Summary : This unique expedition aboard a Russian icebreaker crosses the Arctic Circle and includes the isolated and pristine Wrangel and Herald Islands, and a significant section of the wild northeastern Siberian coastline. The short distance between Russia and the USA along this border area was known as the Ice Curtain, behind which—then and now—lies one of the greatest wilderness areas in the world. Journey through the narrow Bering Strait and travel west along the Chukotka coastline before crossing the De Long Strait to Wrangel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity and is perhaps best known for the multitude of polar bears that breed there. Wrangel also boasts the world's largest population of Pacific walruses and lies near major feeding grounds for gray whales. A visit to massive bird cliffs on nearby Herald Island is also planned. These rarely visited Arctic islands boast a rich natural history and plentiful opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$11,000 to $22,500
Arrive in Anadyr*, the administrative center of Chukotka. Depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr before boarding the vessel. If flights have been on time, plan to depart Anadyr this evening. As the ship sets sail, you are invited to join the captain, officers and expedition team on the bridge. The Anadyr estuary is renowned for its Beluga whales.
*This shipping company offers a charter flight from Nome, Alaska to Anadyr. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
As you sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards the Bering Strait there will be introductory lectures, an introduction to the staff and ship, and a series of compulsory briefings and drills. Relax, enjoy some birding and cetacean watching with your naturalists, and settle into ship life.
Arrive in Lavrentiya Bay this morning to visit the Chukchi region’s administrative center of Lavrentiya. Explore the township. A visit to the local museum offers interesting insight into Yupik and Chukchi cultures. There may be opportunities to view Chukchi songs and dances and interact with the locals.
Sea conditions permitting, this afternoon you will land at Cape Dezhnev, a historic landmark named after Siberian Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific in 1648. At this northeastern-most point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of America from this remote and lonely outpost.
This small island was once an important Russian Polar Research Station and one of a number of research stations dotted across the Arctic. Near the derelict buildings are some of the most spectacular bird cliffs in the Arctic where puffins, guillemots and gulls can be observed and photographed up close. As you continue your journey north across the Chukchi Sea, there may be sea ice to negotiate along way as the ship nears Wrangel Island—this could offer your first opportunities to see polar bears, seals, and walruses on ice.
Ice and weather conditions permitting, you will spend the next few days on Wrangel Island. A visit to nearby Herald Island will also be attempted. There are many possible landings here to seek out wildlife, wild flowers, and Arctic landscapes. Polar bears will be high on the list, and with a little patience you may be rewarded with a number of encounters. Musk oxen and reindeer were introduced to the island in 1975 and 1948, though reindeer numbers are low. You'll also have a chance to visit Dragi Harbor where the survivors of the Karluk, which was crushed by ice in 1914, scrambled ashore and lived until they were rescued. Wrangel Island is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance, particularly as it is a major polar bear denning area. Each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including snow geese, snowy owls, skuas, Arctic terns, Ross’s, Sabine, and ivory gulls.
As the ship sails through the Bering Strait, you will pass the Diomede Islands, sometimes called Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle because they straddle the International Date Line. Here, Russia and America are separated by only 2.3 nautical miles of ocean. The ship will remain in Russian territory as you cruise south past the islands. Continue along the North Siberian Coast, bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous lagoons and inlets. This area offers plenty of places to land and explore the extensive coastline. Be on the lookout for whales, walrus, and other wildlife. Here you'll find Chukchi villages whose residents survive in an unforgiving climate, hunting seals and whales just as their ancestors did.
This afternoon plan to visit Unnamed Bay, surrounded by hills. Explore the bay’s tundra terrain as the protected peninsula provides a great opportunity to stretch your legs after the transit south. Walk to a summit that has stunning views out over the bay, sheltered lagoon, and braided river beneath. The landscape is breathtaking with big sweeping valleys and lunar-like hilltops devoid of vegetation. Sculptured geological formations stand high above the water. Brown bears may be seen fishing in the river or loping across the valley. Later in the season, the transition between summer and autumn colors becomes evident—the first of the lingon and bearberries ripen and a yellowish cast begins to show on the vegetation. Cotton grass, with its distinctive white seed-heads that resemble tufts of cotton, spreads across the hills and is carried on prevailing winds. Sandhill cranes may also be seen around the bay.
Pengingay Bay is a long and deeply incised fjord. Walkers can explore the hillside behind the beach, climbing to the 1,312-foot summit of Mt. Gatgangey, or enjoy the peaceful surrounds sitting by the lake or birdwatching. Pika and ground squirrels may be spotted. The tundra here has a stunning diversity of plants. A number of interesting migrant species may be nesting here including the Arctic warbler and grey-cheeked thrush. The bay is often visited by humpback whales. You will also visit Gil’mimyl' where local Chukchi hospitality is shared. You may opt to enjoy birdwatching or the hot springs. At nearby Arakamchechen Island there is a prominent walrus haul out and gray whales can frequently by seen around the island. Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where whale bones stretch along the beach for nearly .3 miles. Gray whales are frequently seen around the island. You will also cruise by Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands where seabirds nest and walruses can be found.
Today you will be in the vicinity of Preobrazheniya Bay where there are some outstanding bird cliffs. Plan to take a Zodiac cruise to get closer to the rock faces, ridgelines, and soaring granite spires that are home to an abundance of bird life. Species that can be seen include common and thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes, least and crested auklets, vega gulls and Arctic terns. Both horned and tufted puffins may be found in vast numbers stretched along cliffside grasses. This evening relax as you sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr.
After breakfast it will be time to say your farewells. A complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel will conclude the expedition.
Read the above itinerary is a guide only. The exact program depends on weather, ice conditions, wildlife encountered, and is subject to approval from various Russian federal and regional authorities. Permits have been lodged for all the sites mentioned in the itinerary. The itinerary may be changed, amended or substituted depending on these approvals. Flexibility is key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, all passengers must purchase full medical and emergency evacuation insurance for the specific areas they will be visiting. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that you select a travel protection plan that covers trip cancellation insurance, trip delay (interruption or after departure coverage), baggage and repatriation, 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.
You may join this expedition in Anadyr or Nome, Alaska. Those starting in Nome will fly via charter flight and join the ship in Anadyr. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Pre- and post-cruise transfers; shipboard accommodations; all expedition shore excursions; gear on loan (rubber boots for shore landings); all meals onboard the ship; tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and water; juice with breakfast. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
International/domestic flights; private charter flights; passport and visa expenses; full medical and emergency evacuation insurance (mandatory), excess baggage charges, local payment of $500 per person (payable in cash onboard the ship); juice, carbonated beverages, bottled water, and alcoholic beverages; all items of a personal nature such as laundry, ship to shore communications, medical supplies, souvenirs, etc.; gratuities; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © M. Kelly; © K. Ovsyanikova; © A Terauds