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High Arctic Odyssey: Remote Russian Archipelagoes

Russian Arctic Cruise Information

Summary : Explore the most enigmatic and extreme regions of the Russian High Arctic. In the spirit of a true Arctic explorer, you’ll discover breathtaking ice-draped coastlines that are rarely visited by even the most intrepid adventurers. From the heavily glaciated Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land to the isolated islands of the icy Kara Sea, this exclusive itinerary was designed to spend more time exploring these pristine places, increasing your chances of encountering unique wildlife, including polar bears, and visiting far-flung destinations steeped in polar history. If weather and ice conditions allow, you will explore Severnaya Zemlya, the last major territorial discovery on the planet.

Activities : Birding, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Helsinki, Finland

Your Arctic adventure begins in Helsinki, renowned for its extraordinary architecture and intriguing mix of eastern and western influences. If you arrive early, explore the many museums, galleries and restaurants, relax at a Finnish sauna or wander the vibrant Design District before retiring at your included hotel.*

*See Additional Costs for mandatory transfer package information.

Day 2
Murmansk, Russia / Embarkation

After breakfast, transfer to the airport and board your private charter flight* to Murmansk, Russia. Once aboard, get acquainted with the ship and crew and settle in for your voyage north.

*See Additional Costs for mandatory transfer package information.

Day 3 – 4
At Sea

Today you'll sail through the Barents Sea, named for the great Dutch explorer Willem Barents, who led two expeditions to Novaya Zemlya in the 1590s. Your expedition team will prepare you for the adventures that await. Learn about the storied history and politics of the region, its fascinating wildlife, geology, ecology and climate, and the incredible sights you will soon explore. Expedition staff will keep a lookout for seabirds, such as kittiwakes, skuas, and fulmars soaring above your ship. Whale and seal sightings may also be possible in this biologically diverse sea.

Day 5 – 7
Novaya Zemlya

The largest of the Eurasian Arctic archipelagoes, the rarely visited Novaya Zemlya (“New Land”) is the third-largest wilderness area in Europe. This seemingly long, narrow island actually consists of two main islands, Severny (northern) and Yuzhny (southern), separated by the imposing Matochkin Strait. These islands are pure, rugged Arctic beauty at its best—massive extinct volcanoes, jagged ice cliffs, and the most isolated mountain range in the Barents Sea.

As you explore Novaya Zemlya, expect a new adventure every day. Each expedition will be unique, depending on the weather and ice, but a few landing sites you might visit include Inostrantseva Bay, the Oransky Islands, Cape Zhelaniya, Cape Spory Navalok, and Russkaya Gavan.

Boasting one of the most picturesque glaciers in the entire archipelago, Inostrantseva Bay provides breathtaking panoramic views of pristine Arctic wilderness. If conditions allow, explore ashore or Zodiac cruise along the face of the glacier at a safe distance, possibly witnessing the wonders of calving ice. Encounters with Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres) are likely, owing to a small colony in the coastal cliffs.

To the northwest side of Severny Island are the Oransky Islands. Wildlife abounds here, with a variety of animal and plant life to be discovered. Walruses have been sighted here on many previous expeditions. Coming across a walrus haul-out is unforgettable. These giant pinnipeds of the Arctic create a raucous noise as each walrus vies for a choice spot of coastline. Encounters with whales and seabirds are possible, as well as polar bears, a genetically distinct sub-population here. A significant site in polar exploration, Novaya Zemlya also offers a number of opportunities for you to trace the footsteps of famous explorers and reflect on the region’s history.

Day 8 – 13
The Kara Sea & Severnaya Zemlya

Bid farewell to Novaya Zemlya as you cruise farther east, exploring the Kara Sea. The westernmost Asian sea off Siberia, the Kara Sea is known as the "ice cellar" of the Arctic, as it is often encumbered by trapped ice floes. Ice conditions will be considered by your skilled captain during navigation—luckily sea ice happens to be a great habitat for iconic Arctic wildlife.

There are several sites and small archipelagoes along the Siberian coast you can hope to explore, tracing the path of polar explorers searching for the Northeast Passage. Weather and ice will determine where, but some areas you may visit include Russky Island, Troynoy Island, and Cape Chelyuskin. Both Russky Island and Troynoy Island are part of the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve, the largest reserve in Eurasia. Russky Island is the site of a former polar station established in part to monitor navigation along the Northern Sea Route, the Russian section of the Northeast Passage. Troynoy Island is the largest of the Izvesti Tsik Islands, about 90 miles off the coast of the Taymyr Peninsula. The island is uninhabited, except for the researchers at the weather station. Home to an ivory gull colony, the island is also frequented by polar bears. At the tip of the Taymyr Peninsula is Cape Chelyuskin, the northernmost point of the Russian and Eurasian mainland and the site of another active research station. Here, at “the edge of the earth,” hope to explore on foot.

