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Sun shining on the ice

Sailing North of 80° to the Russian Arctic

Example 15 Day Cruise aboard MS Spitsbergen
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Remote Franz Josef Land has always attracted hardy adventurers, and now you can set foot on the ice were Nansen and Johansen spent the winter, watch for polar bears wandering in their natural environment, and feel the cool Arctic from the North Pole just a few miles away.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Tromsø, Norway
Day 2 : Sørøya
Day 3 : Murmansk
Days 4-5 : At sea
Days 6-10 : Franz Josef Land
Days 11-12 : At sea
Day 13 : Murmansk
Day 14 : Skarsvåg
Day 15 : Tromsø, Norway

Highlights

  • Experience wild and rarely visited historic Franz Josef Land
  • Discover the stunning Sørøya ‒ the fourth-largest island in Norway
  • Great chance of sighting walrus and polar bears
  • Enjoy a Russian experience in the port of Murmansk

Ship

MS Spitsbergen

Places Visited

Activities

Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level

Relaxed

Trip Snapshots

Sun shining on the ice The northern lights dance over the Arctic landscape Mysterious natural round stones of Franz Josef Land Franz Josef Land scenery Scattered houses of Tromso

Day 1 Tromsø, Norway

Your voyage begins, as so many great explorations have, in Tromsø. Spend some time exploring the city before embarking  MS Spitsbergen. Tromsø is a city with many great attractions but it is also easy to escape from the metropolis if you seek a little wilderness. One way is to take the Fjellheisen cable car to the top of Fløyfjellet Mountain (1,867 feet) and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, mountains, and fjords. For inspiration for the upcoming expedition, visit the Polar Museum, where you can learn more about early exploration history and those who bravely ventured into the ice. 

Day 2 Sørøya

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Sørøya ‒ the fourth-largest island in Norway ‒ has a great deal of wilderness and few inhabitants. We will go ashore on this scenic island with a dramatic, exposed coastline to visit one of the roadless fishing settlements, or, if weather permits, do some hiking in this relatively easy terrain to get some fantastic views. 

Day 3 Murmansk

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Welcome to Russia!  Murmansk is a young city, founded in 1916, and the largest city found north of the Arctic Circle. The origins of Murmansk lie in the need for a northern seaport, and the marine industry is still the dominant industry today.

Make a short stop here before we head north. 

Day 4-5 At sea

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Your expedition team and their Russian colleagues will prepare you for our landings ahead with a series of briefings and a chance to learn about the history and wildlife of Franz Josef Land.   

Keep a lookout for the first ice floes as you sail ever farther north.  Perhaps enjoy a visit to your state-of-the-art gym, or simply relax in the Panorama Lounge.

Day 6-10 Franz Josef Land

  • Ship
  • 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners
It is likely that the early Pomors or Norwegian sealers knew of Franz Josef Land, but the first recorded landing among the 192 islands making up the archipelago was made in 1873 by the Admiral Tegetthoff sailing vessel.  They found wide beaches, steep cliffs with nesting seabirds attended by Arctic foxes, polar bears, and walrus. 

Find much of the same.  The exact sequence and choice of our landings will be decided by the captain and expedition leader, who will take advantage of the ice and weather conditions as we find them. 

Possible landing sites include:
Bell Island is mostly ice-free in the summer months and we may be able to undertake a beach clean-up here to help remove some of the discarded fishing equipment and other garbage that poses a threat to the wildlife of the island.  At Bell Island, we find the remains of the oldest building on Franz Josef Land, left by a British expedition in 1880.  In return, the same expedition took a polar bear back to the London Zoo! 

Cape Flora on Northbrook Island earns its name from the copious fertilization provided by thousands of seabirds that nest on the cliffs.  We hope to see Brünnich’s guillemots and black-legged kittiwakes. It was here that Fridtjof Nansen, having survived an unexpected winter in a tent, met by chance – and was rescued – by Fredrick Jackson, in June of 1896.

Tikhaya Buchta, or ‘Calm Bay’, is the location where a team of meteorologists from the Russian Sedov station were marooned at the beginning of the Second World War.  They were not rescued until 1945!  We hope to stay for the day to discover a little of the history here, and listen to the laughter-like calls of the little auks as they fly to and from their burrows in the scree slopes.

