Disney Cruise Line and Its Ports of Call LIVE! Guidebook

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Making the Most of Tracy Arm

Making the Most of Tracy Arm

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GETTING THERE

The Disney Wonder visits Tracy Arm on Wednesday afternoons, and shares the fjord with one or two other cruise ships, though they’ll be exiting the fjord as the Wonder is entering. Disney Cruise Line offers one "shore' excursion during its visit to Tracy Arm, Glacier Explorer (TC01, $205/$145 ages 0-2), a water-jet-powered catamaran trip that offers a far more up-close and intimate view of the wildlife and glaciers.

GLACIERS

The southern panhandle of Alaska and coastal British Columbia are home to thousands of glaciers. Some of these “rivers of ice,” built-up by years of mountain snows, dwarf all but a few of earth’s liquid rivers in breadth and power, as they slowly slide downhill. Others appear to be mere mountainside patches of snow, their identity only sure after careful examination. Regardless of size, glaciers are natural wonders that are steadily disappearing as the earth’s climate shifts. When naturalist John Muir explored this region in 1879 and 1880 and “discovered” Glacier Bay, he estimated that the entire bay had been ice-filled a century earlier, and therefore, not identified by explorer George Vancouver. The bay was even new to Muir’s native guides. The world was then exiting the “Little Ice Age,” and most of Alaska’s glaciers have been receding ever since. Glaciers like those in Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm, which still calve icebergs directly into the sea, are becoming increasingly rare, while the faces of other glaciers, such as Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier, have receded miles inland. Glaciers scour mountainsides, capturing huge amounts of rock and gravel. Clean ice may hide beneath a dingy, gray crust resembling a dry river bed. Often, the glacier’s surface fractures and erodes into a forest of jagged ice towers, “seracs,” which display dazzling shades of white and ice-blue in bright sunlight. After visits to both Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay, we can say that both are distinctive. Glacier Bay offers broad vistas of mountain, sea, and sinuously flowing ice fields, with numerous fjords snaking back from the bay. When weather permits, the blindingly white, pyramid-peak of Mount Fairweather (15,325 ft./4,671 m.) is a sight to behold. Tracy Arm holds more mystery, its steep walls often deep in shadow, new vistas appearing as the ship rounds another bend.

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Top Photo Slice: (℗ 31580) Photo contributed by © chezp



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