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Northeast Passage – The Northern Sea Route

Russian Arctic Cruise

Summary : Russia's Northern Sea Route, known to the the rest of the world as the Northeast Passage, is one of the greatest seaways in the world. Only a handful of expedition vessels have ever transited this seaway, but recent changes in sea ice conditions mean this historic and fascinating sea route is now accessible. Be part of this history making expedition through the Northern Sea Route. Explore the history and development of the route with visits to islands along the way.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins


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Day 1

Join the Akademik Shokalskiy this afternoon and prepare for an evening departure from port. After you set sail, enjoy exchanging introductions with the ship's crew and your fellow travelers. There will also be a short safety briefing.

Day 2 – 3
Barents Sea

The Barents Sea is bounded by the north coast of Europe to the south, Spitsbergen to the west, Franz Josef and Nova Zemlya to the north and east. It was named in honor of Dutch seafarer and navigator, Willem Barents, who explored this region on expeditions in 1594 and 1596. You will use these two days to complete a lecture series. Be on the lookout for marine mammals and of course seabirds.

Day 4 – 6
Franz Josef Land

This huge archipelago of 192 islands located only 10 degrees from the North Pole offers many locations for you to explore. The islands were named in 1870 after the Hungarian Emperor when they were discover by the Austro-Hungarian Payer-Weyprecht expedition that was searching for the Northeast Passage.

During your time here, you will have the opportunity to go on multiple shore excursions including Cape Flora/Northbrook Island, where the remains of three historic expeditions are found, Champa Island and Tikhaya Bay on Hooker Island, where the numbers of seabirds on Rubini Rock are unforgettable!

You will also plan to include Bell Island, where the remainds of the 1880 British Leigh Smith Expedition can be seen and Stolichki and Appolonova Islets where are known walrus haul outs.

Day 7 – 8
Kara Sea

Two of Russia's greatest rivers, the Ob and the Yenisei flow into the Kara Sea, which is one of the coldest seas in Russia. It lies between Novaya Zemlay, Franz Josef, and the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago. The main port ist Dikson, named after a Swedish merchant who financed the 1878 expeditions to the region.

Day 9 – 11
Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago

Today you will travel to the Severnaya Zemlya Islands, which means "the Northern Land" in English. They are on the border of the Kara and Laptev Seas and are an extension of the Taimry Peninsula. These islands were not discovered until 1924-15, when Russian explorer Wilkitski originally named them, "Emperor Nicholas the 11th".

The islands are heavily glaciated with deep fjords and majestic glaciers, providing a magnificent environment for cruising. There is also a great selection and abundance of Arctic wildlife including Polar Bears, Arctic Foxes, Arctic Hares, and walruses.

Day 12 – 13
Crossing the Laptev Sea

The Laptev Sea is bounded by the Taymyr Peninsula and the Severnaya Islands in the west and the Novosibirskie Islands in the east. It is named in honor of coursins who ere both Arctic explorers. The Lena and the yana are two of the larger rivers that drain into this sea. The town and port of Tiksi on the eastern shores of the Lena delta is an important feature of the Northern Sea Route. Look out for the Laptev Sea Walrus which is found only in this sea!

Day 14 – 16
New Siberian Islands

Today you will arrive at the 'Noviye Sebirskiye' or New Siberian Islands. These island consist of three major groups – Southern, Central (Anzhu) and Northern (De Long). They mark the border between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas. They were first reported in the early 18th century but it is now known that they indigenous Yakutian people made season hunting expeditions there from early times. It is also near here that the researcher Fridtjof Nansen let his ship freeze in his attempt to reach the geographic North Pole by means of the natural ice drift of the Arctic Ocean.

Day 17
East Siberian Sea

It was in this sea that the Jeanette, captained by George Washington De Long, became stuck fast and was crushed by ice in 1879. The men made their way from the sinking ship in open boats to the Kolmya River delta where many of them perished. Wreckage from the Jeanette found in Greenland in 1884 gave Nansen the idea for the now famous 1893-96 Fram Expedition.

Day 18
Medvezhyi Islands

There are no permanent settlements on these little known and seldom visited islands. They are covered in tundra and known to have a good population of polar bears. Locals from the nearby Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) visit during the summer months to go fishing and search for Mammoth tusks.

Day 19
Ayon Island and Village

The few Chukchi people that remain on this island after the collapse of the Soviet Union still practice reindeer herding albeit on a much smaller scale. You will have the opportunity to enjoy their hospitality and learn about reindeer herding.

