Summary : Attempt a circumnavigation of Spitsbergen and explore the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Zodiac cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier or the precipitous Monaco Glacier; sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth; marvel at one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard; and take nature walks along the sweeping tundra. This special expedition offers a chance to see whales, reindeer, Arctic foxes, walruses, seals, and polar bears.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling around this former mining town, whose parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred plant species have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.
Heading north along the west coast, you will arrive in Krossfjorden by morning. Here you might board a Zodiac for a cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. Colorful flowers bloom on the green slopes near the glacier while flocks of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the cliffs. You have a good chance of spotting an Arctic fox scouting for fallen chicks or a bearded seal paddling through the fjord.
In the afternoon sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway (you can still see its tracks), Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen and Nobile in their airships, Norge (1926) and Italia (1928).
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 3.1-mile-long face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, you'll take an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen.
The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet in the Seven Islands. Here you reach 80° north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice before turning west again.
When the edge of the sea ice is tens of miles north of the Seven Islands (mostly in August), you can spend a second day in this area. Alternatively (mostly in July), you may turn to Sorgfjord, where you have the chance to find a herd of walruses not far from the graves of 17th-century whalers. A nature walk here can bring you close to families of ptarmigans. The opposite side of the fjord is also a beautiful area for an excursion.
Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded and ringed seals as well as polar bears. At the entrance of the strait there is a possibility of spotting blue whales. As with Liefdefjorden, you can take an alternate west Spitsbergen route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you then view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may attempt a landing where reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. Near Torrelneset you can also visit the polar desert of Nordaustlandet, next to the world’s third-largest ice cap. Here you may encounter walruses during a coastline hike over the area’s raised beaches.
The plan is to make landings in Freemansundet, though polar bears sometimes make this impossible. Potential stops on Barentsøya include Sundneset (to view an old trapper’s hut), Kapp Waldburg (for its kittiwake colony), and Rindedalen (for a walk across the tundra). You might also cruise south to Diskobukta or Kapp Lee, where you'll find a walrus haul-out, Pomor* ruins, and the chance for hikes along Edgeøya.
*a Russian people from the coasts of the White Sea.
Start the day by cruising the side fjords of the Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, taking in the spire-like peaks: Hornsundtind rises 4,695 feet, and Bautaen is a perfect illustration of why early Dutch explorers named this island Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” There are fourteen sizable glaciers in this area as well as opportunities for spotting seals, beluga whales, and polar bears.
Today find yourself in Bell Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard. The ocean currents make this area slightly warmer than other areas in the archipelago, which shows in the relatively lush vegetation. There are excellent opportunities here to enjoy both history and wildlife. A possibility is Ahlstrandhalvøya, at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden, where piles of beluga skeletons can be found. These remains of 19th-century whale slaughter are a haunting reminder of the consequences of rampant exploitation. Fortunately, belugas were not hunted into extinction, and you have a good chance of coming across a pod. Alternately, while cruising the side fjords of Bellsund, you can explore the tundra where reindeer like to feed as well as rock slopes where little auks are breeding.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. Disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions—and the wildlife you encounter. In case it is not possible to complete a full circumnavigation of Spitsbergen, an alternative program will be devised. The onboard expedition leader determines the final itinerary. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase travel insurance including medical, accident, and repatriation/evacuation insurance at a minimum coverage of $50,000. Furthermore, the shipping company strongly recommends obtaining trip cancellation insurance. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Arctic trips 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.
Please Note: All voyages will operate subject to a minimum of 70 participants.
Pre-scheduled airport/ship transfers and baggage handling in Longyearbyen (select flights only; please inquire for details); shipboard accommodations; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals onboard the ship; snacks, coffee, and tea; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; AECO fees and governmental taxes. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights; pre- and post- land arrangements; transfers to/from the vessel outside Spitsbergen; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; travel insurance, including medical, accident, and repatriation/evacuation insurance (required); baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges; gratuities; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Arjen Drost; © Erwin Vermeulen; © Franco Banfi; © Joerg Ehlrich; © Petr Slavik, © Rinie van Meurs, © Oceanwide Expeditions