Explore the realm of the polar bear aboard a comfortable ice-class expedition vessel
With a spectacular panorama of ice and water, rugged mountains, and expansive tundra, the Svalbard Archipelago is unequaled in wild splendor. It boasts an impressive array of wildlife and a rich human history (Spitsbergen, the largest island of the archipelago, was known to the Vikings and subsequently visited by whalers, fur traders, and explorers). Our goal on this Arctic expedition (with frequent shore stops) is to hike and to undertake cruises in Zodiacs, often close to sea cliffs and abundant wildlife, which includes polar bears (the stars of the show!), beluga whales, walrus, reindeer, Arctic fox, and a huge array of avian fauna. You'll travel in comfort aboard an ice-strengthened polar expedition ship that is the ideal home base for exploring this remarkable wilderness.
Easy ship travel, optional walks and Zodiac rides, optional sea kayaking
- Fantastic scenery—a wondrous land of rock and ice, and home to a rich range of bird and animal life
- Make the most of the long daylight hours to search for polar bears, walrus, beluga, and other wildlife
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Longyearbyen End Location: LongyearbyenDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen (Svalbard)
Plan to arrive in Longyearbyen, the main town on Spitsbergen, the day before your embarkation and enjoy some time on the first day of the trip to visit the museums and investigate the shops. You will be boarding the ship in the mid afternoon (usually 4pm). Once on board, we get together for introductions to meet the expedition team and learn a bit about the ship and its layout. We also discuss the itinerary and participate in the essential safety and lifeboat drill.
Set sail from Longyearbyen around 6:00 p.m., heading north from Adventfjorden—the first of our fjords—into Isfjorden.
Days 2 - 3 : Krossfjorden and Northwestern Spitsbergen
The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and species. We will anchor
off one small harbour and cruise the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. As we cruise
these waters we will also keep alert for bearded and ringed seals, known to frequent this
Lilliehook Glacier, at the head of Krossfjorden, is a sight to behold. Whether by zodiac or
onboard ship, we will make time to experience this incredible view. Later in the day as we
sail out of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden, we may be fortunate enough to see the airship
anchor pylon near the scientific community of Ny Alesund. Notable pioneer aviators such as
Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd and Nobile all used Ny Alesund as a jumping off point
for their Arctic exploits.
Smeerenburgfjorden has a four hundred year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as we
round the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. A wander along the beach looking at the blubber
cookers, or an hour behind a tripod shooting landscapes, might be on the schedule all the
while looking for wildlife that can appear anywhere in Svalbard.
Days 4 - 5 : Seven Islands and the Polar Pack Ice
We continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80 parallel North. As we
approach the ice edge the ship slows down and all hands get up to the bridge or out on deck
as we start scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals and walrus may be found
hauled out on the ice. Harp seals swim in herds of 10 to 20 through the open water leads in
the ice. A buttery-colored lump miles away on the ice metamorphoses into a polar bear as we
slowly work our way through the ice toward it. Our ship is perfectly designed for near silent
approach to the wildlife on the ice and our captain takes great pride in bringing us in close
enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it.
At 81 degrees north latitude, Phippsoya, one of the Seven Islands, is only 540 nautical miles
from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential
for great polar bear viewing. 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 in the
Days 6 - 8 : Hinlopen Strait and Nordaustlandet
From the ice edge we head south into the strait separating Svalbard’s two main islands:
Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. In Hinlopen Strait the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to
more than a hundred thousand breeding Brunnich’s guillemots, as well as thousands of
kittiwakes and black guillemots. A spectacular site to behold and a challenging one for our
zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Murchison Fjord is a wonderful
place to kayak or cruise as we navigate the waterways between the islands. Short hikes will
take us on to high points with great views, while keeping our eyes open for Arctic wildlife.
Day 9 : Leifdefjorden
As we sail into Leifdefjorden and towards Monaco Glacier, we will keep a look out for beluga
whales along the coast. The adults are pure white and the younger animals a mottled grey.
They are the only whales that can articulate their heads to nod and turn sideways. It is
estimated that there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard
population. The beluga has no dorsal fin, a diagnostic feature of other whale species that live
in the high Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. Since a dorsal fin could be damaged
when the animal surfaces in areas with ice, it has been postulated that the lack of dorsal fin is
an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice.
Monaco Glacier provides a fabulous backdrop for a zodiac cruise. Miles of ice face broken up
by the odd ice cave or tumbling serac with perhaps a thousand black-legged kittiwakes
feeding on the upwelling of nutrients found near the sub-glacial outflow.
A morning of cruising in the ice is best followed by a hike on the tundra. Red phalaropes,
purple sandpipers and vibrant tundra provide plenty of viewing and photography
opportunities. As we walk, the remains of fox traps and sun bleached seal bones speak of
both human interaction and wildlife predation.
