Summary : Revel in the diversity of the Svalbard Island and sail into the kingdom of the polar bear. Explore the coastline against a backdrop of spectacular glacier covered peaks. Discover deep fjords in the west; mysterious, fossil-rich desert plains in the east; and best of all, seals and whales in the Arctic pack ice. This voyage offers the best chance for seeing reindeers and polar bears, and features wildflower walks across sweeping tundra, trapper camps and historic sites. On foot and by Zodiac, visit abandoned whaling settlements, search for walrus, arctic fox and reindeer and observe millions of migratory birds, including little auks, guillemots and puffin.
NOTE: The 8/18/2021 trip can be combined with their 13-day Jewels of the Arctic – Svalbard and East Greenland trip to create a longer voyage.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Enjoy a guided tour of colorful Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen’s capital. Late afternoon sees you warmly welcomed on board the ship.
Over the next ten days, the Svalbard Archipelago is yours to explore. Your experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. This allows the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.
There are many exciting places to choose to visit; a sample of some of the places where we may land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife and scenery follows:
Kongsfjorden (Kings Bay)
Kongsfjorden and the surrounding country are known to be one of the most beautiful fjord areas in Svalbard. The fjord is headed by two giant glaciers, Kronebreen and Kongsvegen. Hike on the lush tundra among the summer flowers and observe the remarkable bird cliffs near the 14th July Glacier, where even a few puffins nest between the cracks in the cliffs.
Situated at 78º 55’ N, Ny-Ålesund is one of the world’s northern-most year-round communities. The settlement of Ny-Ålesund is strongly linked to coal mining operations, scientific expeditions and recently also to various international research efforts. It is one of the northernmost settlements in the world. In and around Ny-Ålesund is found the largest concentration of protected buildings, cultural monuments and various remains in Svalbard, rendering the place an important cultural heritage site. The cultural history is represented by the town itself, including 30 listed buildings (out of 60 in total), industrial monuments related to the coal mining operations, Roald Amundsen’s airship mooring mast and hangar foundation and some remains of research activities. Ny-Ålesund is the largest Norwegian settlement in Svalbard that was not set fire to during World War II. The settlement is well preserved and worth experiencing, and serves as a valuable historical source. Ny-Ålesund has also been the starting point of several historical attempts to reach the North Pole. Names like Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile are strongly linked to Ny-Ålesund. The place has been a centre for tourist operations, with several hotels located in town. Today, approximately 20,000 travelers visit Ny-Ålesund on a yearly basis. Since 1964, Ny-Ålesund has also been a center for international Arctic research and environmental monitoring. A number of countries run their own national research stations here, and research activity is high in the summer.
The islands and islets in the inner part of Kongsfjorden teem with birds. At the head of the fjord, mighty glaciers calve into the sea. All of this is framed by characteristic mountain formations. Situated at the north side of the fjord, London is a monument to past optimistic expectations for big money from the supply of marble to the world market. Further northwest lies Krossfjorden, with its cultural remains from the whaling period, Russian and Norwegian overwinterings and World War II. Large bird cliffs are also found here.
Nordvesthjørnet and Raudfjorden
It was here, in the far north-west, that Willem Barentsz and his crew discovered new land on 17 June, 1596. They described the land as being “rugged for the most part, and steep, mostly mountains and jagged peaks, from which we gave it the name of Spitsbergen”. In the centuries that followed, the large number of bowhead whales found here attracted whalers from the Netherlands and various other countries, and the area became a place of high activity, both on the shore and in the surrounding sea. This is why Nordvesthjørnet offers the largest concentration of graves, blubber ovens and other cultural treasures on Spitsbergen, all dating back to this first era of the exploitation of Svalbard’s natural resources.
Cruise northwards along the west coast of Spitsbergen, visiting intriguing places like Magdalenefjorden, located inside the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. According to historical sources, Magdalenefjorden was first used by the English in the early days of the whaling era. They erected a land station on the headland and named the area Trinity Harbour. The station was closed in 1623, but the cemetery remained in use. More tourists are visiting Gravneset than any other site in Svalbard outside the settlements, but since 2015, ships carrying heavy fuel on board are no longer permitted to enter the large national parks and nature reserves in Svalbard. The spectacular alpine scenery is lined with jagged mountain peaks, to which Spitsbergen (‘pointed mountains’) owes its name. At 3,658 feet, Hornemanntoppen is the highest mountain in the area is, located east of Magdalenefjorden. The topography of the area is mostly rocky, shorelines are covered with stones and walking here can be challenging. The topography also does not allow for much vegetation, which is limited to mosses and lichens near bird colonies. Little auks are breeding in large numbers in scree slopes everywhere around Magdalenefjorden. Amazingly, a few reindeer occasionally roam around on mossy slopes and polar bears as well as walrus are regularly seen here.
