Day 1 – Embark Longyearbyen
Arrive in Longyearbyen, where you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and taken on a sightseeing tour to explore the remote outskirts and ‘Capital’ of Spitsbergen, including a stop at the local museum. After the tour, you will be transferred to the port in the late afternoon to embark the Greg Mortimer. Your voyage commences, cruising out of the beautiful Isfjorden, escorted by gliding fulmars and perhaps the occasional puffin. Find a spot on one of the observation areas watching for seabirds, including graceful ivory gulls, kittiwakes and guillemots.
Days 2-3 – West Coast of Spitsbergen
Cruise northwards along the west coast of Spitsbergen, stopping at intriguing places like Kongsfjorden or Magdalenefjorden. Kongsfjorden (Kings Bay) is incredibly scenic, the fjord is headed by two giant glaciers. There’s ample time ashore for hiking on the lush tundra amongst the summer flowers and observing the remarkable bird cliffs near the 14th July Glacier, where even a few puffins nest between the cracks in the cliffs.
We keep watch for polar bears and arctic fox and feel a sense of history at the 350-year-old remains of a Dutch whaling settlement, Smeerenberg on Amsterdamøya. The name Smeerenberg literally means blubber town in Dutch. It is a place of extraordinary legends, of thousands of men living there during the 1630s, a town complete with shops, gambling dens and the like. However, in reality, only 400 men and 15 ships visited Smeerenberg during its peak in the 1630s for whaling purposes.
Days 4-5 – Greenland Sea
As we cruise southwest across the Greenland Sea – the main outlet of the Arctic Ocean – we may encounter pack ice where, and if we are lucky we will see polar bears hunting for prey. The strong icy currents have isolated East Greenland from the Polar Basin, attracting large numbers of fish, seals and whales. Climatic conditions and the concentration of ice in the vicinity often create thick morning fog that vanishes with the onset of the midday sun. Our experts will inform and entertain us with fascinating discussions on plants, animals, ice, and early explorers like Nansen, Andree and Scoresby.
As we approach East Greenland we may encounter more pack ice where we may see seals and a variety of seabirds, including northern fulmars and migratory Brünnich’s guillemots. Conditions permitting, there will be a good chance for kayakers to launch their sea kayaks today. The rest of the group may have the opportunity to make our first landing on the Greenland coast, weather permitting. This stretch of coastline is ripe for exploration, with its many secrets locked in place by drift ice for up to eight months each year. Home to snowy owls and musk ox, it’s the world’s largest national park, covering 972,000 square kilometres; most of which is inland ice and the rest a composite fjord landscape.
Days 6-12 – East Coast of Greenland including Volquart Boons Coast
As we approach the East Coast of Greenland, we will undoubtedly encounter some of the sea ice that streams down the coast from the north. Weather and sea ice conditions permitting we may enter Northeast Greenland National Park as far north as Dove Bay, a beautiful, remote and seldom visited location along the coast. If so we may search for the evidence of a Paleo-Eskimo settlement near Haystack Mountain. Or perhaps we will make our landfall on Clavering Island where we may visit Eskimonaes, the original headquarters of the famous Sirius Patrol.
We will attempt to enter Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord, a remote and rarely-visited fjord system with countless opportunities for exploration that lies within the North East Greenland National Park. Cruising through Kong Oskar Fjord, we will marvel at the geological beauty of the mountains. We will then head south along the coast of Liverpool Land, with our passage dependent on ice conditions. We aim to reach Scoresbysund, the world’s largest fjord and a favourite hunting ground of the local Inuit. Massive glaciers dump into this fjord, the birthplace of the famous big Greenland icebergs. We hope to visit the remote Inuit community of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresby Town) and to hike across the tundra in search of ancient graveyards and summer villages occupied 1,500 years ago by Paleo-Eskimos. This area provides excellent opportunities for sea kayaking in its maze of calm, interconnecting waterways. If we are lucky we may see musk oxen, arctic hare and seals. Other landings along the coast may include:
Cape Humboldt, a beautiful bay on Ymer Island. There is a good chance to take a tundra walk and witness musk oxen graze. We will also keep a lookout for arctic fox and ptarmigan and the elusive Gyrfalcon. A lone trapper’s hut looks over the bay and magnificent icebergs.
