ISFJORDEN

– a journey through the cultural history and heritage of Svalbard
Explore the magnificent SVALBARD, whales and Northern Lights

SAILING AREA

TRAVEL INFORMATION

The huge extent of the Isfjord is par excellence the ideal fjord to see the variety of Spitsbergen in a short time. In addition to impressive glaciers, unique geological mountain formations, large bird cliffs and a rich animal life, it is home to a wealth of cultural heritage that has been well preserved over the past 400 years due to the cold climate. These industries, which lie on the edge of what is humanly possible, have clearly left their mark here and offer a narrative insight into the past. On the beaches in the fjords, these traces of human life and activities are visible, showing how closely the landscape and people were connected. The history of Svalbard is about people of all nationalities who came to the island to discover and exploit the natural resources: from the early presence of whalers, mining workers in the 19th and 20th century, tragedies of explorers up to the present day. Embark on a journey where we dive into the history of Spitsbergen through landings at Bohemanflya and Trygghamna, where we will visit Russian ghost towns and see geological wonders and stunning glaciers. With the Arctic autumn approaching, the days are getting shorter and the weather more turbulent, this trip offers the ideal opportunity to discover the cultural treasures. Because of the relatively short distances, this trip will offer the opportunity to sail to the sights as much as possible, provided the weather conditions allow us to do so. During this trip the transition from 24 hours of light to total darkness has started so that in the mornings and evenings we experience beautiful violet and other pastel shades in the sky. The spectacular light at this time of year makes these trips ideal for photography enthusiasts. If we’re lucky we might even be able to see the Northern Lights at night.

Voyage details

  • Period September
  • Duration 7 or 8 days
  • Embarkation Longyearbyen
  • Disembarkation Longyearbyen
  • Ship Reade Swan // Noorderlicht
  • Price from € 2110

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SAILING AREA

ITINERARY

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

Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen

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. Subsequently you will enjoy a first delicious 3-course dinner on board, while the ship sets course towards Gipsvika bay where it will anchor for the night. At our anchorage, first of all the great view of the majestic cliff Templet will draw your attention, a particularly eroded mountain top of sedimentary rock that formed some 290 million years ago. Gipsvika owes its name from the area where gypsum is easily spotted in long white horizontal stripes in the plateau rocks.

Day 2: Visit the mysterious ghost town of Pyramiden

After a nutritious breakfast, you will be asked to get ready for the first zodiac landing in Gipsvika. The Scottish mining company Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate has left its mark here in the early 20th century. Close to the pebble beach we find various cultural relics, left behind by the mining company. An old rusty US tractor, a number of trailers and a road used by the tractors to drive towards Gipsdalen are some of the memories of their stay. It shows that the soil of Spitsbergen is very sensitive to human intervention and that it takes a long time before the vulnerable nature with its fragile vegetation is able to erase the traces of human activity. Older remnants of human activities, of the Russian Pomors, are also visible further on.

After the landing, we will sail deeper into the Isfjord towards the Russian settlement of Pyramiden. The town is named after the pyramid-shaped mountain next to the town which was founded by the Swedish in 1910. In 1927 it was sold to the Russians and, in addition to coal mining, it served as an example for Europe to show that a good communist society could exist. Thousands of men, women and children were sent here to live and work. After the fall of the Soviet Union, most inhabitants left the mining town abruptly and the traces they left have preserved extremely well, partly due to the cold environment. Newspapers are still on the tables in the houses and unfinished tests are in the classrooms. When the coal mine was finally closed on March 31st 1998, all that remained was a ghost town. Today, a handful of people stay in the town’s hotel to welcome mainly tourists and to show them around the abandoned city.

Day 3: Gems of nature: Nordenskiöldbreen & Skansbukta

In the morning we will make a tour make through the ghost town where you will notice that the communist style is still present. There is a large statue of Lenin’s head on the main square, there are inscriptions in Russian and some old installations belonging to the former coal mine. After everyone is safely back on board, we continue the journey towards the glacier Nordenskiöldbreen, one of the largest glaciers in the Isfjord. Although the glacier has receded markedly in recent years, it is still very impressive. Keep an eye out for polar bears that have shown themselves here repeatedly in recent years! In the evening we will arrive in beautiful Skansbukta where we will look for a safe anchorage for the night in the sheltered bay.

