North west Svalbard
North west Svalbard
The trips in the Arctic spring are one of the most beautiful and purest trips that sailing ship Noorderlicht makes. It is the best time to discover the polar region in its most Arctic form. The landscape is still pristine white and because there is often floating ice in the fjords, there is a great chance of spotting polar bears, seals & walruses. The bird populations that have taken shelter in warmer places in winter, the razorbills, kittiwakes, skuas and puffins are slowly making their way back to the Arctic and the first nesting seabirds can be seen. From the end of April in Svalbard we experience the midnight sun, which means that there are 24 hours of daylight. In the mornings and evenings, the light is phenomenal, making these trips extremely suitable for photography enthusiasts.
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PLEASE NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per AECO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with AECO prior to the start of the season, but the expedition leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises
You will arrive at the small airport of Longyearbyen, located about 15 minutes drive from the centre of the small town. Longyearbyen is the largest inhabited settlement in Spitsbergen and the world’s most northerly inhabited town with more than 1000 inhabitants. If you have the opportunity, it is an absolute must to visit the Svalbard museum. Here you can delve into the history of the island, the coal mining industry, the wealth of unique polar animal species, scientific developments and the many polar expeditions. After your visit, you can take a walk into the former mining town where you will find several shops offering a collection of unique Arctic products and souvenirs. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which preserves the global variety of agricultural crops, is also located nearby.
Our sailing ship Noorderlicht will be waiting for you at the so-called ‘floating pier’ where you can embark from 16:00. After a welcome from the captain, the mooring lines will be cast off and you will receive a comprehensive safety briefing from the crew. Afterwards you will enjoy a delicious first dinner on board, while the ship sets course towards Trygghamna bay, where it will anchor for the night. The name Trygghamna comes from the original Dutch name ‘safe harbor’, because of its sheltered and safe anchorage possibilities. In the 17th century the bay was frequently visited by whalers to boil the oil from the blubber of the bowhead whale.
After a healthy breakfast, you will be asked to prepare for the first zodiac landing in Trygghamna, where you can see the remains of a 17th century English whaling station and a 18th century hunting station of the Pomor (Russian hunters). From here we will hike to the 428-meter high Alkhornet cliff, where some 10,000 pairs of different seabirds breed. The cliffs are composed of carbonate rock, which is more than a billion years old. The tundra at the bottom of the cliff receives nutrients from the sea birds and provides meadows for reindeer, nesting sites for geese and shelter for Arctic foxes. Therefore, this location is very suitable for spotting these animals as well as polar bears. Shortly before lunch all guests will be brought safely back aboard where everyone can warm up whilst enjoying a hot lunch. In the meantime, depending on weather conditions, the crew will set sail and head North.
In the Forlandsundet, as in the Isfjord, a lot of floating sea ice has probably accumulated. If the entrance of the fjord is free of ice, at nightime we will sail into the St. John Fjord. This beautiful and sheltered fjord system contains multiple glaciers and is one of the favorite spots of the captain. If we are lucky, we can enjoy the singing of the bearded seals at night.
In the morning, in consultation with the expedition leader, a spot will be selected to go ashore. The time of year means that it can sometimes be difficult for the group to take a long walk.
For lunch everyone is brought back on board. If the wind is favorable to us, we will hoist the sails under the guidance of the crew. The ship will attempt to sail out of the fjord in a northerly direction towards the Forlandsundet, a beautiful strait located between the main island of Spitsbergen and the island of Prins Karls Forland. Because this sailing area may still be in the grip of winter, there is opportunity to spot a lot of wildlife including ringed and bearded seals.
Historically, the Forlandsundet strait has always been a fear for many whalers, because of the Forlandsrevet sandbank on the north side. Due to its shallow draft, the Noorderlicht is one of the few ships that can navigate these waters although the crew will need full concentration. In the meantime, do not forget to keep an eye out for large groups of walruses that can often be found at Sarstangen and Poolepynten! They form a beautiful scene with panoramic mountains in the background that cameras love.
Depending on the ability to accomplish this passage, we will either sail to the Krossfjord or go to Poolepynten to spot the walrus populations.
Today, early in the morning, we will head South for Grimaldibukta. In Murraypynten, named after a Scottish oceanographer, we hope to make a landing to spot walruses from at close range. Murraypynten is a peninsula north of the Grimaldibukta. From the hills you have a beautiful panoramic view of the rugged mountain and glacial landscape of Spitsbergen and the flat landscape at the foot of the mountain makes it wonderful and easy to walk. On the south side of Murraypynten you can visit a ruin of a hut built by a German expedition in 1963. In the afternoon we will continue the journey south, back to the Isfjord, where we will anchor in the sheltered bay at Ymerbukta in the evening.
The Esmarkbreen glacier flows into the bay of Ymerbukta, where we will organize a landing in the morning. Depending on the availability of a berth in Barentsburg, we will sail towards the Russian mining settlement where we will arrive towards the end of the afternoon. After an adventurous journey in the unspoilt nature of Spitsbergen, you will have the opportunity to move freely without the supervision of a guide with a rifle, as is necessary in most of Spitsbergen.
The name Barentsburg was given in 1924 by the Dutch Spitsbergen Company to the then Dutch mining settlement. In 1926 the mining town was taken over by the Russians, after which it grew into a town of miners with more than 1000 inhabitants. Today there are still about 400 people of mainly Russian or Ukrainian descent. Since the mine has not been profitable for a long time, the focus has shifted more and more to tourism.
From the dock where our ship is moored, we will first have to climb some 140 wooden steps before we enter the main street. Here we will see that the Soviet period has left its mark. There is a life-size bust of Lenin in the middle of the town, billboards with photos of workers and modernist Soviet buildings. Furthermore you can find the world’s most Northerly brewery and find the Pomor museum. In the evening you can enjoy the locally brewed beers and Russian snacks, together with part of the crew of the Noorderlicht.