Discover the immense polar deserts of Severnaya Zemlya.. Get up close to the stunning glacier of Inostrantseva Bay.. Search for polar bears, walrus and other wildlife in Franz Josef Land.. Explore the extraordinary mix of Eastern and Western influenced architecture of Helsinki.
From the stunning wildernesses of the Russian Arctic to the bright lights of Helsinki, this is an adventure you’ll never forget. Make like a true polar explorer and voyage around unspoiled areas like Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land. You’ll never get tired of gazing up at the face of a glacier or watching a calving iceberg. Polar bear encounters are a real possibility and there will be plenty of opportunities to spot walrus, seals, whales and wide variety of seabirds.
Your Arctic adventure begins in Helsinki, renowned for its extraordinary architecture and intriguing mix of eastern and western influences. If you arrive early, explore the many museums, galleries and restaurants, relax at a Finnish sauna or wander the vibrant Design District before retiring at your included hotel for the night.
Embarkation in Murmansk
After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the airport and board your private charter flight to Murmansk, Russia. This is where you’ll board the ship that will be your home for the next two weeks. Once aboard, get acquainted with the ship, your fellow travellers and the crew and settle in for your voyage north.
Over the next two days you’ll sail through the Barents Sea and your Expedition Team will prepare you for the adventures that await. The sea is named after the great Dutch explorer Willem Barents, who led two expeditions to Novaya Zemlya in the 1590s. Learn about the storied history and politics of the region, its fascinating wildlife, geology, ecology and climate, and the incredible sights you will soon be exploring. Your crew will keep a lookout for seabirds, such as kittiwakes, skuas and fulmars soaring above your ship to point out to you. Whale and seal sightings may also be possible in this biologically diverse sea, so keep a close eye out.
Exploring Novaya Zemlya
The next few days will be dedicated to exploring the largest of the Eurasian Arctic archipelagos, the rarely visited Novaya Zemlya or New Land. It’s the third-largest wilderness area in Europe and is actually made up of two main islands, Severny (northern) and Yuzhny (southern), separated by the imposing Matochkin Strait. As we explore Novaya Zemlya, expect a new adventure every day. Each expedition will be unique, depending on the weather and ice, but a few landing sites we strive to visit include Inostrantseva Bay, the Oransky Islands, Cape Zhelaniya, Cape Spory Navalok and Russkaya Gavan.
Boasting one of the most picturesque glaciers in the entire archipelago, Inostrantseva Bay provides breathtaking panoramic views of pristine arctic wilderness. If conditions allow, you may explore ashore, or Zodiac cruise along the face of the glacier, at a safe distance, possibly witnessing the wonders of calving ice. Encounters with Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres) are likely, owing to a small colony in the coastal cliffs.
To the northwest side of Severny Island are the Oransky Islands. Wildlife abounds here, with a variety of animal and plant life to be discovered, Walrus have been sighted here on many previous expeditions. Coming across a walrus haul-out is unforgettable. These giant pinnipeds of the Arctic create a raucous as each walrus vies for a choice spot of coastline. Encounters with whales and seabirds are possible, as well as polar bears, a genetically distinct subpopulation here.
A significant site in polar exploration, Novaya Zemlya also offers a number of opportunities for you to trace the footsteps of famous explorers and reflect on the region’s history.
Exploring the Kara Sea and Severnaya Zemlya
Say goodbye to Novaya Zemlya as you cruise east to explore the Kara Sea, the westernmost Asian sea off Siberia. Known as the ice cellar of the Arctic, it’s often encumbered by trapped ice floes, but don’t worry, ice conditions will be considered by your skilled captain during navigation. On the plus side, sea ice happens to be a great habitat for iconic Arctic wildlife. Weather dependent, there are several sites and small archipelagos along the Siberian coast you will aim to explore, tracing the path of polar explorers searching for the Northeast Passage. Hopefully you can visit Russky Island, Troynoy Island and Cape Chelyuskin – they are both part of the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve, the largest reserve in Eurasia. Russky Island is the site of a former polar station, established, in part, to monitor navigation along the Northern Sea Route, the Russian section of the Northeast Passage. Troynoy Island is the largest of the Izvesti Tsik Islands, about 150 km off the coast of the Taymyr Peninsula. The island is uninhabited, except for the researchers at the weather station. Home to an ivory gull colony, the island is also frequented by polar bears, so this may be an opportunity for an illusive sighting.
At the tip of the Taymyr Peninsula is Cape Chelyuskin, the northernmost point of the Russian and Eurasian mainland and the site of another active research station. Here, at the edge of the earth, you will hopefully get the chance to explore on foot.
An exploration of Severnaya Zemlya embodies the true spirit of adventure. Dominated by glaciers and polar desert, the archipelago was not discovered until 1913 and remained virtually unexplored till 1930–32, the last major undiscovered territory on earth. Amongst many possible destinations, you’ll hopefully visit a number of glaciers, including the Vavilov Ice Cap and those at Marat Fjord. If conditions are favourable, you may cruise the Red Army Strait, flanked by the massive Academy of Sciences Glacier (which also runs along the eastern shore of Zhuravlev Bay) and the smaller Rusanov Glacier. As one of very few people to ever explore this remote area in depth, you’ll want to have your camera ready to capture these amazing sights.
Today there are several activities on board the ship to keep you entertained while at sea. Attend presentations by your Expedition Team, relax in our polar library or simply spend some time on deck, admiring the sea and keeping an eye out for wildlife.
Exploring Franz Josef Land
This remote group of 191 islands, many covered in ice, forms the most northerly archipelago in Eurasia and lies entirely within the Arctic Circle and is part of the Russian Arctic National Park. Weather and ice conditions will shape your exploration, but hopefully you’ll get to explore historical sites, remote seabird colonies and walrus haul-outs at some notable destinations, such as Cape Flora, Cape Norway, Bell Island and Tikhaya Bukta. Polar bear encounters are also a real possibility…
On Jackson Island, Cape Norway is where Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen wintered from 1895 to 1896. The conditions were astonishingly difficult, but they survived until the summer and continued their journey south. The remains of their small hut are still here today, along with a memorial marking the event.
Exploring Tikhaya Bukta (Calm Bay), the site of an abandoned weather station on Hooker Island, will feel like stepping back in time. There is plenty to discover as you wander the ruins, immersed in Russian polar history, and you may even be able to send a postcard from the post office.
The Stolichky and Appolonov Islands offer plentiful walrus encounters, as the lumbering giants can be found hauled out here. If ice and weather are in your favour, we’ll explore the area by Zodiac, at a safe distance, to view these pinnipeds of the Arctic in their natural habitat.
As your Arctic expedition winds down, you have a couple of days to sail through this wildlife-rich sea, where whales of various species are often seen. Take in a presentation from the Expedition Team, reminisce about your incredible journey with your shipmates, relax in the lounge while swapping stories and photos or enjoy the solitude of the sea. Expedition staff will be on hand to answer any remaining questions and spot wildlife.
Disembarkation in Murmansk
Returning to Russia’s most northerly city, you’ll have time to bid farewell to your Expedition Team and crew before catching your group charter flight back to Helsinki, where you will have one more night in this exquisite city. You may want to head out for a final dinner with your group, or simply appreciate being back on dry land by exploring the city further.
Your journey ends today after breakfast, and you can spend time exploring more of the Finnish capital or catch your homeward-bound flight at any time.