Spitsbergen, the land of the Polar Bear, is an Arctic archipelago about 650 kilometers (400 miles) north of Norway and only a 1000 kilometers (600 miles) south of the North Pole. It is by far the largest wilderness area of Europe and offers some of the finest scenery and wildlife experiences in the world. Its rugged mountains and rolling tundra offer plenty of opportunities for hikers, climbers and skiers while the often ice-covered seas are great for polar diving while on an Arctic expedition cruise aboard the Plancius.
Watch seals and walrus haul out onto ice floes at the mouths of the fjords
Walk over the gentle hills of Spitsbergen's tundra as reindeer graze nearby
Explore Raudfjord, a fjord with great glaciers and home to the bearded seal
Sail through Forlandsundet watching for walruses and harbor seals
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 sails out of Isfjorden.
Sailing to Raudfjorden, on the north coast of Spitsbergen, you take in an expansive fjord spilling with glaciers – and maybe even visited by ringed and bearded seals. The cliffs and shoreline of this fjord also support thriving seabird colonies, rich vegetation, and the possibility of polar bears. In the evening you sail by the island of Moffen, where you can find a large herd of walruses.
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen can be implemented.
Sail through Beverleysundet, named by Parry in 1827 and also sailed by the Swedish-Russian Arc-of-Meridian Expedition in 1898. Push east to reach the area of Nordaustlandet, where the Nobile expedition drifted around in 1928 and where the Italian Sora tried to come to the rescue. There we hope to get to Alpinøya, reached by Sora in 1928, and then to the mouth of Finn Malmgrenfjord, and Albertinibukta and to climb Soraberget (205 M) from where we have a fantastic view on the icecap of Nordaustlandet. Alternatively you may land at Storøya, where again we may meet a group of walrus.
Today reach your journey's northernmost point at Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here you are at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, along with Ivory gulls.
Walruses sometimes haul out in Forlandsundet, your next stop – though this late in the season, they may have already departed. Alternately, you might sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these cliffs, Arctic foxes search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and reindeer graze the sparse vegetation. You arrive in Longyearbyen later that night.
Day 8: Disembark in Longyearbyen
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Kate was great to work with in the planning stage. She was prompt, helpful, and efficient. Our tour guide, Edwin, was knowledgeable and passionate. We were very happy to have traveled with Adventure Life, it made the trip easy and a true pleasure. We could concentrate on enjoying the experience rather than the details of travel.