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Russian Far East and Arctic + Wrangel Island

Russian Far East Cruise

Summary : The beauty of a pod of whales and splendour of the majestic Polar Bear plunging for prey are never to be forgotten. The widest of all the Arctic Ocean shelf seas, the East Siberian Sea is a rare chance to witness nature in all her raiments. Beautiful tundra walks in almost infinite daylight, cultural demonstrations, and exceptional birding will make this voyage a life changing experience.

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

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Itinerary
Day 1
Nome, Alaska

Once all guests have embarked, you will partake in a mandatory safety drill. Join a Sail Away cocktail party as you depart. During the afternoon you will be introduced to important members of the crew and your Expedition Team. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home and meet some of your fellow travelers. In the evening enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Day 2
Day 3
Provideniya, Russia

During the morning approach Provideniya. Once you have cleared into Russia, start your walking tour of this former military outpost. Many of the houses have been abandoned, but those inhabitants that stayed behind seem to be optimistic that Provideniya will once again be an important port, most probably for the Northeast Passage.

Look at the very well-presented collections of the local museum, and be entertained by local and Russian songs and dances. For those inclined to do more hiking, you can leave the town towards the south in direction of the cemetery for nice views of the town and bay, always accompanied by your Expedition Staff.

Day 4
Cape Deznev / Uelen Village

At Cape Dezhnev land at a small pebble beach. The Cape was named East Cape by Captain Cook, but since it had been rounded some 130 years before Captain Cook by Semyon Dezhnev, the Russian authorities changed its name in the late 20th century. Ashore hike up to what is considered one of Russia’s most famous lighthouses and the monument honoring Dezhnev. The abandoned village of Aukan is nearby.

The small coastal village of Uelen in Chukotka is north of Cape Dezhnev. Located next to the Uelen Lagoon it is known by the local Yupik as "Land’s End“. The village has a population of around 700 inhabitants. Uelen can claim to be Russia’s easternmost settlement. When during soviet times it had been decided to abandon many of the smaller settlements in favor of larger consolidated ones, Uelen was chosen as one of the four villages to take in the inhabitants of other settlements. The Chukchi and Inuit that now live here are known as excellent carvers, working in walrus, whalebone and reindeer.

Going ashore you will have a welcome and cultural presentation with an opportunity to see many of the excellent carvings.

Day 5
Kolyuchin Bay / Kolyuchin Island

Kolyuchin Island is the site of a famous rescue operation after a Russian icebreaker was crushed by ice nearby. Located close to the Siberian shore this island has been used as the base for a now abandoned meteorological station at its western end, while walrus hunters had a few huts on the eastern side. The island has steep, dramatic bird cliffs with Pelagic Cormorants, Thick-billed Murres and kittiwakes. Horned and Tufted Puffins will be another highlight for birders and photographers. Zodiac cruises will not only permit closer looks at the amazing amount of seabirds but also the walrus herds that frequent the shore and water surrounding Kolyuchin. Kolyuchin Bay is a huge tidal estuary area to go ashore for hiking and exploring the area. Shorebirds can be seen, while on the tundra you might see ground squirrels as well as larger mammals, even brown bears are said to have been seen occasionally.
Bowhead whales can sometimes be spotted around the island and a Zodiac cruise will be offered looking for these cetaceans.

Day 6
At Sea

While Silver Explorer sails further west attend lectures about the human exploration of the area or help your naturalists on deck looking for whales and Short-tailed Shearwater that sometimes frequent the area by the thousands.

Day 7
Ayon Island

At the eastern end of the Kolyma Gulf is Ayon Island. Its size of 2000 square kilometers permits the small local Chukchi population to herd reindeer. The village of Ayon has a school with a museum that was put together by the children of the school. Displayed are mammoth tusks, stuffed birds and some Paleo Eskimo artifacts. The Russian polar station on Ayon Island is one of the few meteorological stations still in use and is staffed by 12.

