Franz Josef Land
20 Jul - 02 Aug 2020
01 Aug - 14 Aug 2020
13 Aug - 26 Aug 2020
Rarely visited today yet significant in the history of polar exploration, Franz Josef Land is worthy of its legendary reputation.
This extraordinary expedition to Franz Josef Land is as unique and authentic as the place itself. Starting in Longyearbyen in the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, we cross the icy, wildlife-rich Barents Sea to the Russian High Arctic. In Franz Josef Land we discover unparalleled landscapes, wildlife, and history in one of the wildest and most remote corners of the Arctic.
Back in Svalbard we have the opportunity to explore beautiful fjords and islands on the northwestern coast of Spitsbergen. Here we seek the full range of Arctic wildlife in one of the world’s most impressive polar desert environments.
HIGH ARCTIC WILDERNESS
Franz Josef Land, part of the Russian Arctic National Park, is a nature sanctuary. Polar bears, walrus, endangered bowhead whales, and other Arctic wildlife can be spotted anywhere, anytime in and around the archipelago. Svalbard is a similarly protected wilderness where we find flowering tundra and tidewater glaciers.
Steep cliffs and scree slopes in both island groups accommodate enormous colonies of nesting seabirds such as dovekies, guillemots, and rare ivory gulls. 24-hour daylight allows us to exploit every opportunity for wildlife viewing in this unique polar ecosystem.
HISTORY OF POLAR EXPLORATION
In Franz Josef Land we encounter a stark and enigmatic landscape steeped in the drama and heroism of early polar exploration. At places like Bell Island, Cape Flora, and Cape Tegetthoff we have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen, Frederick George Jackson, Julius von Payer, and other polar explorers.
At Tikhaya Bukhta we find the ruins of a Soviet-era research facility that was also a major base for polar expeditions. Across the archipelago there are monuments, memorials, crosses, and the remains of makeshift dwellings, all testimony to incredible historical events.
On this voyage we also experience stunning scenery and abundant wildlife in Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s largest island. This classic Arctic destination is home to reindeer, Arctic fox, millions of seabirds, numerous marine mammal species, and a high concentration of polar bears.
In this multifaceted landscape of glaciated mountains and coastal plains we also find historical sites and the Arctic research community of Ny Ålesund, complete with gift shop, post office, and museum.
Day 1 – Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Welcome to Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Norwegian territory of Svalbard and starting point of our expedition. After arriving via scheduled commercial flight service, you are free to explore this fascinating Arctic settlement. Be sure to see the excellent Svalbard Museum and take advantage of quality shopping and dining opportunities in the town center. Your hotel for the night has been arranged by us and is included in the price of the voyage.
Day 2 – Embarkation in Longyearbyen
In the afternoon we welcome you aboard the luxury expedition ship M/V Sea Spirit. Explore the ship and get comfortable in your home away from home for the extraordinary adventure to come. Savor the anticipation of your Arctic dreams coming true as we slip our moorings and sail into a true wilderness where wildlife abounds. The scenery as we sail through Isfjorden on our first evening is spectacular and there is already the possibility of marine mammal encounters.
Days 3 & 4 – Across the Barents Sea
From Isfjorden we proceed forthwith around Svalbard and east to Franz Josef Land across the Barents Sea. Presentations and workshops by our expert staff prepare us for what lies ahead.
In these far northern latitudes it is possible to encounter sea ice any time of the year. All along the way we remain vigilant for sightings of ice-dependent marine mammals such as the elusive bowhead whale, various Arctic seal species, and the majestic polar bear.
Days 5 to 11 – Exploration of Franz Josef Land
This is expedition cruising at its most authentic. As such, our route and exploration opportunities in Franz Josef Land are heavily dependent on weather and sea ice. Our experienced captain and expedition leader decide our best route and continually adjust plans as opportunities warrant in this wild and remote corner of the Arctic.
Between obligatory initial and final calls at the Russian polar station Nagurskoye in wildlife-rich Cambridge Bay, we are free to explore the many waterways and islands of this unique Arctic wilderness.
The archipelago, part of the Russian Arctic National Park since 2012, is a nature sanctuary. Polar bears and other quintessential High Arctic wildlife—such as walruses and some rare whale species—can be spotted anytime, anywhere in and around Franz Josef Land. Scree slopes and cliffs around the islands host enormous nesting colonies of migratory seabirds such as guillemots, dovekies, and ivory gulls. We’ll take advantage of the 24-hour daylight to exploit every opportunity for wildlife viewing.
Franz Josef Land is also home to some interesting geological features, such as the mysterious stone spheres on Champ Island. Collectors of geographical extremes may take note that Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island is the northernmost point of land in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Franz Josef Land also offers visitors the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of famous polar explorers at well-preserved historical sites. The journals of explorers such as Julius von Payer, Benjamin Leigh Smith, Frederick George Jackson, and Fridtjof Nansen come alive at Cape Norway, Cape Flora, Eira Harbor, and Cape Tegetthoff. Memorials, monuments, crosses and the remains of dwellings are testimony to incredible historical events that are further illuminated by our expert lecturers.
Tikhaya Bukhta is currently a Russian Arctic National Park ranger station occupying Soviet-era research buildings and was also a major base for polar expeditions. Nearby the fascinating columnar basalt cliffs of Rubini Rock are home to thousands of nesting seabirds.
Days 12 & 13 – Along the coasts of Svalbard
Following our week of exploration in Franz Josef Land, we cross back through the bountiful waters of the Barents Sea and then along the coastal islands of the Svalbard Archipelago. From panoramic open decks, enjoy Arctic landscapes and wildlife sightings. On ice floes and on fast ice, several species of seals watch vigilantly for polar bears, which can be spotted anytime, anywhere in and around Svalbard. Bountiful inshore and offshore waters are home to walrus and a wide variety of whales.
The crossing also gives our expedition team the opportunity to offer a final presentation or two in the Oceanus Lounge. Weather and timing permit, we’ll launch our Zodiacs to have a closer look at at wildlife as we head back to Longyearbyen.
Day 14 – West Spitsbergen
After a technical stop in Longyearbyen, we explore the spectacular fjords and coasts in the western part of Svalbard. This area contains some of the archipelago’s most impressive scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities abound.
Deep fjords and narrow channels are flanked by jagged snowy mountain peaks. Immense tidewater glaciers calve icebergs into turquoise waters. Fields of flowering tundra are home to grazing reindeer and Arctic fox, always on the hunt. The whole area is alive with migratory birds, including some rare species, taking advantage of summer’s fecundity in 24-hour daylight.
Among the historic sights, there are remnants of whaling camps, coal-mining operations, trappers’ cabins, staging areas for historic attempts to discover the North Pole, and the ruins of a WWII weather station.
Day 15 – Disembarkation in Longyearbyen, Svalbard
After breakfast we say farewell in the town of Longyearbyen, where we started. We provide a transfer to the airport or to the town center if you wish to spend more time here. As you look back on your wonderful experience in Svalbard, you may already be looking forward to your next incredible adventure to the ice!