Summary : Journey north to the Arctic Circle and beyond on this expedition across the Bering Sea to Russia and back along the exquisite Aleutian Peninsula to mainland Alaska. Explore the craggy ledges of King Island, attend a fascinating cultural perofrmance in Provideniya, Russia, and visit a remote Siberian Yupik community on Pribilof Island. Photograph a wide variety of wildlife, including several species of whales, northern fur seals, otters, Arctic foxes, and brown bears. View Alaska's iconic landscapes – mountains, fjords, waterfalls, forests, and tundra. Search for seabirds like the horned and tufted puffins, common murres, parakeet auklets, and red-legged kittawakes.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking
Groups of 8 or more people save 10% per person off the cost of the expedition.
$999,999,999 to $0
Arrive in Anchorage and check in at your hotel. In the evening gather for a welcome dinner and briefing.
After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Nome. With the discovery of gold in 1898, this boom town’s population swelled to nearly 20,000 miners, furiously panning along 15 miles of beaches that fringe Norton Sound. Today’s town of 5,000 offers a peaceful contrast to the lively legacy reflected in the colorful local saloons and museum displays. Embark your ship in time for lunch and set sail in the evening.
In true expedition style, board Zodiacs and explore the craggy ledges of King Island to view thousands of least and crested auklets as they make their way from nests to the sea. You will also enjoy a crossing of the Arctic Circle at 66°33’N right on the International Date Line—a feat few adventurers can claim.
This morning spend time on deck watching for the marine life that thrives in these nutrient rich waters as well as seabirds such as short-tailed shearwaters, northern fulmars, Laysan albatross, and fork-tailed storm petrels. When the weather is clear, the views across the Bering Strait reach to Russia and Alaska. Alternatively, enjoy lectures about the many historic and natural facets of this fascinating region.
In the afternoon, go ashore in Provideniya. Located at the southern limit of the Arctic ice pack, it is the main commercial port of this sparsely populated region. Tour the regional museum and sail by Plover Bay, the Russian landing site of the Harriman Expedition. When you return to US waters this evening, you will gain a day by crossing the International Date Line.
A Siberian Yupik community hosts your visit to St. Lawrence. The hardy locals living on this windswept pebbly spit subsist on the bounty of the sea. As you walk through the village, you may see walrus hides stretched on drying racks, later to be fashioned into skin boats, or umiaks. During a performance of traditional dances, note that the accompanying drums are made of stretched walrus stomach skin. Birders enjoy a brisk hike to seek the red-necked phalarope, long-tailed duck, yellow and white wagtail, and, possibly, the rare emperor goose.
Harriman Expedition participant Louis Fuertes collected bird specimens at Hall Island, which he found to be an ornithologist’s paradise. Walrus have occasionally been spotted here, too. Keep a lookout during Zodiac excursions, passing by arches, waterfalls, and sea stacks packed with birds.
Fascinating geological formations are a trademark of the deserted island of St. Matthew, a result of cooling igneous volcanic rock. Countless numbers of thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes, fulmars, and puffins call the cliffs and columns their seasonal home. Enjoy a walk through meadows of blooming pink and yellow louseworts and blue Jacob’s ladder. You may spot the rare McKay’s bunting, which breeds here; Arctic foxes scurrying along the hillsides; and endemic St. Matthew singing voles scampering among the rocks.
Due south in the Bering Sea lies the tiny archipelago comprising the five Pribilof Islands. They were discovered in 1786 by the Russian explorer Gerassim Pribilof who successfully located what he was hoping to find: fur seals by the thousands, which the Russians later harvested nearly to extinction. Today, the northern fur seal is protected and cannot be hunted commercially. The Pribilof breeding population now numbers more than 700,000. Bird colonies abound, with some 225 species recorded in the islands.
St. Paul is home to 800 Aleuts, the largest such community in the world. Enjoy a stroll through town, then walk among a profusion of tundra wildflowers, watching for Arctic foxes. Zodiac excursions and walks to the edge of the cliffs reveal birds by the thousands—horned and tufted puffins; red-legged kittiwakes; red-faced cormorants; and crested, least, and parakeet auklets.
Explore the small town of St. George whose residents include about 150 people of Aleut and Russian descent. A picturesque Russian Orthodox church commands a vista of the Bering Sea, and a cliff-top blind provides a remarkable view of a fur seal rookery. More parakeet auklets breed on St. George than anywhere else, and the nearly quarter million nesting red-legged kittiwakes make up 98 percent of the world’s population.
Dutch Harbor was originally used by the North American Commercial Company to process fur seal pelts. Today, it is the busiest fishing and processing port in Alaska. Stroll among WWII relics of the US Army, visit the Museum of the Aleutians and the WWII Historic Center, and view the oldest onion-domed Russian church in Alaska.
In the afternoon sail among the Fox Islands group of the Aleutians, watching for minke whales, the smallest baleen whale in the northern Pacific. The five tiny, volcanic Baby Islands, your day’s final destination, teem with puffins and whiskered auklets.
After breakfast board Zodiacs and head for the largest Aleutian island, Unimak, which is ringed by sandy beaches, carpeted in flowering tundra, and crowned by the Shishaldin Volcano. This is the only island in the Aleutians with a population of brown bears. Enjoy one of several walks offered today, from beach explorations to a tundra hill walk with stupendous views. As you cruise the coast of High Island this afternoon, watch for the thousands of horned and tufted puffins along its cliffs.
Anchor at Unga Island today; its multiple bays offer excellent Zodiac opportunities to spot sea otters and birds, including peregrine falcons. Ashore, enjoy botanizing amid fields of wildflowers and spongy tundra. Scattered pieces of multicolored petrified wood are remnants of an ancient meta-sequoia forest, evidence that the region once enjoyed a warmer climate. In the evening search for whales in these waters famed for seasonal migrations as you head toward the Semidi Islands.
The Semidi Islands are home to two and a half million birds. Make a Zodiac landing to walk on a small, sandy beach covered in driftwood sea-carved into intriguing silvery shapes. Also by Zodiac, trace the shores of Aghiyuk Island, home to huge colonies of seabirds—northern fulmars, common murres, and black-legged kittiwakes.
Nearly hidden at the far reaches of Amalik Bay, Geographic Harbor is surrounded by magnificent volcanic scenery (access through the narrow entrance of the harbor is tidal dependent). You will cruise the area by Zodiac, watching for brown bears that dig for clams along the beaches at low tide.
Dock at the town of Kodiak, a bustling port settled by Russian fur traders in 1784. By 1792, Alexander Baranof established the town as the first capital of Russia’s North American colonies. Visit the 1794 Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox church, with its prominent blue onion domes, and Erskine House, a National Historic Landmark built in 1809 and now housing the Kodiak Baranof Museum. Exhibits in the Alutiiq Museum detail the history and culture of these native people who lived here millennia before the Europeans arrived. Cruise toward Seward this afternoon. As you pass islands with steep cliff sides, watch for nesting puffins and cormorants and scan the waters for acrobatic humpback whales and pods of hunting orca, as well as fin and sei whales.
Disembark in Seward and board motor coaches bound for Anchorage and the airport; connect with independent homeward flights.
Accommodations in hotels and onboard as outlined in the itinerary, meals onboard and group meals ashore per itinerary, including soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; group activities and excursions per itinerary; gear certificate; landing and port fees; gratuities; limited emergency medical and evacuation coverage. Subject to change without notice.
All air transportation; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages (other than listed above), email/fax/telephone charges; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.