Sefstrom Glacier fans out and blocks nearly half of the rugged Alpefjord. Zodiac access allows us to observe the dynamics of a glacier face and to cruise the beautiful hanging gardens with arctic flora growing in the autumn light.
Ittoqqortoormiit is Scoresbysund’s colourful Inuit community of approximately 500 people. You are free to explore the village, the fascinating museum or sit quietly in the beautiful Lutheran Church. The people are friendly, and the young children vie for our attention from underneath their arctic seal skin and fox-fur jackets.
Sydkap in Scoresbysund offers good walking and delightful views across the sound. Kayakers will have good opportunities to explore the lonely beaches. It has always been an important hunting site for the indigenous people and it contains many ancient gravesites.
Røde Ø (Red Island) has one of the best iceberg cruises you can find at either pole. We will cruise among the beautifully carved blue icebergs with a fantastic contrasting red island as a background.
Other possible landing points in the area include:
- Bjorn Oya
- Milne Land
- Denmark Island
Day 13 – At Sea
During our sea crossing to Jan Mayen Island, our experts will offer informative and entertaining talks and presentations about arctic exploration and prepare you for your visit to Jan Mayen, one of the world’s most remote and fascinating volcanic islands. You may wish to enjoy a remedial massage in the wellness centre, soak in the hot tub, or organise your photos freeing space on your memory card for the coming days.
Day 14 – Jan Mayen
The approach to Jan Mayen is spectacular. The huge volcano (2277m altitude) is the world’s northernmost active volcano, and last erupted in 1985. The northern part of the island is a great place to look for whales and dolphins, and contains impressive glaciers, some of which reach the sea. If the weather is friendly, we will try to land at Kvalrossbukta, a relatively sheltered bay on the island’s west coast. This is one of the landings used to supply the weather station Olonkinbyen, situated on the eastern side of the island. If conditions allow, we may walk from Kvalrossbukta to Olonkinbyen (approximately three hours walk to visit the station). Our Zodiacs will be waiting for us at a small bay to transport us back to the ship.
Day 15 – At Sea
We continue our voyage east, sailing to the Norwegian coast. Our expedition team will share their knowledge of Norwegian maritime history and fascinating Norse culture through informative talks and lectures.
Days 16-20 – Norwegian Coast
Lofoten is a Norwegian archipelago known for its dramatic scenery, with mountain peaks such as the Svolværgeita rising from the sea and reaching up into the sky. The archipelago offers superb opportunities for kayaking excursions through the fjords to spot seals, sea eagles and even whales. Leknes and Svolvær are the two main ports - wildly beautiful places of marsh and rock, green fields and still lakes, dramatic mountains and white sandy beaches by crystal-clear seas. Lofoten is dotted with picturesque villages and fish-drying racks, as stockfish-dried cod has been the main export since the Middle Ages.
Learn about Norway’s oldest export produce at the Lofoten Stockfish Museum, enjoy a Zodiac cruise through spectacular Trollfjord, a two kilometre-long, 100-metre-wide gorge with steep mountains of up to 1000 metres surrounding the fjord, perhaps visit Norway’s oldest and best-preserved fishing village at Nusfjord.
Sailing south, we hope to stop at Reine, one of the most picturesque fishing villages in Lofoten, with red and white fishermen’s huts dotting the shoreline surrounded by soaring granite peaks rising out of Reinefjorden. Further south, we may land at Torget Island to inspect the bizarre rock formation - Torghatten, a legendary hole in the mountain supposedly created by a troll’s arrow. En route to Bergen, we may also visit the charming fishing villages of Sor-Gjaeslingan.
As we head farther down the coast, we may visit the beautiful and historic stave church at Kvernes or the scenic former fishing village of Grip along the outer coast. The island of Runde is one of Norway’s premier seabird nesting islands and is home to several sea eagles as well.
Day 21 – Disembark Bergen
Disembark in historic Bergen, located in the heart of the Fjord Norway region in the southwest coast. It’s the country’s second-largest city and is surrounded by mountains and fjords including Sognefjord, the country’s longest and deepest. Bergen is also rated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and is therefore an ideal place to relax after your voyage. Bid a fond farewell to your fellow expeditioners as we all continue our onward journeys. Your voyage includes a transfer to Bergen airport.