Embark Silver Cloud for your exciting 12-day expedition — "From the Norwegian Fjords to the Ice Edge" — where you will be introduced to your expedition team.
Tonight we invite you to familiarize yourself with the elegant Silver Cloud, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in one of the restaurants.
The Vega Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a myriad of islands scattered in the Norwegian Sea and home to one of Norway’s largest eider duck colony. Of the 6,000 Vega islands, 59 were once inhabited by families that made their living from fishing and from eider down harvesting. Today, there are no year-round residents, but the population returns in the summer to continue the 1,500-year-old tradition of caring for the eider ducks and harvesting their precious down. The eider ducks return to their breeding ground in the Vega Archipelago every year and lay their eggs from May into June. In the fishing harbor of Nes, we will visit the Eider Duck Museum, which provides insight into the islander’s unique traditions as guardians of these birds and describes the process of producing eiderdown duvets. Nearby exhibitions detail the archipelago’s UNESCO status and document the history of Lånan – the largest egg and eiderdown farm in Helgeland. Before returning to the pier we will stop in at the Coastal Museum to have a look at their motor collection and later make a brief visit to see the Vega Church in Gladstad, a wooden church dating from 1864.
Silver Cloud will then head north to cruise Vistenfjord and the Visten National Park. Much of the park’s bedrock is gneiss, which absorbs very little water, and the water flow in the streams and rivers may vary greatly, causing many cascades and waterfalls to exist. Visten National Park is an incredibly varied wilderness, ranging from fjords to vast forests and towering mountains. There are some trails at the outskirts of the national park, and depending on conditions, we will hike or take our Zodiacs to explore this enchanting area.
At the very southern end of the Lofoten Islands are bird cliffs that hold Norway’s largest colony of Atlantic Puffins, and also good numbers of kittiwakes, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, shags, Northern Fulmars and White-tailed Eagles. Storm Petrels and Leach Petrels can be seen from early July onwards. Characteristic shoreline species are Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, Arctic Skua, Turnstone and Arctic Tern. Slightly further north is Værøy, an island with quite a few specialties. A special dog was bred to hunt puffins – the Norwegian Lundehund – while islanders caught the White-tailed Eagles with their hands! We will go ashore in Værøy and offer hikes and might do a Zodiac cruise along the rugged coast.
Silver Cloud will continue north just a short distance to reach Reine. This village with only 307 inhabitants was once selected as the most beautiful village of Norway. We will go ashore and explore the village and the area.
The morning will be used to explore the area of Tysfjord by land or Zodiac. A long hike might lead to a gigantic waterfall, while others might simply walk up to a beautiful cascade in this “alpine” area. This is the narrowest part of Norway and was formerly used by Sami reindeer herders of Sweden and Norway.
During the morning Silver Cloud will head for the Gjesværstappan Nature Reserve – one of Europe’s most accessible and largest nesting areas for Atlantic seabirds. In the late morning Silver Cloud will anchor off the Gjesværstappan Islands. We will use our Zodiacs to circumnavigate Storstappen, the largest of the islands, looking for European Shags, Common and Brünnich’s Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, White-tailed Sea-eagles and Europe’s largest Atlantic Puffin colony.
In the evening Silver Cloud will sail north, rounding North Cape with its impressive cliffs.
Once we arrive in Kirkenes – the end of the famous Hurtigruten-Coastal/Postal service – one option will be to drive southward into the Pasvik Valley sitting between Russia and Finland. There we can go for nature walks to observe the valley’s unique birds and plants. The Pasvik Valley is one of the last wilderness areas in Europe and has Norway’s highest concentration of brown bears. The tour also includes a visit to Høyde 96, a former military observation tower dating from the Cold War affording good views of the Pasvik Valley.
Another option might be heading west along Munkefjord to visit Neiden, a small village near the Finnish/Norwegian border, and see Neiden church, St. George’s Chapel, and the Neiden Waterfall, and even briefly cross into Finland at Näätämö.
In the afternoon, as Silver Cloud sails through the Barents Sea towards Bear Island, a series of lectures will emphasize the special history and natural history of Norway’s Far North.
Coming up to Bear Island head out on deck to watch for whales; white-beaked dolphins and minke whales are known to frequent the area.
As we near the southern tip of this arctic island, now a nature reserve, we will see thousands of seabirds diving into and out of the island’s steep cliffs. With our Zodiacs and favorable weather conditions, we will explore the rugged coastline. Close to 6 miles of cliffs are home to some of the largest bird colonies of the Northern Hemisphere. Common Guillemots, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, and Glaucous Gulls are all found along the cliff. Other species have been observed, including Atlantic Puffins and Northern Gannets. Of the more than 120 species registered, slightly more than 30 actually breed on the island. The expedition team will provide insights into the environment, the terrain, and the wildlife that exist in these extreme conditions.
Our flexible itinerary allows us to take advantage of favorable ice and weather conditions. Whether cruising by Zodiac amongst ice floes and icebergs or heading ashore for a guided walk, our adventures will bring us up close to mystical settings. Each day our expedition leader and captain will determine our best course depending on changing weather, ice conditions and the wildlife we encounter. We will travel to see walrus haul-outs, might see reindeer, and maybe spot an Arctic fox or a bearded seal. Northern Fulmars will be our constant companions. We might even encounter a few whales. Several species frequent the area, in particular Minke and beluga.
Here are a few of the places we hope to visit:
• Hornsund – This is the southernmost fjord on the rugged west coast of Spitsbergen Island. Jagged mountain peaks tower above glacier-filled bays. Amidst floating icebergs, we will watch for bearded seals, the beluga whale and the king of the Arctic – the polar bear. Sightings are fairly common as the polar bear’s favorite food, the ringed seal, breeds in the fjord. The surrounding bird cliffs are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Little Auks. We may visit the remains of whaling stations and trappers’ huts.
• Magdalenefjorden – Found on Spitsbergen’s northwest coast, Magdalenefjorden was already seen by Willem Barents in 1596. Walrus was hunted here in later days and a whaling station was set up. The remains of blubber ovens and a cemetery can still be seen. Silver Cloud will enter this scenic fjord in Northwest Spitsbergen National Park and we might land at Graveneset for a short walk.
• Ice Cruising – With the strengthened hull of the Silver Cloud, we have the perfect platform to search for walrus and polar bears as we devote at least one day to exploring the pack ice north of Spitsbergen. Conditions permitting, our expedition leader may choose to take us out in the Zodiacs for an even closer look.
• Liefdefjorden – At the entrance to Liefdefjorden are several small island groups. On the Andøyane (Duck Islands) we may encounter polar bears looking for bird’s eggs. With our Zodiacs we might circumnavigate several of the islands, always on the lookout for active birdlife; when Arctic Terns circle specific areas it usually is a sign of polar bear presence on the islands.
• Monacobreen – Cruising past majestic red Devonian sandstone mountains we will reach the end of Liefdefjorden for a Zodiac cruise along the front of two different glaciers: Monacobreen and Seligerbreen. Monacobreen has a 3-mile long front and is a good place to look for seals, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Ivory Gulls.
• Fjortende Julibreen – The 14th of July Bay is located at the entrance of Krossfjorden. Here we will go ashore for a hike up to the 14th of July Glacier, Conditions permitting, we will climb onto the glacier, or, alternatively walk to the Hanging Gardens, a beautiful plant oasis underneath a bird cliff.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Cloud.
Note: Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your expedition leader and captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather, wildlife activity and ice conditions.
* Itinerary may be subject to change