The Norwegian name for this archipelago including Bear Island and Jan Mayen is Svalbard. However it is usually known as Spitsbergen. Covering an area almost as big as the Republic of Ireland, Spitsbergen with its population of 3,500 in five settlements is still today virtually unspoiled wilderness. With its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra, ice caps and glaciers, it is a true High Arctic archipelago, and only 600 miles from the North Pole. Its abundant wildlife was once a huge draw for whalers and trappers but now discerning visitors are discovering the attractions of huge Arctic seabird colonies and the chance to enjoy and photograph species like Walrus, Reindeer, Arctic Fox and of course, Polar Bear.
Greenland and its surrounding waters are home to an impressive array of wildlife: eight species of whale, two million seals, Walruses, Polar Bears, Reindeer, Musk Oxen, Arctic Hares, Arctic Wolves and a spectacular variety of birds. The largest island in the world, 90% of its surface area is covered by ice and it is inhabited by less then 100.000 people, though with a fascinating history and culture. Our voyages focus on East and Northeast Greenland, among the most isolated, sparsely populated and scenically superb parts of the island. Fortunately, from the wildlife enthusiast’s point of view, they are also the most rewarding regions with regular sightings of Musk Oxen, Arctic Hares, Narwhals and a variety of birds, including Gyrfalcon, Snowy Owl, Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese.
Access to this highly indented and ruggedly mountainous coast is dependent on ice conditions. For much of the year, the region is locked in by pack ice, which by late summer has broken up sufficiently to allow vessels such as ours the chance to penetrate and explore. All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions and in order to take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.
Day 1: Arrive in Longyearbyen, on Spitsbergen, the administrative capital of the Spitsbergen archipelago of which West Spitsbergen is the largest island. Before embarking there is an opportunity to visit this former mining village. The Parish Church and the Polar Museum are well worth visiting, while in the country around the village more than 100 species of plant have been recorded. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.
Day 2: At Ytre Norskøya we visit a 17th century Dutch whaling site, which has a large graveyard. The chief prey of the whalers was the Greenland Whale or Bowhead Whale, often called the Right Whale because it was the right one to pursue. The whalers hunted the whale almost to extinction. The island is a breeding place for many seabirds of which the Puffins are still on the ledges and the Arctic Skuas are still caring for their young on the tundra. We visit Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord with spectacular glaciers. It is home to Ringed and Bearded Seals, seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation.
Day 3: We sail into Liefdefjord to the Monaco glacier, a magnificent glacier, where we have fair chances to meet Polar Bears. In the afternoon we land at Sördalsbukta to make a walk on the tundra. In World War II, the German Kriegsmarine employed a weather station at this spot. From there we continue to Moffen island on which Walrus haul out.
Day 4-5: At sea, on our way to Greenland, along the impressive East Greenland Ice. Keep watch for Fin Whales, Humpback Whales and Minke Whales, and also for migrating seabirds, especially the Brúnnich’s Guillemots, which swim with their small young from Spitsbergen, along the sea ice to South Greenland.
Day 6: When East Greenland ice conditions are light (about 70% chance each year) Scoresbysund Approaching Greenland we will attempt to sail through the sea ice into Foster Bugt, making our first landing at Myggebugten. Beyond the old hunters’ hut (in the first half of last century Norwegian trappers hunted here for Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes) there is an extensive tundra populated by Musk Oxen and Arctic Hares. The small lakes are home to geese.
Day 7: We sail through Kaiser Franz Joseph Fjord, a magnificent fjord with towering mountains on both sides, its inner reaches choked with huge icebergs and an excellent place to encounter Narwhal. We will land near Blomsterbugt to view the beautiful geological formations. Arctic Hares are usually seen here. An alternative is Traillø, or Antarcticahavn, where we also could see groups of Musk Oxen. At this time of year the autumnal colours of the sparse vegetation make the landscapes even more beautiful.
Day 8: Today we reach the Scoresby Sund, probably making our first landing at Kap Brewster. Since the mouth of this, the world´s longest fjord, remains ice-free almost all the winter, it is an excellent place for viewing seals. The area is also home to the only large seabird colonies on the eastern coast of Greenland. Serious hikers can cross the valley and climb on to the plateau of Kap Brewster from where they will have an excellent view over the fjord, Liverpool Land and the sea. On their way they may spot the white Gyr Falcon, Wheatears and Snow Buntings, and Arctic Hares. In the evening we sail further into the Scoresby Sund making our way along the ragged and glaciated Volquart Boons Coast, a good place for seeing Narwhal.
Day 9: We continue along Scoresby Sund, taking a Zodiac cruise along the glacier front in Vikingebugt, a bay surrounded by basaltic mountains. Later we land on Danmarks Ø where there are the remains of an Inuit settlement abandoned around 200 years ago. The circular ‘tent rings’ of stones indicate the summer houses, while the winter houses can be seen closer to a small cape. The sites are excellently preserved, allowing entrances and even bear-proof meat caches to be identified. There are also grave sites.
Day 10: We go ashore at Cape Hofmann Halvø, a reliable spot for viewing Musk Oxen. We may also spot Rock Ptarmigans, and Great Northern Divers at sea. The landscape here is particularly beautiful, especially during autumn when the Dwarf Willow and Dwarf Birch change colour. Arctic Blueberry and Crowberry add their own colourful touch - the berries are tasty too ! Later, during a Zodiac cruise along the 3km wide face of the Eielson Glacier, we will come close to huge icebergs and may also see Ringed Seals, as well as distant views of Musk Oxen on shore. In the evening we sail through the fjord towards Scoresby Land, hoping to see Narwhal again and enjoying the contrast between the warm autumnal colours of the vegetation on shore, backed by huge dark mountains, and the cold blue of the icebergs.
Day 11: In the morning we land at a lagoon near Kap Stewart and walk from there to Kap Stewart, following the banks of a winding river through an autumnal tundra. In the afternoon we land at Illoqqortoormiut, the biggest settlement in the Scoresby Sund with about 500 inhabitants. At the post office you can buy stamps for your postcards, or just wander around to see the sledge dogs and the drying skins of Seal, Musk Ox and Polar Bear. After dinner we will sail south passing the amazing landscape of the Blosseville Coast.
Day 12: We are the whole day at sea and will have splendid opportunities to see large whales and seabird migration and, in the night, the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
Day 13: Arrive in Akureyri (North Iceland) and transfer for the flight home, or take a bus to Reykjavik.
Note: Please inquire for different cabin rates.
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