Arrive in Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Spitsbergen archipelago of which West Spitsbergen is the largest island. Before embarking there is an opportunity to stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and Polar Museum are well worth visiting. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.
Heading north along the west coast, we arrive by morning in Krossfjorden, where we board the Zodiacs for a cruise along the faceof the 14th of July Glacier. On the slopes near the glacier, a colourful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of kittiwake and Brünnich’s guillemot nest on the nearby cliffs. There is also a good chance of spotting Arctic fox, patrolling the base of the cliffs in case a chick falls from its nest, and Bearded seal, who cruise this fjord. In the afternoon we sail to Ny Ålesund, the world’s most northerly settlement. Once a mining village - served by the world’s most northerly railway, which can still be seen - Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the village is a breeding ground for Barnacle goose, Pink-footed goose and Arctic tern. Visitors interested in the history of Arctic exploration will want to walk to the anchoring mast used by Amundsen and Nobile, in the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile in the airship Italia in 1928, before their flights to the North Pole.
On the offshore island of Ytre Norskøya, we visit a 17th century Dutch whaling site, whose large graveyard is a reminder of the hardships and dangers of life here at that time. The island’s bird life is prolific, with colonies of Little auk, Black guillemot, Brünnich’s guillemot, puffins and Arctic skua accessible to visitors. Eastward, we visit Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favored by Ringed and Bearded seal. The cliffs and shoreline of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation, which flourishes in sheltered spots.
Spend the whole day in the Raudfjord system, with ample opportunities for kayaking and hiking (with or without snowshoes) on short or long walks (easy, moderate and challenging hikes are on offer).
Depending on the weather we may now sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many Common eider and Pink-footed goose nest here, and the more rare King eider may also be seen. We hope to sail into Liefdefjorden, cruising near the 5km long face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier front are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwake and on previous voyages Polar bear have been seen on the glacier, providing wonderful opportunities for photography. The whole day we will have good opportunities for kayaking, and short (easy) to longer (moderate to challenging) hikes (with or without snowshoes).
At Bockfjord there are warm water springs with colorful sediments, close to the shore and about 10km inland. There we can climb a volcano which erupted some thousands of years ago. This is about the warmest area of Spitsbergen with stands of Cassiope and Dryas vegetation. The shores of Woodfjord are littered with hundreds of large timber logs from Siberia. Another day full of Basecamp activities: kayaking and hiking!
Today we will sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to Bearded Seal, Ringed seal, Polar bear, and Ivory gull. We’ll navigate the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in our zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Brünnich’s guillemot. On the east side of Hinlopenstrait, we’ll attempt a landing at Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet, home to reindeer, Pink-footed goose, breeding Ivory gull, and walrus.
Our northernmost point could be at Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here we will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, along with Ivory gull. We may sit for several hours in the pack ice, taking in our spectacular surroundings and perhaps seeing a Ross gull, before we turn south again.
We land at the northern tip of Prins Karls Forland near Fuglehuken. Seabirds nest on the cliffs and along the coast we see Harbour seal, the only population found in Spitsbergen. Further we also will observe the remains of the Polar bear hunting era, with demolished set guns and bear traps. At the opposite site of Forlandsundet at Sarstangen is a haul out place for walrus. Alternatively we sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden and land at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on its cliffs and Arctic fox search the cliff base for fallen eggs and chicks, while Spitsbergen reindeer graze the relatively luxuriant vegetation. The reindeer may seem unbothered by human presence, but this is not really the case. The animals must survive the harsh winter, when temperatures plummet and food is hard to find, so they preserve what energy they can, fleeing only when it is absolutely necessary. In the afternoon we cruise through beautiful Borebukta, following a glacier front before continuing to Longyearbyen.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport for your flights home or your group charter flight to Brussels, Belgium.