Longyearbyen / EmbarkArrive in Spitsbergen and enjoy a tour of colorful Longyearbyen. Late afternoon sees you warmly welcomed on board Polar Pioneer and enjoying your departure under the Midnight Sun.
North SpitsbergenEarly morning reveals the spectacular aqua-blue ice cliffs of the 14th July Glacier or perhaps the Waggonway Glacier in Magdalenefjorden. Your itinerary depends on weather, snow and ice conditions, and the presence of wildlife. Thanks to the nutrient rich Gulf Stream, temperatures on the rugged west coast are relatively mild, ideal for the many Atlantic puffins and Brünnich’s guillemots that fill the cliffs. Look for bearded seals, with their precious curling whiskers. Up Kingsfjorden you may visit Ny Ålesund, a mining town turned polar research centre and at Amsterdamoya, hike the tundra, alert for reindeer and Arctic fox. Explore remains of a 350-year-old Dutch whaling settlement and learn of an ill-fated ballooning attempt over the North Pole.
Arctic OceanBeluga whales, pack ice and maybe even polar bears feature as you round Spitsbergen’s northwest coast into the Arctic Ocean and turn south into Woodfjorden. Search for ringed, bearded and harp seals and ashore, trappers’s huts, reindeer and Arctic fox. In Leifdefjorden, breeding eider ducks, terns, skuas, glaucous gulls and black-legged kittiwakes, attract polar bears with cubs. Offshore, walrus feed on clams or haulout on beaches, especially on Moffen Island, a walrus sanctuary. With 24-hour daylight, there’s plenty of time to admire many of the tundra’s 164 species of flowering plants, including purple saxifrage, exquisite yellow spider plants and Svalbard poppies. If ice conditions allow, attempt to cross latitude 80° North – a cause for celebration.
Arctic ExploringWelcome to the wild side! Frigid Arctic currents sweep around Spitsbergen's northeast corner, lowering air and sea temperatures, and creating a landscape eroded by severe frost. Even in summer, pack ice could bar the way. Attempt to pass through narrow Hinlopen Strait, between Spitsbergen and austere, ice-capped Nordaustlandet. Your Russian crew and expedition staff use their considerable expertise to reach the region's highlights. Zodiac cruise beneath Alkefjellt, sheer basalt cliffs rising more than 250 metres, literally buzzing with some 200,000 nests of Brünnich's guillemots, possibly with Arctic fox scavenging below. On Torrellneset, approach dozens of sleeping walrus. A true polar desert, the east coast offers walks among stunted glaciers, exposed fossil fields, and tundra, where you will watch for Arctic fox, eider ducks and the elusive Svalbard ptarmigan. Sailing between Barentsøya and Edgeøya, cross polar bear migration routes and may visit Sundneset, a fertile plain covered in green mosses and delicate flowers, including the yellow marsh saxifrage.
South CapeThis is true expedition cruising, where plans are dictated by ice conditions and a desire to explore. If pack ice allows, round South Cape, returning to the world of open water and rugged coastal mountains, and sail north toward Hornsund and Bellsund, deep fjords with remarkable glaciers and wildlife. If ice stops your progress on the east side, your captain will adjust the itinerary, backtrack and delve deeper into the wonders of Spitsbergen’s north and west coasts, including a visit to colonies where hundreds of thousands of little auks nest, darkening the sky as they commute to their fishing grounds.
Longyearbyen / DisembarkA midnight cruise of Isfjorden returns you to Longyearbyen, the end of your spectacular voyage and a transfer to the airport for flight to Oslo.