Day 1 Departure Keflavik - Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Late in the afternoon we board ship in the port of Keflavik, just a short way from Iceland?s international airport. The largest of the North Atlantic islands, Iceland?s volcanoes, icecaps, rugged glaciated mountains, fjords and coastal cliffs and beaches together form one of the most inspiring landscapes on earth. We sail north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, which is crowned by a beautiful snow-capped volcanic cone, 1442m high Snaefellsjokull. In the mellow evening light (at this time of year it is light all night) it is worth staying on deck to watch for whales in this often very productive location.
Day 2 Isafjordur Peninsula - Adalvik - Hornvik
Today we explore the Isafjordur Peninsula, geologically the oldest region in Iceland, its imposing basalt mountains scoured out by Ice Age glaciers. We sail into Adalvik in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Once farmed, this beautiful, sheltered fjord has been deserted for 50 years. As sheep no longer graze here and the human impacts are minimal, fauna and flora thrive on a scale unknown in other parts of Iceland. We continue our voyage by sailing along the Hornstrandir Peninsula, spotting the remains of other farmsteads along the coastline of golden sand beaches set between sheer basalt cliffs. We will land at Hornvik , where we can follow an old path, used by fowlers, to reach the top of 300m high Hornbjarg. From the dizzy heights of this cliff we can marvel at one of the biggest seabird colonies in Iceland, with tens of thousands of Brünnich's Guillemots and Kittiwakes.
Day 3 Grimsey Island - Arctic Circle crossing - Kolbeinsey
We land on Grimsey, an island off the north coast and the only part of Iceland which lies within the Arctic Circle (the Circle crosses the island). The island is home to huge colonies of Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Puffins, Fulmars and Arctic Terns, who far outnumber the human inhabitants. Numbering just 100 and living in the island?s only village, this resourceful farming and fishing community would not dream of moving to the mainland. In the evening we sail across the Arctic Circle and circumnavigate Kolbeinsey, a tiny island north of Grimsey, formed from a submarine eruption.
Day 4 Jan Mayen
On our way to Jan Mayen, situated 300 nautical miles north-east of Iceland, there will be plenty of time to devote to looking for whales - Humpbacks are most likely but as we approach the pack ice, we may also encounter Minke Whales, who can sometimes be quite curious and approach boats such as ours. We should also see Harp Seals.
Day 5 Jan Mayen - Kvalrossbukta
Jan Mayen is a volcanic island of breathtaking beauty and mystique, dominated by Mt Beerenberg. From the slopes of the 2300m volcano, impressive glaciers spill into the sea. Until recently, the island was off-limits as it is a military base, and was rarely visited by tourists, but with permission from the Norwegian authorities we hope to visit the weather station. We will also walk across the island to Kvalrossbukta to look at the remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station and a substantial colony of Fulmars.
Day 6 & 7 At Sea
We spend two days at sea, looking out for whales, dolphins and seals, and a variety of seabirds.
When we approach the sea-ice at the southern tip of Spitsbergen we may also encounter moulting Harp Seals.
Day 8 Bear Island
At Bear Island we visit the remains of a whaling station active from 1905-1908 in Kvalrossbukta. Arctic Skuas and Great Skuas can be seen during a walk across the desolate hills and tundra. The weather will decide whether we then sail along the west coast, where we can visit one of the largest seabird colonies in the North Atlantic teeming with Little Auks, Brünnichs Guillemots, Common Guillemots and Kittiwakes. Alternatively we will sail along the east coast to visit Tunheim, an abandoned mining settlement.
Day 9 Spitsbergen - Stormbukta
When we approach the sea-ice at the southern tip of Spitsbergen, we may encounter moulting Harp Seals on the sea ice, and make a zodiac cruise among the ice-floes. Later we will try to land at Stormbukta, with its post volcanic springs, and a canyon with nesting Kittiwakes.
Day 10 Spitsbergen - Hornsund
Depending on the position of the sea-ice, we cruise the maze of fjords in the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, which is ringed by 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 but as well as spectacular scenery, the area is renowned for its abundant and varied Arctic wildlife. We have very good chances of seeing seals and with a little luck, the very symbol of the Arctic - Polar Bears. We may visit the Polish research station where the friendly staff will give us an insight into their research projects. Behind the station, the mountains are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Little Auks. Bearded Seals often cruise the inner fjords, whose cliffs are lined with colonies of Brünnichs Guillemots and Kittiwakes. On the tundra we will have good opportunities to observe foraging Barnacle Geese.
Day 11 Kapp Toscana - Ahlstrandhalvøya - Van Keulenfjord - Midterhuken
Today we land at Kapp Toscana on Ahlstrandhalvøya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjord, where piles of Beluga skeletons are a reminder of the 20th century exploitation of these small white whales. Numbers are now recovering and there is a good chance of spotting small groups in the area. We then move to Recherchefjord, where a walk on the fragile tundra which backs the fjord may yield sightings of Reindeer. The Spitsbergen Reindeer is not as big as its mainland relative and is found in much smaller herds. Alternatively we may land at Midterhuken to explore the remains of 17th century English whaling sites. The weather will determine which good options will be chosen in this area.
Early in the morning we arrive in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Spitsbergen, for flights to Oslo and home, alternatively we may stay on board for the next voyage to North Spitsbergen (MLT05).
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