Longyearbyen to Longyearbyen
Aboard MV Plancius
- Plancius - 8 Days
18 - 25 Jun 2012Not Available
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During this voyage, in the early Arctic summer, we focus on the spectacular fjords and islands of North Spitsbergen, which offer abundant bird life and the chance of encounters with walruses, reindeer, ringed and bearded seals and with luck, polar bears. Ice conditions permitting, our aim is to reach the Hinlopen Strait and Nordaustlandet, the second largest island in the group, covered in part by vast ice sheets. This frozen world has a lure of its own and our exploration has a pioneering feel to it. Ringed by high mountains and shimmering glaciers, these northern bays and fjords offer outstanding scenery to complement the wildlife. Smeerenburg and Danskoya are of great archaeological interest with remains of 17th century whaling activities and 19th century polar exploration, which was for a time centered on Spitsbergen.
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, while in the surrounds of Longyearbyen, more than 100 species of plant have been recorded. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.
Heading north along the west coast, we arrive by morning in Krossfjorden, where we take to the Zodiacs for an exhilarating cruise along the sculpted front of the 14th of July Glacier. On the surprisingly fertile slopes near the glacier, a colourful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of Kittiwakes and Brünnich's Guillemots nest on the nearby cliffs. There is also a good chance of spotting opportunistic Arctic Foxes, patrolling the base of the cliffs in case a hapless chick falls from its nest, and Bearded Seals, who cruise this scenic fjord. In the afternoon we sail to Ny Ålesund, the world's most northerly settlement. Once a mining village - served by the world's most northerly railway, which can still be seen - Ny Ålesund is now a research centre. Close to the village is a breeding ground for Barnacle Geese, Pink-footed Geese and Arctic Terns. Visitors interested in the history of Arctic exploration will want to walk to the anchoring mast used by Amundsen and Nobile in the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile in the airship Italia in 1928 before their flights to the North Pole.
Depending on the weather we may now sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many Common Eiders and Pink-footed Geese nest here, and the rarer King Eider may also be seen. We hope to sail into Liefdefjorden, cruising near the 5km long face of the impressive Monaco glacier. The waters of the glacier front are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of Kittiwakes and on previous voyages Polar Bears have been seen on the glacier, providing wonderful opportunities for photography.
Alkefjellet - Palanderbukta
Today we will sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to Bearded Seals, Ringed Seals, Polar Bears, and Ivory Gulls. We'll navigate the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in our zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Brünnich's guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopenstrait, we'll attempt a landing at Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet, home to Reindeer, Pink-footed Geese, breeding Ivory Gulls, and Walruses.
Today we will reach our northernmost point at Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here we will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar Bears inhabit this region, along with Ivory Gulls. We may sit for several hours in the pack ice, taking in our spectacular surroundings and seeing a Ross Gull, before we turn south again.
Retracing our route westwards, we visit Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favoured by Ringed and Bearded Seals. The cliffs and shoreline of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation, which flourishes in sheltered spots. On the offshore island of Ytre Norskøya, we visit a 17th century Dutch whaling site, whose large graveyard is a poignant reminder of the hardships and dangers of life here at the time. The island's bird life is prolific, with colonies of Little Auks, Black Guillemots, Brünnich's Guillemots, Puffins and Arctic Skuas accessible to visitors.
We land at the northern tip of Prins Karls Forland near Fuglehuken, where Barentsz probably set foot on Spitsbergen for the first time. Seabirds nest on the cliffs and along the coast we see Harbour Seals the only population in Spitsbergen. Further we also will observe the remains of the Polar Bear hunting era, with demolished set guns and bear traps. At the opposite site of Forlandsundet at Sarstangen is a haul out place for Walruses. Alternatively we sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden and land at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on its cliffs and Arctic Foxes search the cliff base for fallen eggs and chicks, while Spitsbergen Reindeer graze the relatively luxuriant vegetation. The reindeer may seem unbothered by human presence, but this is not really the case. The animals must survive the harsh winter, when temperatures plummet and food is hard to find, so they preserve what energy they can, fleeing only when it is absolutely necessary. In the afternoon we cruise through beautiful Borebukta, following a glacier front before continuing to Longyearbyen.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home.