Day 1 Arrival Longyearbyen
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.
Day 2 Krossfjorden - Ny Ålesund
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 colorful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of Kittiwakes and Brünnichs 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 worlds most northerly settlement. Once a mining village - served by the worlds 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.
Day 3 Smeerenburg - Amsterdamøya - Moffen Island
At Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya, we visit the remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station, the blubber pots now surrounded by hundreds of tree trunks washed ashore after drifting over from Siberia. The principal quarry of the whalers was the Greenland or Bowhead Whale, which was hunted to the brink of extinction. Often called the Right Whale, it was the right one to pursue, being a slow-moving animal which could be approached closely. In the afternoon we visit the Little Auk colony of Fuglesangen, then sail past the 80th parallel to Moffen Island on which Walrus haul out.
Day 4 Liefdefjorden - Monaco Glacier
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 favorite feeding spot for thousands of Kittiwakes and on previous voyages Polar Bears have been seen on the glacier, providing wonderful opportunities for photography.
Day 5 Hinlopen Strait - Lomfjordshalvøya - Alkefjellet
Before turning south into Hinlopen Strait (if the pack-ice allows us) we will have reached our most northerly position. On and around the ice at the entrance to the strait, which divides West Spitsbergen from ice-clad Nordaustlandet, there is a good chance of seeing Bearded and Ringed Seals, Polar Bears and Ivory Gulls. On the eastern side of Lomfjordshalvøya we take a Zodiac cruise through the ice floes to the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet, where thousands of Brünnichs Guillemots nest in a spectacular setting. The basalt pillars, rising hundreds of meters, and the overhanging ice cap with its waterfall are an awe-inspiring sight. Finally, on the eastern side of Hinlopen Strait we intend to make an evening landing in Augustabukta on the island of Nordaustlandet, the most northerly of the major Spitsbergen islands. Spitsbergen Reindeer graze the sparse vegetation of this largely ice-covered island, where Pink-footed Geese, Walrus and a rare Ivory Gull colony are also found.
Day 6 Raudfjord - Ytre Norskøya
Retracing our route westwards, we visit Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favored 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.
Day 7 Alkhornet - Borebukta - Longyearbyen
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 Harbor 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 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.
Day 8 Hornsund
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home.
GMK05, GMK06, GMK07, will also offer a program for about 20 experienced dry-suit scuba divers. We will dive in the kelp beds of north Spitsbergen, the kelp offering some protection to sea-bottom life such as sea anemones, sea stars, sea cucumbers, shrimps and fish. We shall also be able to observe wing snails, many species of jellyfish, and diving seals and seabirds near the sea ice.
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