Day 2-4 Svalbard Archipelago
- 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
Over the next three days, the Svalbard Archipelago is yours to explore. Your experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day. This allows for the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Because you are so far north you will experience nearly 24 hours of daylight and the days can be as busy as you wish. You will generally make landings or Zodiac excursions a few times a day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface, making landings for hikes. There are many exciting places the expedition team can choose to visit; a sample of some of the places where your expedition leader may choose to land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife and scenery include:
Alkhornet, at the northern entrance of Isfjorden, is a striking landmark. The landscape around this large bird cliff is lush and beautiful. East of Alkhornet you can find a deep and several kilometer long bay with an exciting and diverse history. Here you will find important and vulnerable cultural remains dating from several of Svalbard’s historical periods.
Kongsfjorden (Kings Bay)
Kongsfjorden and the surrounding country are known to be one of the most beautiful fjord areas in Svalbard. The fjord is headed by two giant glaciers, Kronebreen and Kongsvegen. Hike on the lush tundra amongst the summer flowers and observe the remarkable bird cliffs near the 14th July Glacier, where even a few puffins nest between the cracks in the cliffs.
Nordvesthjørnet and Raudfjorden
It was here, in the far north-west, that Willem Barentsz and his crew discovered new land on June 17, 1596. They described the land as being “rugged for the most part, and steep, mostly mountains and jagged peaks, from which we gave it the name of Spitsbergen”. In the centuries that followed, the large number of bowhead whales found here attracted whalers from the Netherlands and various other countries, and the area became a place of high activity, both on the shore and in the surrounding sea. This is why Nordvesthjørnet offers the largest concentration of graves, blubber ovens and other cultural treasures on Spitsbergen, all dating back to this first era of the exploitation of Svalbard’s natural resources.
Cruise northwards along the west coast of Spitsbergen, visiting intriguing places like Magdalenefjorden, located inside the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. According to historical sources, Magdalenefjorden was first used by the English in the early days of the whaling era. They erected a land station on the headland and named the area Trinity Harbour. The station was closed in 1623, but the cemetery remained in use.
The name “Smeerenburg” means “Blubber Town”. Its whaling station served as the main base for Dutch whaling in the first half of the 17th century, which was the period when whale hunting was still happening along the coastline and in the fjords of Svalbard. Smeerenburg is situated on the island of Amsterdamøya, surrounded by fjords, tall glacier fronts and steep, rugged mountains. The most obvious sign of its days as a whaling station are the large cement-like remains of blubber from ovens where the blubber was boiled. The rest of the old Smeerenburg has largely disappeared under layers of sand.
Woodfjorden, Liefdefjorden and Bockfjorden
Located along the north coast, Woodfjorden, Liefdefjorden and Bockfjorden are rarely-visited places. This is the land of contrasts. By the large, flat Reinsdyrflya there is a great fjord system that stretches towards several mountain ridges of varying shapes and ages, including alpine summits of very old granite, majestic red mountains of
Moffen Island is situated directly north of 80°N. After the near-extinction of walrus in Svalbard in the middle of the 20th century, Moffen Island played an important role in re-establishing the species here, a process which is still going on. Today, there are often larger numbers of walrus hauled out at the southern tip of the island. This is the reason why Moffen is protected. Approach during the summer (15th May to 15th September) is limited to a minimum distance of 500 metres / 1,640 feet.
Sjuøyane (Seven Islands)
In the very north of Svalbard, in the ocean north of Nordaustlandet, is the little archipelago of Sjuøyane (the seven islands), with its characteristically hat-shaped mountains. The hard granite mountains have acquired a green covering of moss due to thousands of breeding seabirds. Walrus dive for clams in the waters between the islands and in the bays. Most of the islands have been named after the English North Pole expeditions led by Phipps (1773) and Parry (1827).
Day 5-6 Greenland Sea
- 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
As you cruise west across the Greenland Sea – the main outlet of the Arctic Ocean – you may encounter whales feeding in the productive waters of the north. Sightings of fin whales are common and blue whales have been seen in more recent years. As the ship begins to approach Greenland you will likely encounter the East Greenland pack ice, and if you are lucky you will see polar bears hunting for prey. The strong icy currents have isolated East Greenland from the Polar Basin, attracting large numbers of fish, seals and whales. Climatic conditions and the concentration of ice in the vicinity often create thick morning fog that vanishes with the onset of the midday sun. Your experts will inform and entertain you with fascinating discussions on plants, animals, ice, and early explorers like Nansen, Andree and Scoresby.
Conditions permitting, there may be a chance for kayakers to launch their sea kayaks and the rest of the group to cruise in the sea ice with Zodiacs. Perhaps if you have had a good crossing, you may even have the opportunity to make your first landing on the Greenland coast, weather permitting. This stretch of coastline is ripe for exploration, with its many secrets locked in place by drift ice for up to eight months each year. Home to polar bear, snowy owl and musk ox, it’s the world’s largest national park, covering 972,000 square kilometers; most of which is inland ice and the rest a composite fjord landscape.
Day 7-11 East Coast of Greenland
- 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners
The ship will attempt to enter Kaiser Franz Joseph Fjord a remote and rarely visited fjord system with countless opportunities for exploration within the Northeast Greenland National Park. While cruising through Kong Oskar Fjord marvel at the geological beauty of the mountains and land in a few places to explore the landscape and wildlife of Greenland. Head to south along the coast of Liverpool Land but the passage depends on ice conditions. Then reaching the Scoresbysund, the world’s largest fjord and favorite hunting ground of the local Inuit. Massive glaciers dump into this fjord, the birthplace of the famous big Greenland icebergs. You can hope to visit the remote Inuit community of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresby Town) and to hike across the tundra in search of ancient graveyards and summer villages occupied 3,000 years ago by Paleo-Eskimos. Scoresbysund offers many opportunities for walking cruising and kayaking so we will spend our days exploring the land, the ice and the sea.
Day 12 Denmark Strait
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In the Denmark Strait, the ship sails towards Iceland. Keep a lookout for whale blows and the many seabirds that trail your ship in the ever-present Arctic winds. Enjoy the time to reflect on your recent adventures, share and exchange photos, and soak in the fresh ocean air. As you near Iceland, you will find you are returning to the rest of the world as you encounter fishing vessels working the coastal waters