Since visitors are quite rare you will be welcomed with warmth and hospitality. Have a look at the village and see the remains of the Neolithic camps located not too far away. These camps indicate that reindeer hunters or herders lived here already during the first millennium AD.

Day 8
Medvezhie Island

Silver Explorer will continue to sail through the Gulf of Kolyma. The goal is to visit the Medvezhyi Islands (Bear Islands), an uninhabited group of islands at the western side of the Gulf of Kolyma. It is not bears, but the flora and geology that make these six islands so famous. This will be one of the places visited that was described by Nordenskjold in 1878. Despite the fact that fast ice surrounds the islands during much of the year, fishing is done near the islands. On Chetyrokstolbovoy flowers, lichen, mosses and mushrooms will be everywhere, and see the abandoned weather station and walk to the imposing rock spires at the top of the nearby hill. They have been compared to a human couple. With a height of up to 30 meters, these geological features are quite impressive and give the island its name: Four-spires Island. A large field of boulders surrounds the spires, increasing in size with decreasing distance from the center.

Go ashore at another of the islands to enjoy walking on lush grass, among ponds and many flowers and seeing the many large, frost-created mounds. Herds of reindeer can sometimes be observed, as well as the remains of human habitation, usually small semi-underground dwellings.

Day 9
At Sea

Lecturers might expand on the lesser known expeditions into the East Siberian Sea and the different findings. You could also make use of the comfort features Silver Explorer has to offer, visiting the Spa or Gym and enjoying the culinary specialties the chefs have prepared.

Day 10
Dmitriy Lapev Strait / Lyakhovsky Island

The Dimitri Laptev Strait connects the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea and separates the Siberian mainland from the New Siberian Islands. The New Siberian Islands had already been seen and visited in the early 18th century by Russian explorers and on Lyakovsky’s southeastern side is a meteorological station.

The study of Lyakhovsky is quite famous for its cliffs, landscape and fossil finds. There are several indications that the islands had been visited thousands of years ago, and when the sea level was 100-120 meters lower that today the islands would have been part of the Great Arctic Plain.

Plan to go ashore and have a look at the islands landscape and flora, mainly grasses, sedges and mosses. Prehistoric bones, shells and plant material have been well-preserved because of permafrost. Tusks of mammoth and other megafauna’s remains, including sabre-toothed tigers, have been found on the island.

Day 11
At Sea

Take the next two days to get a feeling for the different approaches to these frigid waters by explorers like Nansen, Nordenskjold and Amundsen. Attend lectures and sample the culinary specialties prepared for you by the chefs or enjoy the Connoisseurs Corner.

Consider that several explorers tried to reach the ice to drift towards the North Pole. The aim is to see the ice and walruses on the ice floes, polar bears and ribbon seals.

Day 12
Ice Edge Cruising

Based on the latest ice charts Silver Explorer will venture as far north as possible where few others have been. Continue searching for walrus, seals and polar bears on the ice, while the Historian might talk about De Long’s expedition and his experience in this part of the world.

Day 13
Expedition De Long Islands

Explore the small De Long Islands, which are north of the New Siberian Islands. Like the New Siberian Islands, the De Long Islands were hills of the Great Arctic Plain. These are some of the last-discovered islands in the East Siberian Sea and received their name through the ill-fated American expedition led by De Long on the Jeannette. Although found by De Long and claimed for the US in 1881, the official American version holds that these islands, as they are not part of Alaska, are part of Russia.

Day 14
At Sea

Silver Explorer will be heading east to reach one of the most famous islands long hidden from Western eyes. Attend seminars or lectures about the flora and fauna of the largest island in East Siberian waters. Listen to the historian talk about the various explorers and seafarers that went looking for land north of Chukotka.

And do not forget to scan the waters for whales and seabirds from the outer decks. A good opportunity would be to have lunch at the Grill while watching the sea.