Day 10 : Alkehornet
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers stunning views and an incredible tundra walk as we
wrap up our adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer.
Rearing up above the landing site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and
kittiwakes. Only as we approach and stop to listen will we hear the chorus of thousands of
birds, all talking at the same time.
Day 11 : Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen (Svalbard)
As our last morning aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, we enjoy a hearty breakfast and prepare to disembark shortly thereafter.
DATES: Best time to go: June - July Departures: Jun 3 - 13, 2015 Note: this trip is only 10 days long and ends on June 12 Jul 3 - 13, 2015 Special Photography departure!! Jul 13 - 23, 2015 Note: this trip is only 10 days long and ends on July 22 Jul 22, 2015 - Aug 1, 2015
(All prices are per person in US$):
June 3-12 and July 13-22 (10-day trip):
July 3-13 and July 22-August 1 (11-day trip):
$695 Optional Sea Kayaking (limited space, must be reserved at time of booking)
Akademik Sergey Vavilov
The 92-passenger Akademik Sergey Vavilov is modern and comfortable. Scandinavian-built for the Russian Academy of Science, the Vavilov was designed to travel quietly during hydro-acoustic research. The ship is maneuverable and yet exceptionally stable, due to external stabilizers and a built-in trimming system. Akademik Sergey Vavilov has an ice-strengthened hull and a cruising speed in open water of 14.5 knots. This expedition ship is the ideal base for polar adventure trips.
From small group sessions to briefings for all passengers, the public spaces onboard the ship are ideally suited for each and every need. A separate bar and lounge located on Deck 6, as well as a library, provide ideal places to relax or catch up on some reading. A selection of movies and documentaries can also be watched in the lounge.
The ship’s bridge is located on Deck 6 and is open to passengers virtually 24-hours a day. The chart room is a fascinating place to visit and expedition staff or ship’s crew are often available to answer questions about the equipment and instruments found on the bridge. In addition, the bridge is an excellent place to view wildlife from. Binoculars and wildlife identification guidebooks are available.
One dining room with unreserved seating.
Theatre-style presentation room.
Lounge and bar, open late afternoon and evening with a wide selection of wines and spirits.
Library with a collection of polar-themed books.
Ship-to-shore communications via satellite.
Clinic with licensed doctor.
Gym, sauna and swimming pool.
One elevator between passenger deck levels and to the Bridge level.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way. These trips are often led by:
Aaron Lawton developed the Polar program for One Ocean Expeditions (our partner in the Polar Regions), bringing a strong commitment to conservation in the Polar Regions to his work in operations development. An avid paddler, Aaron has been paddling or rowing some form of human-powered boat for most of his life. His experience encompasses wilderness guiding and instruction by canoe and sea kayak, varsity rowing and most recently a passion for Hawaiian-style outrigger canoe racing. Thousands of miles on the water have given him an appreciation and awareness for the subtle changes in the ocean due to local weather and global climate patterns. Aaron is truly Canadian having lived in the mountains of the Yukon Territory, among the wheat fields of Manitoba, in the orchards of Southern Ontario and along the briny coast of Nova Scotia, all by the ripe old age of twelve. Continuing this passion for new places, Aaron has worked in the outdoor industry on six of the seven continents. Over the last decade, Aaron has been expedition leader or kayak guide on about a hundred trips to the Canadian Arctic, the Antarctic Peninsula and Svalbard. In 2001, Aaron and his wife Cathy embarked on a 10-night unassisted sea kayak expedition along the Antarctic Peninsula. Aaron holds a degree in forestry from the University of British Columbia. This has led to a real appreciation for and understanding of ecology and the connectivity of ecosystems.
Andrew is the Managing Director of One Ocean Expeditions Inc. (our partner in the Polar Regions) and brings his passion for polar regions and their conservation into any discussion he can. An adventurer in his own right, Andrew is an accomplished ocean racing sailor. He led a team that won a race across the Atlantic Ocean in a 30-foot sailboat; he has sailed around Cape Horn in a Southern Ocean gale and competitively raced yachts and high performance dinghies all over the world. Andrew is also a published photographer and an avid snowboarder, spending his quiet time in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Andrew grew up on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada and has brought his East Coast sense of humor with him all along the way. After earning a degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, he played a strategic planning role for a major Canadian player in the transportation industry. With around five years in the corporate world under his belt but searching for a life of meaning, Andrew decided to "run away to sea". What started as a three-month commitment to manage a ship transformed itself into a very successful entrepreneurial career in expedition cruising where he could apply his experience and his passion. With a reputation for innovation and attention to detail, Andrew has become well known in the expedition cruise industry for the high quality expedition cruise programs he develops. He is also noted for his attention to vital areas of safety and his commitment to environmental protection.