Summary : Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago offer a tremendous wildlife and birdlife experience, as well as a fascinating lesson in glaciology. First used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands are now celebrated as a breeding ground for many seabirds, along with marine mammals and the elusive polar bear. Your expedition ship is the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, perfectly suited for remote polar exploration. With her high ice classification, you are able to push further to the north, along the edge of the ice pack. Here, the icon of the Arctic—the polar bear—is encountered hunting for seals and other protein sources to sustain them through the Arctic summer. Throughout your journey, enjoy a comprehensive series of presentations by polar experts, providing an excellent background to the expedition. Days are busy with shore excursions to places of historic interest, visits to wildlife colonies, viewing the exquisite native flora and soaking up the stunning landscapes. Short or long hikes on shore are another feature along with regular cruising in Zodiacs. Sea kayaking is another popular option. The voyage focuses on the western and northern coast of Spitsbergen, and as far north as the permanent pack ice. This area has the highest concentration of wildlife and places of historic and scenic interest in the archipelago.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Embark your expedition ship in Longyearbyen, throw the lines, and sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. With almost 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year, enjoy the views from the outer decks of the ship as you depart. Meet fellow passengers and the expedition team during an introductory briefing and enjoy a welcome dinner as you set sail.
Beluga whales are frequently seen transiting the narrow sound near Bourbonhamna. It is estimated there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. The beluga has no dorsal fin, a diagnostic feature of whale species that live in the high Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. It has been postulated that the Beluga’s lack of a dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice. On your shore excursion, an old hunting cabin and other artifacts are points of interest during your scenic hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. However, it is the massive piles of beluga whalebones that catch attention. The bones and all artifacts are protected by the Svalbard Government. While wandering on shore, you might glimpse the dozens of reindeer that inhabit the area.
Lilliehook Glacier, at the head of the northwestern arm of Krossfjorden, is an incredible sight. The glacier face stretches almost seven kilometers and has a height of around 80 meters. Viewed from the ship or on a Zodiac cruise, come to appreciate the enormous scale of your surroundings. The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a variety of different species. Anchor off one small harbor and cruise in the Zodiacs along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. Cruising the dark waters, stay on the lookout for bearded and ringed seals, both species are known to frequent this fjord.
No trip along the north coast of Spitsbergen would be complete without a visit to Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier). A wide glacier face at the head of the fjord makes for spectacular kayaking and Zodiac cruising. The coastal plain near the mouth of Liefdefjorden offers superb hiking and is often a great place to spot polar bears that come here to hunt for ringed seals or feed on bird's eggs.
At 81° north latitude, Phippsoya is just 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. The high ice classification of your ship allows you to approach the edge of the pack ice in safety and comfort. Because of its proximity to the permanent Arctic ice pack, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. In recent seasons, visitors have enjoyed excellent encounters with polar bear in this vicinity. Be sure to get up to the ship’s bridge and take a picture of the GPS showing your latitude or, better yet, take your own handheld GPS with you and mark in the waypoint so close to the North Pole!
From the ice edge, enter the main channel separating Svalbard’s two main islands. In Hinlopen Strait, the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to more than a hundred thousand breeding Brunnich’s guillemots, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. It is a spectacular site and a challenging one for Zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or Zodiac cruise between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here, affording breathtaking views.
As your Zodiac approaches the shore of Fuglesangenoya, it becomes apparent there are thousands of birds nesting on the island. Home to a large dovekie colony, the formation of the island allows for excellent viewing without impacting upon the perimeter of the colony. Just a few miles from Fuglesangen is the old whaling station of Smeerenburg, literally translated as "Blubber Town." Hiking the shoreline of the old station, learn about the importance of whaling in the discovery and exploration of the Svalbard archipelago. The blubber ovens stand as a reminder to this harsh industry in an equally harsh environment.
The sight and sound of a walrus haul-out spells Arctic like nothing else can. Visit the walrus colony on Prince Charles Island and hope to see these odd looking animals ashore. Approaching from downwind can often confirm that walrus are ashore—the smell of a walrus haul out is quite "unique!" Tonight, celebrate your journey with a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain. It's a great time to reflect on a wonderful voyage in this wild and remote place.
Arriving back into Longyearbyen this morning, disembark after breakfast and say farewell to your expedition team and fellow passengers. A transfer into town is provided for those choosing to stay a few days. If you are departing today, enjoy a few hours this morning to explore the town before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromso or Oslo.
Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions experienced and the itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favorable conditions. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Medical Documentation: Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Photography Symposium – Special Guest Daisy Gilardini: (6/13/2016)
Nature and wildlife photographer, Daisy Gilardini, will lead photography groups and teach skills to capture wildlife in its natural environment. Gilardini has almost two decades of polar exploration experience. She has joined over sixty expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, including skiing the last degree to the North Pole. The photographic goals on this departure will be formed and led by the light available both onshore and on the water. With a varied and diverse itinerary and flexible plans, aim to make the most out of the beautiful Arctic light, even if outside conventional shore landing times.
Sea Kayaking Option: $695 per person
Pre-booked option. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. It must cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Accommodations onboard; meals; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; use of onboard expedition rubber boots; use of wet weather gear; transfers as applicable.
Airfare; pre- and post-cruise hotel nights; passport and visa fees; excess baggage charges; airport taxes; travel insurance; all gratuities; extra meals; items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks; medical expenses; optional activities and trips; kayaking supplement.
PHOTOS: © Boris Wise; © Daisy Gilardini; © Peter and Beverly Pickford