Light arrives early during Alaskan summers. By the time the first risers on National Geographic Venture had made their way to the bow, the sun was well above the eastern horizon. Heading eastward towards snowy peaks, the blue textures of hanging glaciers revealed themselves, suspended over hemlock and spruce forests.

Our destination for the day was South Sawyer Glacier, a brilliant cascade of ice flowing out of North America’s largest icefield, the Stikine. To get there, we traipsed the narrow fjord and watched as the vegetation became more sparse and less diverse. This is the case for many fjord systems, where plant communities claim hold on surfaces that may have been covered by ice for many thousands of years.

We arrived near the glacier before lunch, and afterwards we set out on two separate excursions by Zodiac to see the force that sculpted most of the fjord, South Sawyer Glacier. This glacier calves, meaning that chunks of ice fall off its face and into the water. From our Zodiacs we saw mountain goats, porpoises, harbor seals resting on ice, and newborn seal pups with their mothers. Southeast Alaska provided plenty to enjoy as we made our way to the town of Petersburg.