Summary : Begin the exploration of the Svalbard archipelago in Longyearbyen, capital city of this Norwegian Territory. Following embarkation of the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, sail out of Isfjorden (Ice Fjord) and begin exploration down the west coast and around the southern end of Spitsbergen, the larger of the two principle islands that make up the bulk of the Svalbard archipelago. From the start of the voyage, immerse in the land of the polar bear, beluga, walrus and reindeer. This voyage features an onboard wellness program, excellent cuisine prepared by a culinary team, and a kayaking option.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Today, embark your expedition ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov in Longyearbyen and as the crew throw the lines, 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 your expedition team during an introductory briefing and then enjoy a welcome dinner in the ship's comfortable dining room.
The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and species. Anchor off one small harbor and cruise the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. As you cruise these waters, keep an eye out for bearded and ringed seals, known to frequent this fjord.
During the afternoon, cross Kongsfjord from Krossfjorden to the town site of Ny Alesund, a former mining village and currently the world’s most northern community. Founded by the Kings Bay Kull Company A/S in 1916, Ny Alesund operated as a coal mine sporadically until coal mining was ended in 1962. Since then, the community has become the site of numerous international polar science institutes.
Ny Alesund earned its place in aviation pioneering history as a jumping off place for North Pole aviation exploration. Notable pioneer aviators such as Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd and Nobile all used Ny Alesund and the airship anchor pylon for Amundsen and Nobile is still in place today.
Smeerenburg, literally translated as Blubber Town, has a four hundred year history of whaling and is a favorite spot of visitors at the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. Hike the shoreline of this former whaling station, and learn about the importance of whaling in the discovery and exploration of the Svalbard archipelago.
Continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80° parallel North. As you approach the ice edge the ship slows down and all hands are either on the bridge or out on the outer decks scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals and walrus may be found hauled out on the edges of the ice. Harp seals swim in herds of 10 to 20 through the open water leads in the ice. A buttery colored lump miles away on the ice metamorphoses into a polar bear as the ship slowly works its way through the ice toward it. Your ship is perfectly designed for near silent approach to the wildlife on the ice and your Captain takes great pride in bringing you in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it.
At 81° degrees north latitude, Phippsoya, one of the Seven Islands, is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing, with excellent encounters in recent seasons. Be sure to get up to the bridge and take a picture of the ship's GPS showing this incredibly high polar latitude.
From the ice edge, head south into the main strait separating Svalbard’s two main islands: Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. 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. A spectacular site to behold and a challenging one for zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as you navigate the waterways between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here which lead to high points affording staggering views and providing further opportunities to encounter Arctic wildlife.
Entering Leifdefjorden, slowly cruise towards the Monaco Glacier - a vast sweep of ice more than seven kilometers wide. Beluga whales are often encountered along the coastline in this vicinity. The adults are pure white and the younger animals a mottled grey. They are the only whales that can articulate their heads to nod and turn sideways. It is estimated that there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. The beluga has no dorsal fin, a feature of other whale species that live in the high Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. Since a dorsal fin could be damaged when the animal surfaces in areas with ice, it has been postulated that the lack of dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice.
Monaco Glacier provides a fabulous backdrop for a zodiac cruise. Calving ice and tumbling seracs are a sight to behold as are the thousands of black-legged kittiwakes feeding on the upwelling of nutrients found near the sub-glacial outflow. A morning of cruising in the ice is best followed by a hike on the tundra. Red phalaropes, purple sandpipers and vibrant tundra provide plenty of viewing and photography opportunities. Explore the landscape on foot.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers breathtaking views and an incredible tundra walk as you near the end of your adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer. Towering above the landing site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and kittiwakes. As you approach and stop to listen, you will hear the chorus of thousands of birds, all singing at the same time. This evening, 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.
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.
Special Departure: (7/3/2015)
Photography Symposium – Spitsbergen in Focus:
A highlight of this departure will be the shipboard photography symposium open to all guests. This unique voyage will have a major focus on photography, with four professional photographers on staff and a profesional water colorist. The team of professional photographers will share their photo expertise in wildlfe, landscape, composition, and the technical aspects of photography from gear to file management. The itinerary will make the most out of the beautiful Arctic light, even if outside conventional shore landing times.
Enhanced Photography Program:
Join the expedition team and specialty photographers for an extended shore excursion aimed at capturing specialty subjects with a remarkable backdrop. An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
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. 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.
International 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.