Dependent on ice and weather conditions, an exploration of Severnaya Zemlya embodies the true spirit of adventure. Dominated by glaciers and polar desert, the archipelago was not discovered until 1913 and remained virtually unexplored till 1930–32, the last major undiscovered territory on earth. Among many possible destinations, hope to visit a number of glaciers including the Vavilov Ice Cap and those at Marat Fjord. If conditions are favorable, you may cruise the Red Army Strait, flanked by the massive Academy of Sciences Glacier (which also runs along the eastern shore of Zhuravlev Bay) and the smaller Rusanov Glacier. As one of very few people to ever explore this remote area in depth, you’ll want to have your camera ready to capture these amazing sights.

Day 14
At Sea

There are several activities to keep you engaged while at sea. Attend dynamic presentations by your expedition team, relax in the polar library or simply spend time on deck, admiring the sea and searching for wildlife.

Day 15 – 18
Franz Josef Land

This remote group of 191 islands, many covered in ice, forms the most northerly archipelago in Eurasia and lies entirely within the Arctic Circle. A nature reserve, it is part of the Russian Arctic National Park. Weather and ice conditions will shape your exploration. Hope to explore historical sites, remote seabird colonies, and walrus rookeries at some notable destinations, such as Cape Flora, Cape Norway, Bell Island and Tikhaya Bukta. Polar bear encounters are also possible.

On Jackson Island, Cape Norway is where Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen wintered from 1895 to 1896. The conditions were astonishingly difficult, but they survived until the summer and continued their journey south. The remains of their small hut are still here today, along with a memorial marking the event.

Exploring Tikhaya Bukta (Calm Bay), the site of an abandoned weather station on Hooker Island, will feel like stepping back in time. There is plenty to discover as you wander the ruins, immersed in Russian polar history, and you may even be able to send a postcard from the post office!

Another possible landing site, if time and weather permit, is Cape Tegetthoff on Hall Island, where you might visit the Barents memorial. The scenery here is spectacular, and you may be fortunate to view polar bears and Atlantic walruses.

Day 19 – 20
At Sea

As your Arctic expedition winds down, you have a couple of days to sail through this wildlife-rich sea where whales of various species are often seen. Take in a presentation, reminisce about your journey with your shipmates, relax in the lounge while swapping stories and photos or enjoy the solitude of the sea. Expedition staff will be on hand to answer any questions and spot wildlife.

Day 21
Murmansk / Disembarkation / Helsinki

Returning to Russia’s most northerly city, you’ll have time to bid farewell to your expedition team and crew before catching your group charter flight* back to Helsinki, where you will have one more night in this exquisite city.

*See Additional Costs for mandatory transfer package information.

Day 22
Helsinki, Finland

After breakfast, spend time exploring more of the Finnish capital or catch your homeward-bound flight.

Notes

Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions—and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Bilingual Departure: English/German

Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers must carry a minimum $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The travel insurance policy should also cover trip cancellation insurance, trip delay, interruption or after departure coverage, baggage and repatriation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that you select a travel protection plan that includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage and at least $200,000 in medical evacuation coverage. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.

Important Voyage Logistics:
Luggage Limits: There is a strict luggage limit of 44 lbs (20 kg) checked luggage and 11 lbs (5 kg) cabin baggage on the flights between Helsinki and Murmansk. Should you have additional luggage, it can be stored at the hotel in Helsinki (see Mandatory Transfer Package. Luggage storage is only available to guests of the hotel as part of the package). There is NO option to pay for additional luggage.

Included:
Shipboard accommodations; all shore landings per the daily program; all Zodiac transfers and cruising per the daily program; experienced Expedition Leader; formal and informal presentations by Expedition Team and special guests as scheduled; photographic journal; expedition parka and reusable water bottle; gear on loan (waterproof expedition boots for shore landings, walking poles); comprehensive onboard materials, including a map and an informational Arctic Reader; all meals on board ship; snacks, soft drinks, and juices on board; beer and house wine during dinner; coffee, tea, cocoa available around the clock; hair dryer and bathrobe in every cabin; daily housekeeping; pre-departure materials; Russian invitation letter for visa application provided after final payment; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; luggage handling aboard ship; emergency evacuation insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of $500,000 per person*. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:

Mandatory Transfer Package (see Additional Costs); international airfare; arrival and departure transfers in Helsinki; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned above; any beverages that are not in the complimentary selection; any meals ashore unless otherwise specified; baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage charges; mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac cruising or any other gear not mentioned; laundry, bar, beverage, and other personal charges unless specified; phone and internet charges; voluntary gratuity at end of voyage for shipboard staff and crew; additional overnight accommodation; fuel surcharge may apply.

*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $500,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only while traveling with the shipping company between the first and last day of the expedition. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition, including pre- and post-packages/hotels/flights, purchased from the shipping company or from suppliers other than the shipping company, are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. We strongly advise all passengers to purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.

PHOTOS: © Johanna Carlo, © Samantha Crimmin, © Acacia Johnson, © David Merron, © Cindy Miller, © Irina Skalina, © Nicky Souness, © Quark Expeditions

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