If there is such a thing as a “classic Arctic” expedition, this is it. You’ll get all the best of Spitsbergen, by exploring the western edge of the island and venturing to some outlying northern areas home to polar bears and walrus. You’ll come across colonies of seabirds numbering into the thousands and watch for whales in the water. This is the perfect expedition for exploring the “wildlife capital of the Arctic”.
Day 1: Arrive in Oslo
Welcome to Norway! Your arctic voyage begins in Oslo, Norway’s vibrant capital city. You can arrive any time on Day 1 and make your way to your included airport hotel. If you arrive early, there are many museums, restaurants and green spaces to keep you busy. There will be a welcome meeting at 6pm at the hotel, after which, you may wish to join your group and leader for dinner to get to know one and other before the week begins. (D)
Day 2: Oslo to Longyearbyen
This morning, you will transfer to the airport and board your private charter flight to Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen’s largest settlement, where you’ll have some time to explore before boarding the ship. You may want to visit the Svalbard or North Pole museums to learn more about the local history, or perhaps grab a beer at the Svalbard Brewery. After you board the ship and set sail you’ll be able to enjoy great vistas of the mountainous landscape that serves as a backdrop for this historic town. (B, D)
Days 3-11: Around Spitsbergen
Your expedition will explore western Spitsbergen as well as some stunning fjords and outlying islands to the north. From polar deserts to immense glaciers, the natural landscape here is just as varied as the wildlife. You’ll cruise around this magical island located above the Arctic Circle while your Expedition Team searches for wildlife.
Each expedition presents new opportunities and the destinations visited on your voyage will be selected based on the time of year that is best for wildlife viewing, combined with an appreciation of the history and geology of Spitsbergen. Polar bear viewing is very likely with Phippsoya being one of their preferred hunting areas, as the towering cliffs of Alkefjellet provide many free bird egg meals for both them and the Arctic fox. Torellneset and Phippsoya are also great places for walrus photography. These giant pinnipeds of the Arctic create quite a noisy scene as each walrus vies for the best bit of coastline.
If you’re itching to get a little closer to the action, you can book the kayaking option and take an excursion to some of the more isolated pockets of Spitsbergen. Smeerenburg is a great place for snowshoeing, where you can visit a whaler’s memorial erected in 1906. This historical site remembers the whalers who lost their lives in the 17th and 18th centuries while working in extreme Arctic conditions.
There is no shortage of natural beauty in Spitsbergen. The tundra can be surprisingly colourful in summer, with wildflowers bursting for a taste of sunshine. Each day you’ll see something new, whether it is a rare bird species or an abandoned site from centuries ago.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES IN SVALBARD
This cliff is a seabird centre, where Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres) raise their young. An estimated 100,000 breeding pairs reside in the basalt cliffs. The birds do not build nests, rather they lay an egg on the bare ledge.
KAPP LEE, EDGEØYA
This area is a well-known walrus haul-out. The pink colour to a walrus’ hide as it lies in the sun is caused by blood pumped to the skin’s surface to aid cooling, like a hippopotamus.
One of the places where you can find the unusual arctic clam, a species that lives for more than a century. The growth rings of a single clam’s shell contain evidence of the chemicals encountered by the clam. Scientists can determine the variations of the water’s temperature and pollutant content by studying the shell.
Eighteen hundred people inhabit the administrative capital of Svalbard, which is situated on the shore of Isfjorden. The settlement was founded in 1905 by John Munroe Longyear, the majority owner of the Arctic Coal Company of Boston.
HSH Prince Albert I of Monaco, a pioneer of oceanography, led an expedition to Svalbard in 1906. His team used sophisticated photographic techniques to understand the shape and position of several glacier fronts. Monaco Glacier honours the expedition, the prince and the principality over which he reigned.
This is the second-largest island in the entire Svalbard Archipelago. The largest glacier in Europe is located on the island, which is a known habitat for reindeer and walrus.
On the western coast, this bay stretches south and east from the Wahlenberg Fjord. This is a typical polar desert where the ‘ice bear’ can sometimes be seen roaming in search of food.
PHIPPSØYA & MARTENSØYA, SEVEN ISLANDS
This small archipelago is the northernmost land in Svalbard. Englishmen left their mark during a survey of the islands in the 1780s. The party named the islands after themselves, with the smallest and least significant island being named Nelsonøya, after the lowly midshipman, who was promoted over the years to the rank and title of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson.
INCLUDED OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES
These activities are offered on some or all departures of this itinerary, depending on weather conditions. There is no additional cost.
SNOWSHOEING – A novel way to experience the beauty of the polar landscape and discover remote alcoves and hidden valleys. The rewards of walking atop the snow are well worth the effort, as you’ll be able to visit new places that may be inaccessible on foot. This traditional means of transport across the snow comes from the indigenous people of North America. While you can appreciate a connection with the past, the snowshoes used today are much lighter and more forgiving than the old wood-weave snowshoes used during the days of the North American fur trade.
HIKING – Hiking is a great way to appreciate the immense windswept landscapes of the Arctic. The tundra comes alive during the brief arctic summer, with bursts of colour from shrubs and plants that survive in this polar environment. You’ll find each hike is different – exploring communities, shorelines or glaciated landscapes, often on the lookout for wildlife. Your Expedition Team will advise you of the level of activity you can expect prior to each excursion.
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL ACTIVITY
The following Optional Activities are available to participate in. These must be booked in advance (additional costs apply) and spaces are limited.
KAYAKING – A kayaking adventure is the best way to feel at one with the sea. Taken in small groups of maximum 16 people, multiple times per voyage, kayaking adventures are only conducted during calm weather conditions. Kayaking in the polar waters is not suitable for novice kayakers, so beginners interested in kayaking should take an introductory course prior to the voyage, which includes how to do a wet exit. In addition, regardless of your experience, we recommend you take part in some kayaking practise prior to the voyage to ensure that you are comfortable on the water in the icy conditions.
Day 12: Longyearbyen to Oslo
The time to say goodbye has come. This morning, your adventure ends as it began, in the frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen. From here, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your return group charter flight to Oslo. (B)
- Meals: 11 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 11 dinners
- Transport: Expedition cruise ship, Zodiac
Images courtesy of IntrepidGroup