The Rubini Rock bird cliff lies just off Calm Bay and is perfect for cruising around.  The cylindrical island is a volcanic plug, the remains of conical volcano.  Its sheer sides of red basalt rise 242 feet from the sea and form the best birds cliffs in the archipelago.
Cape Norvegia on Jackson Island holds special significance for us as this was the spot where in September of 1895 Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen arrived and prepared to overwinter.  Using just a few stones and his tent he made a crude hut, and he successfully survived until the following summer, with Hjalmar Johansen, when they resumed their journey southward.

The ‘Devil’s Marbles’ are found at Cape Triest on Champ Island.  Officially called ‘geodes’, these spherical rock formations are created by accumulation of chemicals within the rock strata – and they can be up to 6 feet in diameter! Keep an eye open for walrus in the water or hauled out on the beach as we head ashore in our small, sturdy explorer boats.

Alexandra Land is the westermost island (not counting the tiny, far flung Victoria Island), and home to the headquarters of the Russian Arctic National Park, which includes Franz Josef Land.  During the Second World War, the Germans tried – and failed – to establish a weather station here.

Day 11-12 At sea

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Willem Barents was attempting to find the Northeast Passage when he accidentally discovered our next destination instead.  In 1596 he sailed to Svalbard, naming it 'Spitsbergen' for the pointed mountains he found. As you sail over the sea named for him, enjoy a relaxing day on board by enjoying the hot tubs on deck or taking part in one of the lectures presented by the expedition team.

Day 13 Murmansk

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Return to Murmansk, and you will have time to explore the city. Overlooking the port is a 115 foot statue of a Russian soldier known as Alyosha. This statue is a memorial to the Russian soldiers who fought in World War II.

You might like to visit the church of the Savior on Waters.This gold-domed church built in 2002 from public donations, is part of a memorial complex dedicated to the memory of Murmansk's seamen who perished in peacetime. Just below the church is the lighthouse monument, and next to it is part of the ill-fated submarine Kursk.

Day 14 Skarsvåg

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Skarsvåg is a small village that lies along the northern coast of the island of Magerøya. It claims the distinction of being the world's northernmost fishing village. Join the optional excursion to the North Cape and discover what it’s like to stand at the end of the Earth. There is a combined museum and restaurant at the plateau where you can learn more on the early expeditions to North Cape and watch a panoramic film that takes you through the four seasons of the Norway coast in this landscape full of contrasts and breathtaking scenery. North Cape is a spectacular place to experience the midnight sun. 

Day 15 Tromsø, Norway

  • 1 Breakfast
Unfortunately, every great explorer's journey comes to an end. It may seem as though the time flew by too quickly. We have traveled where few others have gone, just a few hundred miles from the Geographical North Pole. 

MS Spitsbergen

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YA (Inside Cabin)
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J (Outside Cabin)
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N (Outside Cabin)
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O (Outside Cabin)
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P (Outside Cabin)
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QJ (Outside Cabin)
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U (Outside Cabin)
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MG (Grand Suite)
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MX (Owner's Suite)
Two rooms with a double bed, seating area, dining table, TV, mini bar, kettle, coffee/tea, stereo, shower, w/c, private balcony

Notes

INCLUDED IN YOUR EXPEDITION:
  • Expedition cruise in the cabin grade of your choice on a full-board basis
  • Wind- and water-resistant jacket
  • Landings with small boats and activities on board and ashore
  • Professional English-speaking expedition team that gives lectures as well as accompanies landings and activities
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR EXPEDITION:
  • International flights
  • Travel protection plan
  • Luggage handling
  • Optional excursions and gratuities
Payment & Cancellation Policies
Kassandra Miller
Kassi M

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The trip was terrific with great planning on your part. Most of the adventures were not mainstream and somewhat off the beaten path which made it especially enjoyable!! We felt taken care of and you all were readily available to respond to questions and issues. I would highly recommend your company and friends have already expressed interest based on our pictures and excitement.
Gale Cantor

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