Day 20
East Siberian Sea

This sea occupies the area between the Novosibirskie Islands and Wrangel Island. Three of Siberia's major rivers, the Indigirka, Alazaya, and the Kolyma, flow into it. The average depth is only 54 meters, making it an ideal habitat for the Pacific Walrus. The main sea port is Pevek, situated on the shore of Chaun Bay.

It was in this region that the Soviety vessel Chelyuskin, under the command of otto Schmidt and with 111 people onboard, became trapped in ice and sank in 1934. The dramatic rescue that followed gained international attention and made Schmidt a household name is Russia.

Day 21 – 23
Wrangel Island

Wrangel Island is one of those islands that you have to visit to appreciate. It is a Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance and also a World Heritage Site. A lot of its significance lies in the fact that it is a major polar bear denning area. It is also the last landfall for migratory species flying north. Each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including snow geese, snowy owls, skuas, Arctic terns, Ross's, Sabine's, and Ivory Gulls.

There are many landings that you can make here to search for wildlife, wild flowers, and Arctic landscapes. Polar bears will be high on the list of animals to see and with a little patience you should be rewarded with a number of rewarding encounters.

Time, ice, and weather permitting, you may also visit Dragi Harbor where the survivors of the Karluk, which was crushed by ice in 1914, scrambled ashore and lived until they were rescued.

Day 24
Kolyuchin Island

Early this morning, you will pass close by the place where the Swedish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiold wintered over in 1878 during the first ever transit of the Northern Sea Route. Later this morning, you will land (weather permitting) on Kolyuchin Island, where there is an abandoned Polar research and weather station, as well as some great bird cliffs. Polar bears are also known in this region but their distribution varies from year to year depending on local weather conditions.

Day 25
Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village

Early this morning, you will be at Cape Dezhnev. The name celebrates the Cossack Semyon Dezhnev, who it is believed was the first European to sail through the Bering Strait in 1648. Nearby, there are remains of the abandone Inuit village of Naukan. The inhabitants were relocated to other villages in Chukotka in 1958 by Soviet authorities because it was thought they posed a security risk.

This afternoon you will visit the village of Uelen to enjoy the hospitality of the local predominantly Chukchi people and enjoy a cultural performance. You will also visit their bone-carving studio which is famous throughout Russia.

Day 26
Whale Bone Alley and Gil'mimyl Hot Springs

Whale Bone Alley on Yttygran Island is one of the most significant and intriguing archaeological sites in the Arctic. The name comes from the large number of whale jaw bones spread along the beach in the form of a pathway. The site dates back to the 14th century and its origins and purposes are debated. After exploring the site, if the weather is suitable, you will take Zodiacs out in search of whales. Today, there are predominantly Gray Whales in this region.

This afternoon, you will go to Gil'mimyl Hot Springs, which are a short walk across the tundra.

Day 27
At Sea

As you cross the Gulf of Anadry, there will be opportunities for pelagic birding, marine mammal watching, and lectures.

Day 28

The voyage finishes in Anadyr, after a final breakfast it will be time to disembark. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel. Those returning to Nome will join a charter flight that will depart Anadyr around midday and, becuse of the International Date Line, will arrive back in Nome on the evening of the previous day.

Please Note: You are strongly advised not to book onward travel until the following day to allow for possible delays in the charter flight. Those returning to Moscow can either be transferred to the airport or hotel in Anadyr, depending on their flight times.


The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

You can join this expedition either in Anadyr or in Nome, Alaska. Those starting in Nome will fly by a charter flight and join the ship in Anadyr.

Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this tour operators programs, all passengers must purchase full medical and emergency evacuation insurance for the specific areas they will be visiting. The minimum coverage requirement is $100,000 for the tour operators programs. The policy provider, policy number and contact phone number must be provided prior to departure date. We also strongly recommend that all passengers purchase comprehensive travel insurance which would include coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.

Cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; onboard lectures and access to public areas; shore excursions as described; services of expedition team; pre- and post-cruise transfers.

Not Included:
Airfare to and from your home to the port of departure and port of arrival; private charter flight; items of a personal nature such as beverages, laundry, and medical supplies; travel insurance; passport and visa fees; gratuities; landing fees; fuel surcharge may apply.

PHOTOS: © A Terauds; © G Riehle; © JE Ross; © K Ovsykanikova

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