Today we will be met at the airport in Longyearbyen and taken on a sightseeing tour to explore the remote outskirts and village of Longyearbyen, the ‘capital’ of Spitsbergen. After our tour we will be transferred to the port in the late afternoon and board our ship, Polar Pioneer. Our voyage commences, cruising out of the beautiful Isfjorden, escorted by gliding fulmars and perhaps the occasional puffin.
Polar Pioneer is homely and strong, built to be a working vessel and refitted to a comfortable passenger standard. The mood on board is definitely casual. At sea we are totally self-sufficient. The days flow by whilst we travel snugly in our cocoon. A favorite pastime on board is to stand at the stern watching for seabirds, including graceful ivory gulls, kittiwakes and guillemots. They rise and fall skillfully, using the air currents created by the ship to gain momentum.
Depending on conditions, we may cruise either north or south along the west coast of Spitsbergen, stopping at intriguing places in search of the mighty polar bear.
Along Spitsbergen’s north coast we may explore places such as Woodfjorden and Leifdefjorden, where from our Zodiacs or kayaks we enjoy magnificent views of glaciers sweeping and tumbling into the sea. We may walk on smooth raised beach terraces to magnificent viewpoints, hike on flowering tundra where reindeer graze or visit trappers’ huts of yesteryear – all the while remaining alert for wandering polar bears.
We hope to enter the spectacular Hornsund Fjord in the south where we may take an early morning Zodiac cruise to admire the beautiful ice walls of the Samarin Glacier or take a stroll beneath the towering seabird cliffs at Sofiebogen. In Bellsund Fjord we are always on the lookout for beluga whales. We may visit the remnants of a Norwegian beluga whaling station from the 1930’s.
Across the fjord at Våraolbukta is a lush and stunning landscape where reindeer roam, Arctic flowers bloom in abundance and Arctic fox may be seen patrolling the little auk colony, where several thousand birds nest here amongst the boulders, coming and going in huge flocks. This is a beautiful place where we can stretch our legs before heading on a south-westerly course towards the East Greenland pack ice belt.
As we cruise southwest across the Greenland Sea – the main outlet of the Arctic Ocean – we may encounter pack ice where, if we are lucky, we will see polar bears hunting for prey.
The strong icy currents have isolated East Greenland from the rest of the world for millennia. These currents carry nutrients 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 entertain us with fascinating talks on plants, animals 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 Fulmar and migratory Brunnichs 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 polar bear, snowy owl and musk ox, it's the world's largest national park, covering 375,000 sq mi (972,000 km2); most of which is inland ice and the rest a composite fjord landscape.
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 Scoresby Sund, the world’s biggest fjord and a favorite 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 3,000 years ago by 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, and maybe if we are extremely lucky even a polar bear or narwhal, although due to the relentless pursuit of the local hunters, these sightings are often very rare.
In the next couple of days our itinerary may take us to Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord and Scoresby Sund. Landings may include:
Cape Humboldt is 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. A lone trapper's hut looks over the bay and magnificent icebergs.
Sefstrom Glacier adorns the narrow peaked waterway in Alpefjord. Zodiac access is allowable and it is a pretty area, with Arctic flora growing in the autumn light.
Ittoqqortoormiit is Scoresby Sund’s colorful Inuit community of approximately 500 people. Feel free to explore the village, 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 fox-fur jackets.
Sydkap in Scoresby Sund offers good walking and delightful views across the sound. Kayakers will have good opportunities to explore the lonely beaches. We may explore the ancient gravesites on the island, or the lakes with green tunnels and giant icebergs offer hours of enjoyment for kayak and Zodiac rides.
Other possible landing points in the area include: Rypefjord; O Fjord; Fonfjord; Bjorn Oya; Milne Land; Hekla Havn; and Denmark Island.
These days will be expeditionary days, exploring the East Greenland coast. Much of the region is unchartered territory and depending on weather and timing we’ll venture south exploring the bays and fjords, looking for new points of interest and places to land. In the afternoon of Day 12 we head into the Denmark Strait.
In the Denmark Strait, we cruise towards Iceland. We will be on the lookout for whale blows and the many seabirds that trail our ship in the uplifting thermals. We have time to relive our recent adventures, swap images and enjoy the last of the ocean air.
During the early morning we will arrive into Keflavik. After breakfast you'll be transferred to Reykjavik by coach. The coach will drop passengers at Keflavik international airport and downtown hotels.
You will have the opportunity to say farewell your fellow passengers as you continue on with your own travel arrangements.
Note: Please refer to this itinerary as a guide only as changes may occur due to unpredictable sea and weather conditions.
* Itinerary may be subject to change