The name “Smeerenburg” means “Blubber Town”. Its whaling station served as the main base for Dutch whaling in the first half of the 17th century, which was the period when whale hunting was still happening along the coastline and in the fjords of Svalbard. Smeerenburg is situated on the island of Amsterdamøya, surrounded by fjords, tall glacier fronts and steep, rugged mountains. The most obvious sign of its days as a whaling station are the large cement-like remains of blubber from ovens where the blubber was boiled. The rest of the old Smeerenburg has largely disappeared under layers of sand.
Woodfjorden, Liefdefjorden and Bockfjorden
Located along the north coast, Woodfjorden, Liefdefjorden and Bockfjorden are rarely-visited places. This is the land of contrasts. By the large, flat Reinsdyrflya there is a great fjord system that stretches towards several mountain ridges of varying shapes and ages, including alpine summits of very old granite, majestic red mountains of Devonian sandstone, cone-shaped remnants of three volcanoes and even hot springs. Large glacier fronts calve in the sea, while polar bears are busy hunting for ringed seals and sweeping the islets for birds’ eggs. Walk on smooth raised beach terraces to a superb viewpoint or hike in the mountains on the tundra where pretty brightly colored wildflowers and lichen grow and where reindeer graze. You may visit trapper huts of yesteryear where Russians Pomors would hunt and survive the cold harsh winters, all while remaining alert for wandering polar bears and their cubs.
Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve
Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve is the most high-Arctic part of Svalbard. The fjords are covered in ice, and drift ice floats around the islands for most of the year. Glaciers cover large areas of the terrain. This is the kingdom of the polar bear and walrus. It has been protected as a nature reserve since 1973.
Nordaustlandet is the second largest island in Svalbald. It is part of Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. The two large ice sheets of Austfonna and Vestfonna cover large areas of the island. The landscape is open and majestic with different types of landscapes, from the prominent fjords in the west and north to the massive glacier front facing east and south. From a distance, Nordaustlandet appears cold, unfriendly and unproductive. However, many places are unexpectedly lush, especially close to the bird cliffs.
The vegetation on land and the production in the sea have together formed a foundation for the terrestrial and marine wildlife, creating hunting opportunities for people. There are fewer signs of human activity on Nordaustlandet than in the rest of Svalbard, although there are cultural remains from Russian and Norwegian overwintering trapping, from scientific research and expeditions and from World War II. A research station in Kinnvika in Murchisonfjorden dates from the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958. A wartime memory can also be found on Nordaustlandet in the form of Station Haudegen, the German weather station in Rijpfjorden. There is a traffic ban in the near vicinity of this station. And it was on the island of Kvitøya that the story of the Andrée expedition and its mysterious disappearance and tragic end were finally unraveled.
Moffen Island is situated directly north of 80°N. After the near-extinction of walrus in Svalbard in the middle of the 20th century, Moffen Island played an important role in re-establishing the species here, a process which is still going on. Today, there are often larger numbers of walrus hauled out at the southern tip of the island. This is the reason why Moffen is protected. Approach during the summer (15th May to 15th September) is limited to a minimum distance of 1,640 feet.
Sjuøyane (Seven Islands)
In the very north of Svalbard, in the ocean north of Nordaustlandet, is the little archipelago of Sjuøyane (the seven islands), with its characteristically hat-shaped mountains. The hard granite mountains have acquired a green covering of moss due to thousands of breeding seabirds. Walrus dive for clams in the waters between the islands and in the bays. Most of the islands have been named after the English North Pole expeditions led by Phipps (1773) and Parry (1827). Sjuøyane are located at about 80°45?N. The mountains, of gneiss and granites, are tied together by plains created by deposits, which have given the islands their large, semi-circular bays. In general the sparse vegetation belongs to the Arctic polar desert zone. However, fertilization by bird droppings provide a breeding ground for mosses and scurvygrass (Cochlearia groenlandica), which give some of the mountains their characteristic greenish color.
