Location: Spitsbergen (Arctic Norway)
Destination: Spitsbergen Cruises
Starting at: $0
Climb aboard the expedition ship Akademik Vavilov and cruise the pristine waters of Spitsbergen, where we explore fjords, glaciers and rugged coastlines in search of polar bears, whales, seals and other wildlife.Contact us about this trip Share
Embarkation aboard the expedition cruise vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov in Longyearbyen. We sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. On board, we meet for an introductory briefing and then adjourn to our dining room for our first meal aboard.
The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and species. We anchor off one small harbor and cruise the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. As we cruise these waters, we also keep alert for bearded and ringed seals, known to frequent this fjord. During the afternoon we cross Kongsfjord from Krossfjorden to the town site of Ny Ålesund, a former mining village and currently the world's most northern community. Founded by the Kings Bay Kull Company A/S in 1916, Ny Ålesund operated as a coal mine sporadically until coal mining was ended in 1962. Since then, the community has become the site of numerous international polar science institutes.
Ny Ålesund earned its place in aviation pioneering history as a jumping off place for North Pole aviation exploration. Notable pioneer aviators such as Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd and Nobile all used Ny Ålesund and the airship anchor pylon for Amundsen and Nobile is still in place today.
Tucked into the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen, Ruadfjord offers an excellent place to hike, zodiac cruise and kayak. Our excursion will be in search of reindeer ashore and ringed and bearded seals adrift. For those interested in the tundra vegetation, especially the wildflowers, select spots along the shoreline of this fjord make for excellent hiking and interpretation.
Dividing the eastern side of the Svalbard archipelago from the western side, Hinlopen Strait is full of wildlife. The water that flushes through this strait each day is rich in phyto and zooplankton, nourishing the thick-billed murre colony at Aklefjellet, on the western shore of Hinlopen Strait. More than 120,000 pairs of murres nest on these cliffs each summer. The water moving through Hinlopen Strait each day also brings the sea ice and our access into the area is dictated by the ice conditions of the day. Exploring the sea ice generally brings us into much closer contact with polar bears and our captain will work with our expedition team to maximize the viewing potential.
We would be hard pressed to call it expedition cruising if we didn't work our way into the ice edge. The senior officers on our capable vessel, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, are experienced ice navigators who will examine the ice edge and, where conditions allow, move the ship into the ice in search of wildlife. A day or even two days spent in the ice requires all hands on deck. Warm jackets, binoculars and spotting scopes are standard and all eyes are engaged in looking for wildlife. And what are we expecting to see? Perhaps a herd of harp seals splashing through the leads between ice flows, a solitary bearded seal soaking up the sun, walrus and, of course, the mighty polar bear. We'll reach our furthest north at around 80 degrees north latitude. Be sure to get up to the bridge and take a picture of the GPS showing your latitude or, better yet, take your own handheld GPS with you and mark the waypoint.
No trip along the north coast of Spitsbergen would be complete without a visit to Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier). A wide glacier face at the head of the fjord makes for spectacular paddling and zodiac cruising. The coastal plain near the mouth of Liefdefjorden makes for superb hiking and is often a great place to spot polar bears.
As our zodiacs approach the shore of Fuglesangenoya, it becomes apparent there are thousands of nesting birds on this island. Home to a large dovekie colony, the formation of these islands allow for excellent viewing without impacting upon the perimeter of the colony. Just a few miles from Fuglesangen is the former whaling station of Smeerenburg, literally translated as Blubber Town. As we hike the shoreline of this former whaling station, we learn about the importance of whaling in the discovery and exploration of the Svalbard archipelago, a harsh industry in a harsh environment. The blubber ovens are all that is left as a testament of this historic whaling site.
Alkehornet, or ‘The Horn' is an incredible horn-shaped mountain close to the entrance of Isfjorden (Ice Fjord). Home to a massive colony of Brünnich's guillemots and black legged kittiwakes, and host to reindeer and Arctic fox, this is an incredible summary of our Arctic visit. A lush tundra slope below the bird cliffs is rich in Arctic flora and to top it all off, this site has a rich history that will unfold as we hike around the headland.
As our last morning aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, we enjoy a hearty breakfast and prepare to disembark shortly thereafter.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the nature of expedition cruising, itineraries are subject to change due to weather, ice conditions, natural and cultural events, wildlife viewing opportunities and other logistical considerations. In general, a ship's crew will endeavor to complete the itinerary provided, but the ultimate decision lies with the ship's captain and expedition leaders.