Day 1 – Longyearbyen
Enjoy a guided tour of colourful Spitsbergen’ capital Longyearbyen. Late afternoon sees us warmly welcomed on board Polar Pioneer.
Days 2 to 3 – Magdalenefjorden
Wake up to spectacular alpine peaks and glacier valleys of Spitsbergen’s rugged west coast. In Magdalenefjorden we Zodiac cruise a safe distance from the aqua-blue ice cliffs of 14th July Glacier or Waggonway Glacier, and take long walks among summer flowers, alert for reindeer and Arctic fox. Thanks to the nutrient-rich Gulf Stream and relatively mild temperatures, Atlantic puffins and guillemots fill the cliffs. We look for bearded seals, with their precious curling whiskers. We may visit the remains of a 350-year old Dutch whaling settlement on Amsterdam Island and learn of an ill-fated ballooning attempt over the North Pole.
Days 4 to 6 – Moffen Island & Woodfjorden
Rounding Spitsbergen’s northwest coast, we enter the Arctic Ocean and the world of pack ice. Ghostly beluga whales rise up in open leads and polar bears stalk ringed, bearded and harp seals. Offshore, walruses feed on clams or haul out on beaches, especially on Moffen Island, a walrus sanctuary. We visit trapper huts and stay alert for reindeer and Arctic fox. Delightful walks reveal delicious berries and some of the tundra’s 164 exquisite flowering plants including purple saxifrage, yellow spider plants and Svalbard poppies. If ice conditions allow, we attempt to cross latitude 80° north before turning south to Woodfjorden.
Days 7 to 8 – Hinlopen Strait, Barentsøya and Edgeøya Islands
We attempt to pass through narrow Hinlopen Strait, a channel flanked by austere, cream-coloured slopes rich in fossils between Spitsbergen and ice-capped Nordaustlandet. This polar desert is a landscape eroded by severe frost. Even in summer, pack ice could bar our way, but there is much to strive for. We Zodiac cruise beneath Alkefjellet, sheer basalt cliffs rising at more than 250 metres – literally buzzing with some 200,000 nests of Brunnich’s guillemots. During shore excursions, we seek eider ducks, Arctic foxes and the elusive Svalbard ptarmigan. As we pass Barentsøya and Edgeøya islands, we cross polar bear migration routes.
Days 9 to 10 – Hornsund & Bellsund Fjords
This is true expedition cruising. If ice conditions allow, we round South Cape and sail north toward Hornsund and Bellsund, deep fjords home to stunning glaciers and wildlife. If ice bars our way, we simply adjust our itinerary, backtrack and delve deeper into the wonders of Spitsbergen’s north and west coasts.
Day 11 – Longyearbyen
A midnight cruise of glorious Isfjorden returns us to Longyearbyen and the end of our voyage.