barometer rose back to 1017 MB overnight, promising sunshine. If we were lucky, the sky would start to clear before we reached the head of Tarr Inlet.

We were lucky.

The clouds began to lift as we slowly motored north, breaking enough to give us a view of Lamplugh Glacier. The massive wall of ice tempting us as we passed by: It would have to wait.

Motoring up Glacier Bay is like sailing back in time. The farther you move away from Bartlett Cove, the younger the scenery becomes. The landscape grows more barren with ever mile, and more vunerable . . . it’s like seeing the earth in its infancy. This is where we find its beauty – in its primitiveness.

The head of Tarr Inlet resembles a wasteland the likes of which we’d never seen. One could be forgiven for thinking a volcano had erupted and destroyed everything in its path, particularly on the northern end where the face of the Grand Pacific Glacier has been covered by landslides and rock debris, but the opposite is true: It was the melting of ice that created this new land – desolate and bleak, yet beautiful at the same time. It’s a humbling sight.

Sitting off Margerie Glacier, we passed 59°N – our highest latitude to date and the farthest north we intend to sail. It was a cold morning; one that required several layers and a steady flow of hot drinks, though the drinks may have been more about going below decks into the warmth of the cabin than anything else.

We spent an hour or so drifting off the mile-wide glacier listening to the thunderous sounds of cracking ice echo through the bay and the explosive crashes it made when hitting the water, never quite fast enough to capture the calving glacier on film.

Margerie had us completely captivated. We were awestruck . . . how could we not be?

We were reluctant to leave. In the fifteen years that we’ve been on the water this experience, this morning in particular, had been among the best . . . the most memorable. Turning our stern to it was a difficult thing to do; we could have stayed there for hours and hours just watching and listening. But the forecast for Wednesday calls for rain, so we needed to take advantage of the fine weather while we could and there was still a lot to do . . . John Hopkins Inlet, after all, was waiting.

Note: This blog entry was written Tuesday, 07 July, 2015 from Glacier Bay National Park.

You Might Also Like


  1. The photos you've been sharing of sailing right next to glaciers are absolutely stunning. I'm amazed that you're in your sailboat and those glaciers are just right there next to you. I think it's probably heck of a lot more exotic than sailing in the Caribbean. Maybe one day, we'll get up there too.

    1. Thanks, Ellen! Glacier Bay was an amazing experience for us (I mean, really, how cool is it to sail to a national park?). I don't know if it's more exotic than the Caribbean but definitely different . . . and a heck of a lot colder (I have to admit, a girl does get tired of wearing long johns!).

  2. Great photos! Especially like that you took the dinghy out to get the shot of your boat next to the glacier. That's something I'd likely forget to do in the moment. Helps put the size in perspective.

    1. Thanks, Patrick! Honestly, I'm not sure how I managed to keep the camera from shaking -- I had a good rush of adrenaline going from the excitement of being there. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but Margerie Glacier is actually 250 feet above the waterline (50 to 100 feet below).