After Leaving the capital city of Juneau with full provisions, we journeyed to an area known for tidewater glaciers. Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm have the Sawyer and Dawes glaciers terminating at the head of respective fjords. We’d experienced some icebergs in Glacier Bay, but didn’t want to thread through the thirty-five miles of such densely packed chunks that we found in Endicott. Fortunately, there is a secondary fjord with an intimidating name – Ford’s Terror.
The name might come from an 1889 explorer from the ship Patterson who mistimed his transit. Poor Mr. Ford. Having got himself caught in the narrows while the current raged, he needed to wait six hours until the tide turned. Another possible origin of the name is a misspelling of fjord. It could be Fjord Terror. In any case, I was determined that it would not become Gaisford’s Terror! Like so many of our passages, timing is the key. At every turn of the tide there is five miles worth of water that attempts to empty at low tide only to then rush to fill the same five miles of fjord on the incoming high tide. This drama is very predictable and results in a benign or even boring event called slack. The water equalizes and transit is possible for Ford or the Gaisfords.
This passage has the added challenge of rocks and a sand bar all mixed in with a narrow turning course. The route is supposed to turn right after you line up the stern with a waterfall. The right turn part is easy – that’s where the water is and the rocks aren’t. The ‘line up on the waterfall’ part is not so easy. The waterfall has an upper part over here and a lower part over there… Not quite in the terrifying category, but it was a thrill to watch the white water go flat, catch the last of the ebb current, find the channel and thread our way into the wonderland of Ford’s Terror. And what a place this is…
The pictures indicate sunshine. The weather was so good that we stayed three nights. We appreciate the clear skies. But before you start thinking about your lack of vitamin D and shed your shirt to soak up some rays, there is a hidden danger. The reason that the people here have white complexions might be that no one exposes even a little skin to the ‘Bombers’. These are B-29 sized flies. They even resemble a bee. It is said that after they bite, they lumber off and have a steak dinner courtesy of the divot you now have… If this weren’t bad enough, the worst is yet to come. What begins as a mild itch, soon escalates to an irresistible urge to scratch. No cortisone treatment helps until scratching has produced a bleeding mess. The resulting welt and scab are a lasting reminder – you have an enemy. So, whether you call them horse flies, bulldogs or bombers, war has been declared. Their heavy slow flight is no match for a lightning-fast blow from a fly swatter. It is not very consoling that I may have killed the fly when I wake up to that itch, but I’m ahead and counting.
Stay safe, and don’t let the name scare you. Get some sun and beware of the bugs.