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, arrive by morning in Krossfjorden, where you will take to the Zodiacs for an exhilarating cruise along the sculpted front of the 14th of July Glacier. On the surprisingly green slopes near the glacier, a colorful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the nearby cliffs. There is also a good chance of spotting opportunistic Arctic foxes, who patrol the base of the cliffs in case a hapless chick falls from its nest, and bearded seals, who cruise this scenic fjord.
In the afternoon 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 geese, pink-footed geese and Arctic terns. 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.
Near the mouth of Liefdefjorden, go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many common eiders and pink-footed geese nest here, and the more rare king eider may also be seen. Sailing into Liefdefjorden, cruise near the face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier front are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and occasionally polar bears are seen on the glacier.
Today reach our northernmost point at Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here you will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, along with ivory gulls. Sit for several hours in the pack ice, taking in our spectacular surroundings and seeing a ross gull, before turning south again.
Visit Laagøya today, a low island with a big lagoon where a big herd of walrus tends to congregate. Sabine’s gulls nest on the island, as well. At Sorg Fjord you may find another herd of walruses not far from the graves of 17th century whalers. On a nature walk, you may encounter families of ptarmigans.
Today sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded seals, ringed seals, polar bears, and ivory gulls. Navigate the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in your zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopenstrait, attempt a landing at Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet, home to reindeer, pink-footed geese, breeding ivory gulls, and walruses.
In Freemansundet plan to land at Sundneset on the island of Barentsøya to visit an old trapper's hut and then take a brisk walk across the tundra in search of Spitsbergen reindeer and barnacle geese. Later cruise south to Diskobukta on the west side of Edgeøya. After a Zodiac cruise through the shallow bay, land on a beach littered with whale bones and tree trunks, which have drifted here from Siberia. You can also climb to the rim of a narrow gully which is inhabited by thousands of kitttiwakes, together with black guillemots and piratical glaucous ggulls. During the breeding season, the base of the cliffs is patrolled by Arctic foxes and polar bears, especially females with young cubs, searching for young birds that have fallen from the nesting ledges.
Start the day quietly cruising the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to 1,431m while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name ‘Spitsbergen’ - pointed mountains - to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area and very good chances of encounters with seals and polar bears. Visit the Polish research station where the friendly staff will give you insight into their research projects. Behind the station the mountains are home to thousands of pairs of nesting little auks.
Today land on Ahlstrandhalvøya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden. Here piles of beluga skeletons (the beluga is a small white whale), the remains of 19th century slaughter, are yet another reminder of the consequences of thoughtless exploitation.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home.
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|*Please note July 14 and 23, 2015 departures and the July 8,17,and 26, 2016 departures are bilingual English-German guided*|