Day 4: Past historic Kapp Thorsden towards Trygghamna

In the morning we plan a landing at Skansbukta where you can see how the landscape and historic monuments are inextricably linked. Among the impressive cliffs we find amongst others the remains of the gypsum mine that once was active here, a cottage and a battered wooden boat, which was probably used to the bring the gypsum from land to a larger transport ship. The remains of the mining industry in Skansbukta are declining strongly and slowly nature gains back its land.
 
While we set course in the direction of Trygghamna we sail past Kapp Thorsden, a location where a lot of scientific research and mineral extraction has taken place. At this cape we also find the oldest house of Spitsbergen, the Svenskehuset from 1872, where the famous ‘Svenskehuset tragedy ‘ took place. Our expedition leader can certainly tell you more about this as the ship sails past the cape. In the evening we will drop anchor in the sheltered bay of Trygghamna. The name Trygghamna comes from the original Dutch name ‘safe harbor’, because of its sheltered and safe anchorage possibilities.
 

Day 5: Visit to bird cliff Alkhornet & a Soviet style town: Barentsburg

After breakfast we will visit Trygghamna, where we find the oldest traces of human activity in Svalbard. The remains of a 17th century English whaling station and the remnants of the blubber ovens can be seen here. After the Western Europeans left, the Russian Pomors took over this area. Their activity was focused mainly on hunting walruses for its products and hides. The remains of this 18th century Pomor (Russian hunters) hunting station can still be found here. 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.

Depending on the availability of a berth in the port of Barentsburg, we will sail towards the Russian mining settlement after a hot lunch. The town (a former Dutch mining settlement) was named after William Barents in 1924 by the Dutch Spitsbergen Company . 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. At the end of the afternoon we take a short walk through Barentsburg where the guide will show you the sights of the mining town.

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 Reade Swan // Noorderlicht.

Day 6: Colesbukta – Borebukta

In the morning we hope to make a landing in Colesbukta, a former port that shipped and transported coal from the Soviet settlement of Grumantbyen where the remains of the once thriving coal industry can be found. Here we will visit the abandoned hut of the Russian geologist Vladimir Rusanov. Weather permitting, we will spend the rest of the day sailing to Borebukta. We will try to get as close to the northwestern end as possible to get a look at the steep glacier front of the Borebreen. We then continue to the west side of the bay, close to the Nansenbreen, where we will anchor for the night.

Day 7 : Sailing towards Longyearbyen

In the morning we will organize a final landing at Cape Bohemanflya. Here we find a piece of Dutch history in the form of the former Dutch mine in Rijpsburg. It was expanded by the Dutch in 1920 with cabins for coal mining. Because the coastal waters here are very shallow, the Dutch found out that shipping coal here was very difficult. In 1921 it was therefore decided to transfer the activities to Barentsburg. Here we will visit an old hut from the 1900 and the foundations of the removed huts. Since August 31st 1920, there has also been a monument to Queen Wilhelmina in the form of a large stone pyramid. Weather permitting, we will spend the rest of the day sailing back to Longyearbyen. Upon arrival in the Arctic town, you may enjoy some free time to buy the last souvenirs or simply take a walk to soak up all the impressions of the week. Around dinner time you are expected back on board. The rest of the evening you can enjoy your last night with the crew and your fellow travellers.
 

Day 8: Goodbye Noorderlicht!

Unfortunately, our adventure through the Arctic landscape of Spitsbergen has come to an end. After a hearty breakfast, you are kindly requested to disembark by 09:00. We hope that we have been able to show you the variety and beauty of Spitsbergen and that you enjoyed an unforgettable experience on board the Reade Swan // Noorderlicht.

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SVALBARD | SPITSBERGEN EXPEDITION