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Jewels of the Arctic – Svalbard and East Greenland

Arctic Greenland Svalbard Cruise Information

Summary : Jewels of the Arctic will change you forever. While cruising the icy waters of the Greenland Sea between Iceland and Spitsbergen, keep an eye out for whales, sea ice and countless sea birds. Your days will be jam-packed with once-in-a-lifetime moments: Zodiac cruise amongst gigantic icebergs, revel in gorgeous tundra walks, and scout for arctic foxes, musk ox, walrus and polar bears. Greenland’s breathtaking mountainous landscapes will leave you speechless as the voyage goes along, and Inuit communities will make you feel at home whilst you stop by their small settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit. These are the jewels of the Arctic!

NOTE: This trip can be combined with their 13-day Svalbard Odyssey trip to create a longer voyage.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins

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NOTE: This trip can be combined with their 13-day Svalbard Odyssey trip to create a longer voyage.

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Itinerary
Day 1
Longyearbyen, Norway

Arrive in Longyearbyen, where you will be met by a representative of to commence a tour of Longyearbyen. Learn about the town’s history, geology, flora and fauna on a this half day excursion, by bus. You will visit Svalbard Museum and Galleri Svalbard, and take in the main sights of Longyearbyen including Office of the Governor, Svalbard Church, Nybyen (new town), a few of the town’s mines such as Santa Claus Mine, and a quick photo stop at the famous beware of polar bear street sign.

After the tour you will be transferred to the port in the late afternoon to embark the Greg Mortimer. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin prior to the important pre-departure briefings. Your voyage commences, cruising out of the beautiful Isfjorden, escorted by gliding fulmars and perhaps the occasional puffin. Find a spot on one of the observation areas watching for seabirds, including graceful ivory gulls, kittiwakes and guillemots. They rise and fall skilfully, using the air currents created by the ship to gain momentum.

Day 2 – 4
Svalbard Archipelago

Over the next three 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 our voyage from day to day. This allows you to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Because you are so far north you will experience nearly 24 hours of daylight and the days can be as busy as you wish. You will generally make landings or Zodiac excursions a few times a day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface, making landings for hikes.

There are many exciting places to choose to visit; a sample of some of the places where your expedition leader may choose to land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife and scenery include:

Isfjorden
Alkhornet, at the northern entrance of Isfjorden, is a striking landmark. The landscape around this large bird cliff is lush and beautiful. East of Alkhornet you can find a deep, long bay with an exciting and diverse history. Here you will find important and vulnerable cultural remains dating from several of Svalbard’s historical periods. Alkhornet and Trygghamna offer visitors an interesting combination of cultural history and natural environment. The name Trygghamna is derived from the old Dutch name Behouden Haven and the English Safe Harbour or Safe Haven, all with the same meaning. The name reflects on the West European whaling that was carried out around Svalbard in the 17th century when whales would swim into the fjords and subsequently be caught. Trygghamna was, and still is, the perfect harbour with good anchorage. Because of its favorable geographical position, this harbor was early known and continuously in use.

At Alkhornet, reindeer observations are common, there are several fox dens, geese nest on rocks and higher up, and the bird cliff is loaded with Brünnich’s guillemots in hundreds of thousands. The cliff also houses a large colony of kittiwakes. Often seen is the glaucous gull patrolling the air around the cliff for potential prey. Arctic skuas nest here as well. The moss tundra below the cliffs bear witness of constant influx of fertilizers and some areas are extraordinary lush for this reason.

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.

Ny-Ålesund
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.

Kongsfjorden
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.

Magdalenefjorden
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.

Smeerenberg
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.

Moffen Island
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.

Day 5 – 6
Greenland Sea and Pack Ice

As you cruise west across the Greenland Sea – the main outlet of the Arctic Ocean – you may encounter whales feeding in the productive waters of the north. Sightings of fin whales are common and blue whales have been seen in more recent years. As you begin to approach Greenland you will likely encounter the East Greenland pack ice, and if you are lucky you will see polar bears hunting for prey. The strong icy currents have isolated East Greenland from the Polar Basin, attracting large numbers of fish, seals and whales. Climatic conditions and the concentration of ice in the vicinity often create thick morning fog that vanishes with the onset of the midday sun. Your experts will inform and entertain you with fascinating discussions on plants, animals, ice, and early explorers like Nansen, Andree and Scoresby.

Conditions permitting, there may be a chance for kayakers to launch their sea kayaks and the rest to cruise in the sea ice with Zodiacs. Perhaps with a good crossing, you may even have the opportunity to make your first landing on the Greenland coast, weather permitting. This stretch of coastline is ripe for exploration, with its many secrets locked in place by drift ice for up to eight months each year. Home to polar bear, snowy owl and musk ox, it's the world's largest national park; most of which is inland ice and the rest a composite fjord landscape.

