Day 1 – Aberdeen, Scotland
Our staff welcome you aboard Polar Pioneer mid-afternoon in Aberdeen, Scotland, before we start sailing north.
Day 2 to 3 – Orkney Archipelago
Among Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, a treasure trove of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. We follow the passage of time – from 5000-year-old, World Heritage-listed, Neolithic sites to Viking relics, from reminders of World War II occupation to present-day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds, inviting our Zodiacs and kayakers to explore coastlines. At Fair Isle we visit traditional crofts to admire local knitwear and nearby colonies of fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins.
Day 4 – Shetland Isles
Warmed by Gulf Stream currents and near 24-hours’ daylight, the Shetland’s 100 islands are peppered with nature reserves and archaeological sites. These include the complex Stone, Bronze and Iron Age settlement of Jarlshof, the world’s best preserved broch (fortified Iron Age tower) on Mousa, and remnants of Viking conquest along the coast.
Day 5 – North Sea
As we sail towards Norway, our historian and naturalist delight us with fascinating talks and inspire our birdwatching.
Day 6 to 9 – Norway
An intricate maze of islands protects Norway’s coastline. We celebrate crossing the Arctic Circle and visit special places, like Sør Gjaeslingan, once home to a busy cod-fishing fleet. Today it provides fantastic birdlife, including kittiwakes, terns and skuas that migrate here each summer. Continuing north, we pass by Torghatten, a mountain with a distinctive hole through it, and learn the fable of lost love and a troll’s arrow. Majestic scenery delights in Lofoten Islands, from romantic beaches to narrow fjords hemmed by granite walls. Share the water with orcas, the skies with puffins.
Day 10 to 13 – Bear Island & Spitsbergen
We cross the Barents Sea, past often fog-shrouded Bear Island, favourite nesting ground for fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and gulls. Beyond Spitsbergen’s South Cape, we explore South Spitsbergen National Park, a sanctuary for barnacle geese and eider ducks, before entering the iceberg-laden waters of Hornsund. Surrounded by polar desert on a grand scale, we search for reindeer, ringed and bearded seals and the mighty polar bear. Learn of human history dating back 400 years and if lucky, we’ll encounter the elusive beluga whale.
Day 14 – Spitsbergen
We disembark in Longyearbyen, bid goodbye to expedition staff and are transferred to the airport for our onward journey.