Spitsbergen, Norway Polar Bears on Pack Ice
Set Sail on the Most Environmentally Friendly, New, Polar Vessel
Dates: June 3-10, 2021
Details: 5 Spots MAXIMUM
Time in the Field: 7 days total
Designed for avid photographers (from enthusiast to pro) to get gallery-worthy images of polar bears on pack ice in the Arctic, along with other birds and wildlife native to the area. You don’t have to be a photographer to join, but you must want to spend time in the field with wildlife.
The Arctic is a special and fragile place, where polar bears fight to survive against climate change. On one of the newest, most environmentally friendly ships serving the area, we’ll search for the great white bear on pack ice along the famous fjords while enjoying the presence of other species, including walruses, arctic fox, whales (minke, beluga, blue, humpback), bearded seals, and reindeer. Unlike our other polar bear tours, this tour offers the chance to view a variety of animals, birds, and terrain.
Our Ship and Accommodations:
We set sail on the m/v Hondius with a conscience toward our impact on the planet. The vessel is a Polar Class 6 cruise ship, exceeding the latest green requirements of the Polar Code, with LED lighting, steam heating, bio-degradable paints and lubricants, and state-of-the-art power management systems to lower CO2 levels. The Hondius represents the most flexible, advanced, innovative touring vessel in the polar region. This is a “small-boat” cruise with 80 cabins total. Prices for this tour start with a Twin / Window shared berth as shown below. We’ll use Zodiacs to go ashore and do some trekking and/or to get closer to the polar bear action.
Day 1: Largest town, biggest island
You touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling around this former mining town, whose parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.
Day 2: Route to Raudfjorden
Sailing to Raudfjorden, on the north coast of Spitsbergen, you take in an expansive fjord spilling with glaciers – and maybe even visited by ringed and bearded seals. The cliffs and shoreline of this fjord also support thriving seabird colonies, rich vegetation, and the possibility of polar bears.
Day 3: The massive Monaco Glacier
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen can be implemented.
Day 4: Highlights of Hinlopen
Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded seals, ringed seals, and polar bears. At the entrance there is even the possibility to spot blue whales. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you can view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may attempt a landing on Nordaustlandet. Here reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. You can take an alternate route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen.
Day 5: Stop at the Seven Islands
The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet, in the Seven Islands. Here you reach 80° north, just 870 km (540 miles) from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice before wheeling around west again.
Day 6: Sailing the continental shelf
While retracing your route west, keep watch for polar bears and elusive Greenland (bowhead) whales. About 40 nautical miles west of Spitsbergen, you sail the edge of the continental shelf. Here fin whales forage during the summer in the upwelling zones (where cold, nutrient-rich water wells up from below the sea’s surface) that run along the Spitsbergen banks. At the mouth of Kongsfjorden, you have a good chance of sighting minke whales.
Day 7: Reindeer, foxes, and so many seabirds
Walruses sometimes haul out in Forlandsundet, your next stop. Alternatively, you might sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these cliffs, Arctic foxes search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and reindeer graze the sparse vegetation. You arrive in Longyearbyen later at night.
Day 8: There and back again
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Photography and Astro Navigation:
In addition to shadowing professional photographer and Wild Departures tour leader, Michelle Theall, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from another photo expert assigned to the ship for other workshop options on board and ashore. Or, you can learn something new by taking an introductory workshop to astro navigation with sextant! The astro navigation workshops and talks are led by speaker Dr.-Ing. Lothar Kurtze is Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, London. He is a volunteer project coordinator of the Faulkes Telescope Projects in Germany and Austria and is committed to astronomical education. In Weinheim (Baden-Württemberg) he runs a small private observatory and in his free time he is sometimes a guest lecturer for astronomy on expedition ships in the Arctic and Antarctic. His main job is mechanical engineering in Salzburg.
SPACE IS LIMITED AND FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED.
NOTE: Pricing starts with mid-level, shared berth twin-window cabin room. Other options can be quoted at your request.
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