Day 15
Ushakova Cape, Wrangel Island

Silver Explorer will be exploring Wrangel Island for three days. This protected nature area and UNESCO World Heritage Site has the largest amount of polar bears and apparently was the last place where woolly mammoth roamed. The name of the island goes back to the search for land north of the Chukchi Peninsula by Ferdinand von Wrangel.

On your approach to the island watch for gray whales, bowhead whales and beluga whales. The island is an important breeding ground for polar bears and walrus. Introduced mammals include musk oxen and reindeer. Both seem to thrive but numbers of reindeer are kept low so as to not disturb the nesting birds.

Land at Cape Ushakova, named after a famous Russian Arctic researcher, near the site of the main settlement, a former fishing village. Pick up representatives of the nature reserve staff in compliance with the rules and regulations for Wrangel Island. During a tundra walk look for the rich Arctic flora that was the main reason for the island’s UNESCO World Heritage status, obviously always keeping an eye open for polar bears, musk oxen, lemmings, and reindeer.

Day 16
Cape Florens / Cape Blossom, Wrangel Island

Always taking in mind that Wrangel has the largest concentration of polar bears, landings will depend on whether they are present or not. Cape Florence will offer a walk looking for the two types of lemmings found on Wrangel, arctic foxes, Snowy Owls and obviously the tundra flora.

The second landing will be at Cape Blossom, the site of a Russian polar station made famous through the work of Nikita Ovsiannikov, a Russian polar bear scientist. This exposed area on the western shore of Wrangel Island is also known for its walrus congregations.

Whenever conditions permit or dictate there will be Zodiac cruises to look for whales, walrus, polar bears and seabirds.

Day 17
Krassin Bay / Cape Waring, Wrangel Island

The 3,400 year old Paleo-Eskimo camp in Krassin Bay will be one of the goals of today’s exploration. With your onboard naturalists and your Russian park rangers hike and look for the remains of ancient inhabitants of Wrangel Island and continue to look for land mammals, birds and the varied flora.

Depending on your interest and willingness there will be offers for trekking enthusiasts, the leisurely strollers and those who just enjoy the view from the beach.

Day 18
At Sea

Leaving Wrangel Island behind, Silver Explorer will head into the Bering Strait. This will be another good time to look for whales that frequent the area.

Lecturers will recap the various highlights and specialties seen in the East Siberian Sea and will prepare you for the last visit in Chukotka with further talks or seminars.

Day 19
Proliv Senyavina Hot Springs

During the early morning cruise the Bering Strait and Bering Sea to reach Proliv Senyavina. This area is sporadically used by fishermen who have a few huts at a small lagoon. Landing ashore promises a nice tundra hike to reach some hot springs located inland. Hike to the hot springs following an excellent track in the tundra. The track ascends a low hill and eventually rounds the crest where stone cairn marks the descent to the hot springs. On your way you might spot ground squirrels and Sandhill Cranes. For those interested in more activity, your naturalists will offer a longer hike that also passes the hot springs.

Day 20
Provideniya, Russia / Nome, Alaska

In the very early morning briefly stop in Provideniya for your outward clearance. Cross the Dateline again and this time it will work in your favor, as you will have today’s date twice.

Take advantage to sleep in, be on the outer decks to look for marine mammals and seabirds, and attend one of the last lectures recapping your adventures in East Siberian waters. There surely are ways to keep you busy, be it editing your photos, making use of the Spa or Gym, or even if it “only” is sampling the culinary specialties the Hotel Department is preparing for you.

Today your onboard Videographer will present the Voyage-DVD recounting all the different impressions seen and adventures had during our voyage “East Siberian Sea Exploration”.

Following your arrival into Nome, disembark Silver Explorer.

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. 

Travel Insurance:
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.

Included:
Ship accommodation; onboard meals; butler service; complimentary beverages served throughout the ship (an assortment of complimentary wines, champagne and spirits); parka and backpack; all onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suite. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry and spa options, fuel surcharge may apply.

Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Expeditions, © Richard Sidey (seal, eagle, puffin), © Elliott Neep (walrus, polar bear), © Daniela Plaza (polar bear)

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