MARY RYAN AND HER BROTHER ANDY (that’s me), were staring at the nautical chart of the Endicott Arm fjord as we approached the big Dawes tidewater glacier. For the past two miles the chart showed there should be solid glacial ice under Osprey’s hull. Instead, there was a water depth of 400 feet, the murky surface littered with hundreds of “bergy bits” and “growlers,” through which we carefully threaded our way to get close to the massive glacier. I couldn’t tell when the electronic chart of Endicott Arm was last updated, but it couldn’t have been all that long ago; and the evidence of a warming planet was on full display.
The day before, we had waited for high slack tide and made our way into Ford’s Terror, a glacial bowl noted for its fast, powerful tidal currents. In 1899 American naval crewman Ford made the mistake of taking a rowboat into the current and was trapped for six hours in the mountain bowl that came to bear his name. We avoided a repeat of Ford’s terrifying experience but as the sun set our lovely anchorage was suddenly swarmed with savage biting black flies. These horrid little blighters—small enough to squeeze through Osprey’s window screens—are my absolutely least favorite thing about boating in British Columbia and Alaska. One night in Ford’s Terror was enough for us, and we made a hasty retreat the next morning.
On our way out of Endicott Arm, heading north to Juneau, we were treated to sightings of a humpback whale wildly splashing its enormous foreflippers in the current; to a lone male brown bear scavenging along the shoreline of the Snettisham Peninsula; and to weirdly shaped bergy bits floating out into the shipping lanes of Stephens Passage.
From Petersburg to Juneau is about 107 nautical miles, the longest stretch without a fueling station Osprey will face this summer. We were carrying extra gas, but as we made our way north along the length of the nation’s seventh largest island (Admiralty Island, 1,646 square miles, slightly smaller than the state of Delaware) we were running on fumes. Next time we’ll go slower, save gas.
Waterfall deep in Endicott Arm (Mary Susan Ryan)