The polar bear encounters were something you would wait a lifetime to have. There is no doubt that up close their habits are fascinating, and we were so grateful for the sensitive method of approaching these beautiful creatures when advisable and giving them a wide berth (for their sakes) when not. We also appreciated the contact with the Chukchi people and their hospitality and entertainment. Then there were the snowy owls, snow geese, the myriad of shearwaters feeding in a sea full of whales, not to mention the walrus, seals and the tundra itself.
- Paul and Jacquie, travelled to Wrangel Island 2015
Day 1: Murmansk, Russia Join the Akademik Shokalskiy this afternoon and depart. After sailing there will be introductions to ship and crew. Days 2 to 3: Barents Sea This sea is named in honour of Dutch Seafarer and navigator Willem Barents who explored the region on two separate expeditions in 1594 and 1596. We will keep a look out for marine mammals and of course seabirds. Days 4 to 6: Franz Josef Land This is a huge archipelago of 192 islands located only 10 degrees from the North Pole. They were named in 1870 after the Hungarian Emperor when they were discovered by the Austro-Hungarian Payer-Weyprecht Expedition that was searching for the NE Passage. During our time here we plan multiple landings in search of history, wildlife and flora. Days 7 to 8: Kara Sea The Kara Sea is one of the coldest seas in Russia. It lies between Novaya Zemlay, Franz Josef and Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago. Days 9 to 11: Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago The Severnaya Zemlya Islands are on the border of the Kara and Laptev Seas and are an extension of the Taimyr Peninsula. The islands were not discovered until 1914-15 by the Russian explorer Vilkitski. They are heavily glaciated with deep fiords and majestic glaciers which make them magnificent for cruising. There is also a great selection and abundance of Arctic wildlife including Polar Bears, Arctic Foxes, Arctic Hares and walruses. Days 12 to 13: Crossing the Laptev Sea This sea is bounded in the west by the Taymyr and the Severnaya Islands and the Novosibirskie Islands in the east. Look out for the Laptev Sea Walrus known only in this sea. Days 14 to 16: Noviye Sebirskiye (New Siberian Islands) These islands mark the border between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas and consist of three major groups: Southern, Central (Anzhu) and Northern (De Long) Group. The islands are virtually unexplored and are uninhabited apart from the researchers at a couple of weather stations. We will explore the islands with a number of landings in search of Arctic flora and wildlife. Day 17: East Siberian Sea It was in this sea that the Jeannette, captained by George Washington De Long, became stuck fast in ice, drifted and was crushed and sunk in 1881. Wreckage from the Jeanette was found in Greenland in 1884 giving Nansen the idea for the now famous 1893-96 Fram Expedition. Day 18: Medvezhyi Islands There are no permanent settlements on these little known and seldom visited islands. They are covered in tundra and known to have a good population of Polar Bears. Day 19: Ayon Island and Village This island and village is home to a small group of Chukchi Reindeer herders. We enjoy their hospitality and learn about reindeer herding. Day 20: East Siberian Sea This sea occupies the area between the Novosibirskie Islands and Wrangel Island. Three of Siberia’s major rivers flow into it – the Indigirka, Alazaya and the Kolyma. It was in this sea that the Soviet vessel Chelyuskin with 111 people on board became trapped in ice and sank in 1934. Days 21 to 23: Wrangel Island Wrangel Island is one of those islands that you have to visit to appreciate. It is a Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance and also a World Heritage Site. A lot of its significance lies in the fact that it is a major Polar Bear denning area. It is also the last landfall for migratory species flying north. Each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, skuas, Arctic Terns, Ross’s, Sabine’s and Ivory Gulls. Day 24: Kolyuchin Island Early this morning we will pass close by the place where the Swedish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiold wintered over in 1878. Later this morning we plan to land on Kolyuchin Island, where there is an abandoned Polar research and weather station and some great bird cliffs. Day 25: Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village Early this morning we will be at Cape Dezhnev, the eastern extremity of the Eurasian continent. This afternoon we visit the nearby village of Uelen. Here we enjoy the hospitality of the local people who are predominantly Chukchi and enjoy a cultural performance and visit the bone-carving studio. Day 26: Whale Bone Alley and Gil’mimyl Hot Springs We visit Whale Bone Alley on Yttygran Island, one of the most significant and intriguing archaeological sites in the Arctic. This afternoon we plan a landing at the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs. Day 27: At Sea Crossing the Gulf of Anadyr there will be opportunities for pelagic birding, marine mammal watching and lectures. Day 28: Anadyr The expedition finishes in Anadyr. After a final breakfast it will be time to disembark. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel. Important Note: These expeditions are subject to approval from various Russian Federal and Regional Authorities and may have to change depending on these approvals. Permits have been lodged for all the sites mentioned in the itinerary, depending on approvals these may have to be amended or substituted. We will endeavour to keep participants fully informed of any changes in the itinerary as and when they occur.
The Akademik Shokalskiy is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research. This class of vessel is world renowned for polar exploration, because of its strength, maneuverability and small passenger numbers. The Shokalskiy provides comfortable accommodation in double and twin cabins with private facilities. All cabins have outside windows and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room, where the science team and expedition staff will present a programme of talks.