Returning to the Fjords of Southeast Alaska

Returning to the Fjords of Southeast Alaska

Written by Ben Horton on

Ben Horton has based his career on being able to go places that other people either cannot, or don’t want to go.  From thousands of feet underwater to the most remote regions in the arctic, Ben’s passion is to use photography as a means to inspire people to take stewardship of the planet.  He aims to give people who may not be able to see something for themselves a vicarious experience through his images that will instill a passion in them they would never have otherwise.  

Returning to the Fjords of Southeast Alaska

Returning to the Fjords of Southeast Alaska

Many years ago, I went to Alaska on one of the first adventures I would experience separate from my family. I had the ambitious plan to Sea Kayak up the Taku inlet near Juneau to the terminus of a glacier. I’d already been kayaking whitewater professionally for a few years, and I’d spent a lot of time in the outdoors camping and backpacking, sea kayaking seemed like a simple, safe way to explore the area. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the events that would take place over the next few days.

On day two, I woke up to a grizzly bear sniffing my face through the tent wall, and then an hour later the highest tide of the year burst over the high water mark, flooding the grassy field I was camping in and making it an instant lake. After spending the night huddled with my friend on a rock surrounded by water, listening to the bear crashing around in the distance, we decided to head back to Juneau to dry out our gear and regroup. We never made it to the glacier, and I always wanted to go back and try again.

Seeing the best of Alaska generally requires incredible fortitude and a willingness to go on long, intense adventures through the wilderness just to reach your goal. Maybe it’s just the way that I like to adventure; Being able to look back on a journey and feel like I overcame some huge obstacle that would keep my experience rare makes me proud of what I’ve accomplished.

Returning To the Fjords of Alaska

When the opportunity came up to take an “adventure cruise” through Southeast Alaska with UncruiseAdventures, I jumped on it. Even though it wasn’t as raw of an undertaking as sea kayaking, I’d get to see the glaciers I’d wanted to see. I brought my girlfriend Amber with me, who’s a wildlife photographer and had also been dreaming of a trip to Alaska. Even though it was a “cruise” the boat would take us into these remote places in luxury, but once there we could sea kayak or hike into the wilderness to see the landscape from a more intimate perspective.

To me, the most incredible thing to be seen in the Fjords of South East Alaska, is the calving of the glacial terminus. Walls of solid ice inch their way down the granite mountains, reaching the sea after thousands of years of travel. There, the glacier finishes it’s journey and chunks of ice the size of houses break off with the sound of a thunderclap, falling into the sea below.

Watching these ice chunks break free is equally humbling and inspiring, so rarely do we get to see such intense natural events with such regularity. The power in these glaciers is akin to a volcanic erruption, or the greatest waterfalls on earth, literally forming the landscape around it. Even from a “safe distance” of over a quarter mile away, the movements of the glacier send chills down your spine.

Seeing geology in motion, visible to the naked eye and in real time is something that every person should experience, wether in the seat of a kayak or on the bow of a ship. Experiences like these make me see the world as a dynamic, living, fragile place.

If more people were to stand in front of these glaciers, perhaps more people would care about our effect on the planet. As a photographer, my job is to bring these stories home, to show those who haven’t had the chance to see for themselves what the wildest parts of the world are like and try to inspire people to care about them.

Having this experience on a cruise ship hasn’t dulled my drive to go back and experience it again in a self supported manner. Now more than ever I want to return in a sea kayak and slowly work my way through the fjords to earn the experience for myself.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Where To Go Ice Diving

4 Reasons You Should Try Nordic Walking

4 Tips to Prevent Frostbite This Winter