Today embark your expedition ship in Longyearbyen. Sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. With almost 24 hours of daylight this time of year, enjoy the view from the outer decks. Meet your expedition team during an introductory briefing and then enjoy a welcome dinner in the ship's comfortable dining room.
The rocky shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a variety of different species. Anchor the ship in a small harbor, launch the zodiacs and cruise beneath towering bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. While cruising the dark waters here, be on the lookout for bearded and ringed seals, as both species are known to frequent this fjord.
At the northwestern head of Krossfjorden, Lilliehook Glacier is an incredible sight. The glacier face stretches almost 7 kilometers and has a height of around 80 meters. Viewed from the ship or on a zodiac cruise, you can appreciate the enormous scale of your surroundings.
Later in the day, as you sail out of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden, you may be fortunate enough to see the historic airship anchor pylon near the scientific community of Ny Alesund. This remote outpost earned its place in aviation pioneering history as a starting point for North Pole aviation exploration., Notable pioneer aviators including Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd, and Nobile all passed though Ny Alesund.
Nearby, Smeerenburgfjord has a four-hundred-year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as we round the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. A wander along the beach looking at the blubber cookers, or an hour behind a tripod shooting landscapes on your camera might be on the schedule, all the while looking for wildlife that can appear anywhere in Svalbard.
Continue north and east, moving up into the ice and hoping to cross the 80 degree north parallel. As your ship approaches the ice edge, it slows down and all hands are either on the bridge or out on the outer decks scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals, and walrus may be found hauled out on the edges of the ice. Harp seals swim in herds of 10 to 20 through the open water channels in the ice. A buttery colored lump miles away on the ice metamorphoses into a polar bear as you slowly work your way through the ice toward it. Your ship is perfectly designed for near-silent approach and your Captain takes great pride in bringing you in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it.
At 81 degrees North latitude, Phippsoya - one of the seven islands - is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the permanent ice pack, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. The crew has enjoyed excellent encounters here with the bears in recent seasons. Be sure to get up to the bridge and take a picture of the ship's GPS as it shows this incredibly high polar latitude - welcome to the top of the world!
From the ice edge, turn south into the main strait separating Svalbard's two main islands: Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. In Hinlopen Strait, the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to more than a hundred thousand breeding Brunnich's guillemots, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. It is a spectacular site and a challenging one for the zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as the ship navigates the waterways between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here as well, which take you up to high points that offer staggering views and further opportunities to encounter Arctic wildlife.
Entering Leifdefjorden, the ship slowly cruises toward Monaco Glacier. This vast sweep of ice is more than seven kilometers wide. The crew often encounters beluga whales along the coastline in this vicinity. Teh adults are pure white and the calves are a mottled grey. It is estimated that there are five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population.
Monaco Glacier provides a fabulous backdrop for a zodiac cruise. Miles of ice face broken up by ice caves and tumbling seracs are a sight to behold, as are the thousands of black-legged kittiwakes feeding on the upswelling of rich nutrients found near the sub-glacial outflow. A morning of cruising in the ice is best followed by a hike on the tundra. Red phalaropes, purple sandpipers, and vibrant tundra provide plenty of viewing and photography opportunities. As you explore the landscape on foot, the remains of fox traps and sun-bleached seal bones speak of both human interaction and wildlife predation.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers breathtaking views and an incredible tundra walk as you near the end of your adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer. Towering above the landing site, listen for a chorus of thousands of birds - all singing at the same time. This evening, celebrate your journey with a special dinner attended by the ship's Captain. It is a great time to reflect on a wonderful voyage in this wild and remote corner of the planet.
Arrive in Longyearbyen this morning. Disembark after breakfast and say farewell to your expedition team and fellow passengers. A transfer into town is provided for those choosing to stay a few days. If you are departing today, you have a few hours this morning to explore the town before transferring to the airport for your onward flights.