Day 7 – 11
East Coast of Greenland / Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord / Scoresbysund

Attempt to enter Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord, a remote and rarely visited fjord system with countless opportunities for exploration within the Northeast Greenland National Park. Cruising through Kong Oskar Fjord, marvel at the geological beauty of the mountains and land in a few places to explore the landscape and wildlife of Greenland. Then head south along the coast of Liverpool Land, with your passage dependent on ice conditions. Aim to reach Scoresbysund, the world’s largest fjord and a favorite hunting ground of the local Inuit. Massive glaciers dump into this fjord, the birthplace of the famous big Greenland icebergs. The hope is to visit the remote Inuit community of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresby Town) and to hike across the tundra in search of ancient graveyards and summer villages occupied 3,000 years ago by Paleo-Eskimos. This area provides excellent opportunities for sea kayaking in its maze of calm, interconnecting waterways. Keep a sharp eye out for musk oxen, Arctic hare and seals, and maybe if you are very lucky even a polar bear or narwhal. Scoresbysund offers many opportunities for walking cruising and kayaking so you will spend your days exploring the land, the ice and the sea.

Other Landings along the coast may include:

Cape Humboldt
This is a beautiful point on Ymer Island. There is a good chance to take a tundra walk and witness musk oxen grazing. You will also keep a lookout for Arctic fox and ptarmigan. A lone trapper's hut looks over the bay and magnificent icebergs.

Blomsterbugten
This is an important site for paleo-eskimoes and more modern trappers, you may have a great opportunity to walk in the tundra with musk oxen or Arctic hare to a spectacular overlook onto Lake Noa which is pink with fine sediments.

Sefstrom Glacier
Sefstrom adorns the narrow- peaked waterway in Alpefjord. You will Zodiac cruise (and kayak) around the snout of the glacier and deeper into the fjord behind. Return along magnificent cliffs that are festooned with small colorful gardens of Arctic flowers growing wherever water is available.

Ittoqqortoormiit
Scoresbysund’s colorful Inuit community of approximately 500 people—feel free to explore the village, fascinating museum or sit quietly in the beautiful Lutheran Church. The people are friendly, and the young children vie for attention from underneath their Arctic fox-fur jackets.

Sydkap
Scoresbysund offers good walking and delightful views up Øfjord and into Hall Brednung. Kayakers will have good opportunities to explore the lonely beaches. You may explore the ancient gravesites on shore, or nearby giant icebergs that offer hours of enjoyment for kayak and Zodiac excursions.

Røde Ø
This is one of the most remarkable collections of beautiful icebergs in the world. A combination of shallows near the island and tidal currents strand hundreds of large iceberg in a small area around Røde Ø, or Red Island. The contrast between the magnificent blue of the ice and the red sandstone landscape is breathtaking.

Other possible landing points in the area include: Rømer Fjord, Rypefjord, Ø Fjord, Fonfjord, Bjornøya, Milne Land, Hekla Havn, Denmark Island, Nordvestfjord and Eskimobugt.

Day 12
Denmark Strait

In the Denmark Strait, sail towards Iceland. Keep a lookout for whale blows and the many seabirds that trail the ship in the ever present Arctic winds. Enjoy the time to reflect on your recent adventures, share and exchange photos, and soak in the fresh ocean air. As you near Iceland, you will find you are returning to the rest of the world as you encounter fishing vessels working the coastal waters

Day 13
Akureyri / Reykjavik, Iceland

During the early morning, arrive into the northern Icelandic town of Akureyri. Disembark and enjoy a scenic transfer to Reykjavik downtown or airport.

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.

NOTE: This trip can be combined with their 13-day Svalbard Odyssey trip to create a longer voyage.

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.

Kayaking:
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.

Rock Climbing:
Explore the remote and rugged summits of East Greenland, scaling sheer granite cliffs and glacial remnants in pursuit of breathtaking views of Scoresbysund’s ice-filled fjords. Experienced climbers will relish the chance to explore up and along the rarely-scaled peaks that dominate the landscape. And when you reach the top? A view that few people on earth will have ever laid eyes on! This unique opportunity to add a thrilling climbing experience to your expedition cruise is one not to be missed. Strap on your boots, clip on your carabiners and join an incredible climbing adventure. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.

Scuba Diving:
Imagine exploring new dive sites, diving where very few have dived before. Diver numbers are limited to ensure the highest safety standards and an experienced dive guide will oversee the program. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.

Snorkeling:
Witness wildlife and scenery unlike any other place on earth. Participant numbers are limited to ensure the highest safety standards and an experienced dive guide will oversee the program. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.

Stand-up Paddleboarding:
Experienced paddlers can explore Greenland’s waters on a stand up paddleboard. Paddle past icebergs, scan the horizon for wildlife and spot isolated, colorful villages dotting the coastline. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.

Photography: Free
This is a fantastic included opportunity for photography and videography. A photography expert will offer lectures and presentations to help improve your skills. Whether a beginner or experienced photographer, you will find the presentations both on board or during landings and excursions helpful for you to capture those memorable moments.

Included:
Arrival transfer from airport (preferred flights only) to the Greg Mortimer on Day 1; half day tour of Longyearbyen on Day 1 prior to embarkation; group transfer from ship in Akureyri to airport or downtown Reykjavik 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.

Not Included:
Airfare; passport and visa expenses; optional adventure activity supplements; 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 (icebergs, kayakers, puffin, Zodiac cruising); Lenka Gondova (fox); Carole O'Neill (walrus); Mark Perraton (polar bear); Raymond Perraton (seal)

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