Late last night, we crossed Holkham Bay and entered Endicott Arm, a 34-mile-long glacial fjord lined by towering, steep walls of recently de-glaciated rock and forests in the early stages of succession. As we awoke this morning, we noticed that the waters were choked with an impressive amount of recently calved floating ice. The density of the ice caused us to pause our journey about six miles from the face of Dawes Glacier in a protected inlet on the north side of the upper fjord.

The early risers among us encountered dense fog, a very low cloud ceiling, and bracing, chilly winds. After breakfast, the clouds lifted, and everything seemed to brighten as we excitedly prepared for two rounds of Zodiac ice cruises. Icebergs, bergy bits, and growlers of all shapes and colors surrounded us in a veritable garden of ice. As we explored and learned all about the ice and this magnificent, glacially sculpted land, curious harbor seals and their pups approached and met us with watchful gazes before sinking back down for their next dives. Much to our surprise, we soon spotted a black bear prominently perched on an intertidal rock! Several Zodiacs came to observe as the bear moved along the steep shoreline. By the end of our cruises, we had seen three additional black bears – a very uncommon sighting in this extremely rugged part of Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness.

While most guests were eating lunch back on National Geographic Venture, the Global Explorers took turns driving our Zodiacs, earning themselves special Lindblad expedition landing craft (ELC) driving licenses. The ship spent the early afternoon dodging floating ice while cruising out of Endicott Arm, and we settled into last day routines, such as returning gear and mapping out our adventure-filled voyage. As we gathered for our final evening recap, there was a tremendous splash outside the forward lounge windows. “Breach!” exclaimed one of the naturalists, and everyone rushed onto the bow. Repeated humpback whale breaches followed, beginning an evening filled with by far the most whale activity of the trip. We promptly cancelled recap, as everyone stood transfixed by the live nature show that continued for the next three hours, through dinner, the guest slideshow, and until darkness fell. It was a fitting celebration and culmination of an unforgettable week together in the Southeast Alaskan wilderness.