Embark the expedition cruise vessel, Akademik Sergey Vavilov, in Longyearbyen and sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. On board, meet for an introductory briefing and then adjourn to the dining room for your first meal aboard.
The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and species. Anchor off one small harbor and cruise the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. Keep alert for bearded and ringed seals, known to frequent this fjord.
Lilliehook Glacier, at the head of Krossfjorden, is a sight to behold. Whether by zodiac or onboard ship, time is made to experience this incredible view. Later in the day, as you sail out of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden, you may be fortunate enough to see the airship anchor pylon near the scientific community of Ny Alesund. Notable pioneer aviators such as Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd, and Nobile all used Ny Alesund as a jumping off point for their Arctic expeditions.
Smeerenburgfjorden has a four hundred year 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 might be on the schedule all the while looking for wildlife that can appear anywhere in Svalbard.
Continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80th parallel North. Bearded seals, ringed seals, and walrus may be found hauled out on the ice. Harp seals swim in herds of 10 to 20 through the open water leads 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 to get a closer. The ship is perfectly designed for a near-silent approach to the wildlife on the ice and the captain takes great pride in bringing you in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it.
At 81 degree north latitude, Phippsoya, one of the seven islands, is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. Be sure to get up to the bridge and take a picture of the GPS showing your latitude - or better yet, bring along your own handheld GPS and mark this extreme waypoint.
From the ice edge, head south into the 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 blake guillemots. A spectacular sight to behold and a challenging one for our zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as the ship navigates the waterways between islands. Short hikes take you to high points with great views - be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Arctic wildlife!
As you sail into Leifdefjorden and towards Monaco Glacier, keep a look out for beluga whales along the coast. The adults are pure while and the younger animals are mottled grey. They are the only whales that can articulate their heads to nod and turn sideways. It is estimated that there are approximately 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 the odd ice cave or tumbling serac with perhaps a thousand black-legged kittiwakes feeding on the upwelling of 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 walk, the remains of fox traps and sun-bleached seal bones speak of both human interaction and wildlife predation.
At the mouth of Isfjord, Alkehornet offers stunning views and an incredible tundra walk to perfectly wrap up your adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer. Rearing up above the landing site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and kittiwakes. This evening celebrate your journey with a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain. It's a great time to reflect on a wonderful voyage in this wild and remote place.
Enjoy a hearty breakfast on your last morning on board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov and prepare to disembark. Transfer to town if you are staying additional days, or if you are departing today transfer to the airport to continue your travels.