Your adventure begins with a one-night stay in Helsinki, Finland’s capital.
From Helsinki, you’ll join your fellow passengers on the charter flight to Murmansk, Russia, where you’ll embark on your voyage to the North Pole and get acquainted with 50 Years of Victory, the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker.
Being on board Victory and feeling the icebreaker as it crushes through the arctic pack ice is an experience you’ll never forget. Just as memorable is boarding the ship’s helicopter for a thrilling aerial view over the ship and the expansive Arctic Ocean. You can expect variable sailing conditions this far north. The crossing from Murmansk to the North Pole can take us anywhere from four to six days, depending on the ice conditions. This means you’ll have plenty of time to get to know your shipmates and be treated to lectures and discussions by your expedition team while looking out for birdlife. There are also many wonderful amenities on board, such as the ship’s lap pool or basketball court.
The anticipation reaches a climax as you arrive at the North Pole! Many travelers find themselves overcome with emotion, while others are in a festive and celebratory mood. Take photos, call your family, wave a flag—just be sure you enjoy your moment at the top!
Later, everyone will celebrate with a toast and a barbecue on the ice. If the opportunity allows, you have the option of taking a polar plunge into the icy waters around the North Pole. We’ll also attempt to launch passengers high above the Pole in our hot air balloon to commemorate this great moment (this is highly weather dependent).
On our return voyage, you can sit back and relax. As you head farther south, you may get lucky and spot polar bears hunting for seals.
This group of 191 islands forms the most northerly archipelago in Eurasia and lies entirely within the Arctic Circle. Here, you’ll explore Cape Flora and discover historic remains from three ill-fated arctic expeditions. You may also have the chance, if conditions allow, to explore remote seabird colonies while Zodiac cruising beneath towering cliffs, or enjoy another breathtaking aerial sightseeing tour aboard the Victory helicopter.
This small island has a ridge that may provide a vantage point for viewing a walrus rookery, which is known to haul-out on the island. Zodiac cruising to watch walrus from a distance is also a possibility.
In 1881, Benjamin Leigh-Smith’s expedition built a hut here, but the crew never had the opportunity to use it, as their ship was wrecked off the coast. The hut is in supreme condition and has a number of interesting inscriptions on its interior walls. Also found here is an old Russian isba (a wooden hut), which may even predate the official 1873 discovery of Franz Josef Land.
CALM BAY, HOOKER ISLAND
Sporadically in use today, this is the site of the archipelago’s first-ever polar station, built in 1929. Memorials to Georgiy Sedov’s wintering in 1913–14 are built here, and the remains of a glaciologist’s hut can also be seen.
Cambridge Strait is a well-known area for watching polar bears as they hunt for seals that frequent the area.
CAPE FLIGELY, RUDOLF ISLAND
The most northern point of the archipelago is marked with a copper plaque and a memorial cross. This is also the northernmost part of Europe, reaching farther north than Spitsbergen. The island is almost entirely ice covered, and temperatures only rise above freezing for a few shorts weeks each summer.
CAPE FLORA, NORTHBROOK ISLAND
More than half a dozen expeditions passed through here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition described in the book A Thousand Days in the Arctic was among them. Many buildings from the time are in ruins or have fallen into the sea, but some remain. Memorials and crosses have been erected in more recent years in memory of the survivors and victims of those early expeditions.
CAPE HELLER, WILCZEK ISLAND
Historically significant markers can be found here, including the remains of a stone hut used by two men from the 1898–99 Walter Wellman expedition. There is a gravesite and large memorial post in honor of the one member who died here just after New Year’s in 1899.
CAPE NORWAY, JACKSON ISLAND
Weather is always a factor in this northern part of the archipelago, which is sometimes unreachable, even for icebreakers. A variety of arctic flora is found in this area, making it particularly interesting for botanists. This is also where Fridtjof Nansen and Frederick Jackson stayed over winter 1895–96, and the remains of their stone hut can be visited.
CAPE TEGETTHOFF, HALL ISLAND
Impressive tall cliffs are home to large numbers of seabirds, while the ruins of the Walter Wellman 1898–99 expedition can also be found. With a diverse landscape, the island is great for exploring on foot, provided that polar bears aren’t in the vicinity.
Wildflowers of the tundra are a common sight, giving a bit of color to an often bleak landscape. Of particular interest are the mysteriously perfectly rounded rocks scattered around parts of the island. They are up to seven feet (two meters) in diameter and have been nicknamed Devil’s Marbles.
This is a scenic and narrow waterway that lies between MacKlintok Island and Hall Island toward the southern reaches of Franz Josef Land.
RUBINI ROCK, HOOKER ISLAND
Rubini Rock is considered by many to be home to the most impressive bird cliffs anywhere in Franz Josef Land. The cliffs feature a bounty of seabirds, and because of deep waters, ships are able to get up close to the edge of the cliffs for great views. Most of the shores are dominated by glacier fronts, while a large part of the island is ice covered.
TEPLITZ BAY, RUDOLF ISLAND
With a long history of arctic exploration, this bay was first explored during Julius Payer’s 1874 expedition. Once a base for long-distance Arctic flights, the bay is also home to an abandoned polar station. Ships have sunk in these icy waters; a wrecked aircraft lies on the ice cap, and monuments and graves pay homage to the early explorers who died here. For wildlife, both narwhal and beluga whales have been seen in these waters.
Enjoy your time on deck or reminisce with your shipmates and new friends as you cross the Arctic Ocean back to Murmansk. Expedition staff will be on hand to answer any remaining questions and point out wildlife during the return journey.
Returning to Russia’s most northerly city, you’ll have time to bid farewell to 50 Years of Victory. You’ll be transferred to the airport for your charter flight to Helsinki, Finland, to enjoy one final night with your newfound friends.
After breakfast, your official journey comes to an end. We do encourage you to spend time exploring Helsinki, Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) and St. Petersburg.
IMPORTANT REMINDER Embracing the unexpected is part of the legacy – and excitement – of expedition travel. When traveling in extremely remote regions, your expedition staff must allow the sea, the ice and the weather to guide route and itinerary details. This itinerary is a tentative outline of what you’ll experience on this voyage; please be aware that no specific itinerary can be guaranteed.
* Itinerary may be subject to change