When the ice breaks up around Sjuøyane and the first seabirds return in April–May, the islands wake again after a long winter, during which the only wildlife is the odd polar bear, arctic fox, reindeer and walrus. There is a large number of bird cliffs in Sjuøyane, scattered around most of the islands. Little auks come in the largest numbers, but there are also several smaller colonies of puffins and Brünnich’s guillemots. Common guillemots nest scattered around the islands. One of the few known colonies of ivory gulls can be found on Phippsøya. Ivory gulls are categorized as listed as a Near Threatened Species.
There are also several haul-out sites for walrus on Sjuøyane. The most reliable place to encounter them is Isflakbukta on the island of Phippsøya. Up to 100 animals can be seen on the beach, and normally walrus are very active in the shallow bay.
Polar bears can be seen anywhere on Sjuøyane. The polar bear distribution is strongly related to the distribution of sea ice. If there is drift ice around the islands it is more likely that there will be polar bears on the islands. Usually there are also a few polar bears remaining in the area over the summer. Reindeer and arctic fox are also found on Sjuøyane.
Other places you may visit around the Svalbard Archipelago include:
Barentsøya and Edgeøya
Crossing the Barents Sea to Kirkenes offers some good opportunities to encounter whales and certainly plenty of opportunities to photograph sea birds. You may enjoy final presentations from your team of experts, spend your time editing photos or simply relaxing.
During the early morning, cruise into the Bokfjord towards Kirkenes. Farewell your expedition team and fellow expeditioners as you continue your onward journeys. A transfer is included to the airport.
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.
NOTE: The 8/18/2021 trip can be combined with their 13-day Jewels of the Arctic – Svalbard and East Greenland trip to create a longer voyage.
Reverse Itinerary: 8/18/2021
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of $250,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. Insurance should cover personal accident and medical expenses, evacuation and repatriation, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of holiday. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Exploration by kayak is an ideal way to surround yourself in the sights and sounds of the Arctic - paddling among icebergs and brash ice, observing wildlife in an unobtrusive manner. Some kayak excursions may be long in duration and on choppy water, so a reasonable level of kayaking experience is required to participate in this activity. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.
7/7/2021: AIPP Grand Master of Photography, Peter Eastway, will be your onboard photography guide. Peter Eastway is a contemporary Australian photographer who is known internationally for his landscape and travel work. A practising professional photographer, he shoots editorially and works selectively in advertising and family portraiture, two diverse ends of the professional sphere. He was the author of the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Landscape Photography. His photography was recently featured on the cover of the Lonely Planet’s guide to Australia.
8/18/2021: Canon Master, Richard I'Anson, will join as a photography guide. Richard is a freelance travel photographer & Canon Master who has captured incredible images of people and places around the world for more than 35 years. His work has been published worldwide in books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, calendars, posters, cards and websites; from the size of a stamp right up to a tarpaulin covering a 53-foot truck trailer! He has also published 12 books including five editions of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography, was featured in the television documentary Tales By Light (now streaming on Netflix) and is a Travel Photography Scholarship Mentor for World Nomads.
Group arrival transfer from airport to the Greg Mortimer on Day 1; pre-cruise tour of Longyearbyen on arrival; group transfer from ship to downtown Kirkenes (or Longyearbyen) or to the airport on Day 13; shipboard accommodations; printed photo book from your voyage (post voyage, one per booking); gear to keep (expedition jacket); gear on loan (boots); all meals onboard ship; house wines, beers, and soft drinks with dinner onboard ship. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; passport and visa expenses; kayaking; alcohol and beverages not mentioned as included; items of a personal nature such as Wi-Fi, laundry service, spa charges, medical expenses; required travel insurance; excess baggage charges; airport arrival or departure taxes; gratuities (NOTE: Gratuities for crew will automatically be added to your bill. Please advise at the time of settlement if you would like this to be removed); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos ©: Michael Baynes (group kayaking, puffin, Zodiac cruising); Desire De Vries (feather); Lenka Gondova (fox); Carole O'Neill (polar bear, walrus); Geoff Perraton (solo kayaker); Dirk Selderyk (polar bear with cubs)