Cruise Spitsbergen, arguably the best place on Earth to see Arctic wildlife like polar bears, harp seals, walrus, whales and more. We will be traveling during the height of harp seal rutting season.
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 will sail out of Isfjorden.
We start the day quietly cruising the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to 1,431m, while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name "Spitsbergen"—pointed mountains—to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area and very good chances of encounters with seals and Polar Bear.
At the south side of Bear Island we sail by the largest bird cliffs in the North Atlantic occupied by more than 10 species of seabirds. We make a landing at the 19th century whaling station at Hvalrossbukta.
On Hopen Island is the most remote weather station in the Spitsbergen archipelago, with an always friendly Norwegian crew. Near the station there are several remains of the Polar Bear hunting era and large seabird cliffs. At Kofotodden there are some remain of the 17th century whaling.
We work our way into the sea-ice at the south eastern part of Storfjorden near Tusenøyane, an area teeming with wildlife which feeds at the edges of the ice near their breeding places. Thousands of Harp Seals are laying on the ice here or swimming in the water. It is their rutting time. It is also a good area for bears and Bearded Seals and Walrus.
A second day in the ice of Storfjorden, with more chances for Harp Seals, other seal species and bears. If ice conditions allow we may try to land in the Hambergbukta or Isbukta, an amphitheater of glacier fronts.
If ice conditions allow we will land at Stormbukta with an easily accessible Kittiwake colony in a canyon and warm springs, which do not freeze during winter. Alternatively we land at Palfylodden a Walrus haul out place with the remains of thousands of walruses slaughtered in previous centuries. We sail northward along the Spitsbergen banks, looking for Finn Whales.
Today we land on Ahlstrandhalvøya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden. Here piles of Beluga skeletons (the Beluga is a small white whale), the remains of 19th century slaughter, are yet another reminder of the consequences of thoughtless exploitation. Belugas were not hunted to extinction and may still be seen locally. Cruising into Recherchefjorden during the afternoon we can explore an area of tundra at the head of the fjord where many reindeer feed. Alternatively we sail to a Walrus haul out place at Mariasund or at the western entrance of Fridtjofhamna.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home.
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.