Day 1: Largest town, biggest island
You touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling around this former mining town, whose parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.
Day 2: Cruising Krossfjorden
Heading north along the west coast, you arrive by morning in Krossfjorden. Here you might board the Zodiacs for a cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. On the green slopes near the glacier, colorful flowers bloom while flocks of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the cliffs. You have a good chance of spotting an Arctic fox scouting for fallen chicks or a bearded seal paddling through the fjord. In the afternoon you sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway – you can still see its tracks – Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen, Ellsworth, and Nobile in their airship, Norge (1926).
Day 3: Route to Raudfjorden
In the morning you land at Ytre Norsköya and walk to the top of the island, where 17th-century whalers had an observation post to spot bowhead whales surrounded by puffins. Alternately (on our HDS04 voyage), you may land on Indre Norsköya at Sabine’s Observatory, where Edward Sabine (1823) studied the curvature of the Earth. Sailing to Raudfjorden on the north coast of Spitsbergen, you take in an expansive fjord spilling with glaciers – and maybe even visited by ringed and bearded seals. The cliffs and shoreline of this fjord also support thriving seabird colonies, rich vegetation, and the possibility of polar bears.
Day 4: The massive Monaco Glacier
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of the Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen may be used.
Day 5: Into Sorgfjorden (Fjord of Sorrows)
Sailing into Sorgfjorden, you land about one km (.6 miles) southwest of Eolusneset, not far from a walruss haul-out area. At nearby Krosshaugen you can see the graves of 17th-century whalers, and this is also a good area to spot ptarmigans. Later in the day, you continue to the opposite side of the fjord to Crozierpynten. Here you can view the remains of the Swedish Arc of Meridian Expedition, 1899 – 1900 and walk some distance across Basissletten to Basisodden, a track scientists once used for long-distance measurements.
Day 6: Highlights of Hinlopen
Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded seals, ringed seals, and polar bears. At the entrance there is even the possibility to spot blue whales. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you can view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may even attempt a landing on Nordaustlandet. Here reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. You may take an alternate route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen.
Day 7: Walrus haul-outs and historic remains
Pushing eastward along the north coast of Nordaustlandet, you will likely sail through Beverly Sundet, seeing tokens of historic expeditions along the shores of Chermsideöya. The northernmost point of your voyage may be on Phippsöya, featuring a walrus haul-out and ivory gull colony. An alternative (on our HDS04 trip) is Vesle Tavleöya, another site from the Arc-of-Meridian Expedition. At Rossöya we reach 80° 49’ north, less than 870 km (540 miles) from the geographic North Pole.
Day 8: Sailing the continental shelf
While retracing your route west, keep watch for polar bears and elusive Greenland (bowhead) whales. About 40 nautical miles west of Spitsbergen, you sail the edge of the continental shelf. Here fin whales forage during the summer in the upwelling zones (where cold, nutrient-rich water wells up from below the sea’s surface) that run along the Spitsbergen banks. At the mouth of Kongsfjorden, you have a good chance of seeing minke whales.
Day 9: Reindeer, foxes, and so many seabirds
Walruses sometimes haul out in Forlandsundet, your next stop. As an alternative, you might sail into St. Jonsfjorden or venture south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these renowned cliffs, while Arctic foxes search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and reindeer graze on the sparse vegetation. You arrive in Longyearbyen later at night.
Day 10: There and back again
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen with memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.