Longyearbyen to Longyearbyen
Aboard MV Plancius or MV Ortelius
- 9 nights / 10 days July – August
Depending on ice conditions, our aim on this voyage is to circumnavigate Spitsbergen clockwise or anti-clockwise, with the emphasis on exploring key locations in the east, where polar bears abound. Late in the summer, the ice has usually broken up sufficiently to allow passage through Hinlopen Strait or via Kvitoya, a remote island east of Nordaustlandet, to give access to the wildlife-rich islands of Barenstoya and Edgeoya. This voyage is wonderful for observing walruses, ringed and bearded seals and may even yield sightings of the elusive Greenland whale. While polar bears may be encountered on the ice, we also go ashore on the tundra, where reindeer graze and Arctic foxes roam. During this voyage we will encounter a lot of sea ice and have a chance to observe impressive calving glaciers at close quarters.
Arrive in Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Spitsbergen archipelago of which West Spitsbergen is the largest island. Before embarking there is an opportunity to stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and Polar Museum are well worth visiting. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.
Heading north along the west coast, we arrive by morning in Krossfjorden, where we go on the Zodiacs for a cruise along the sculpted front of the 14th of July Glacier. On the green slopes near the glacier, a colourful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of Kittiwakes and Brünnich’s Guillemots nest on the nearby cliffs. There is also a good chance of spotting Arctic Foxes, who patrol the base of the cliffs in case a chick falls from its nest, and Bearded Seals, who cruise this fjord. In the afternoon we sail to Ny Ålesund, the world’s most northerly settlement. Once a mining village – served by the world’s most northerly railway, which can still be seen – Ny Ålesund is now a research centre. Close to the village is a breeding ground for Barnacle Geese, Pink-footed Geese and Arctic Terns. Visitors interested in the history of Arctic exploration will want to walk to the anchoring mast used by Amundsen and Nobile in the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile in the airship Italia in 1928 before their flights to the North Pole.
Near the mouth of Liefdefjorden, we will go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many common eiders and pink-footed geese nest here, and the more rare king eider may also be seen. Sailing into Liefdefjorden, we will cruise near the face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier front are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes and occasionally polar bears are seen on the glacier.
Today we will reach our northernmost point at Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here we will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, along with ivory gulls. We may sit for several hours in the pack ice, taking in our spectacular surroundings and seeing a Ross gull, before we turn south again.
We will visit Laagøya today, a low island with a big lagoon where a big herd of Walrus tends to congregate. Sabine’s Gulls nest on the island as well. At Sorg Fjord we may find another herd of walruses not far from the graves of 17th century whalers. On a nature walk, we may encounter families of ptarmigans.
Today we will sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to Bearded Seals, Ringed Seals, Polar Bears, and Ivory Gulls. We’ll navigate the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in our zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopenstrait, we’ll attempt a landing at Augustabukta on Nordaustlandet, home to Reindeer, Pink-footed Geese, breeding Ivory Gulls, and Walruses. Near Torrelneset, we will explore the polar desert of Nordaustlandet, next to the world’s third largest ice cap, which meets the sea nearby. We will walk along beautiful coastline covered in smooth rocks, sculpted by the surf over thousands of years. We may encounter walruses along the way.
In Freemansundet we plan to land at Sundneset on the island of Barentsøya to visit an old trapper’s hut and then take a brisk walk across the tundra in search of Spitsbergen Reindeer and Barnacle Geese. Later we cruise south to Diskobukta on the west side of Edgeøya. After a Zodiac cruise through the shallow bay, we land on a beach littered with whale bones and tree trunks, which have drifted here from Siberia. We can also climb to the rim of a narrow gully which is inhabited by thousands of Kitttiwakes, together with Black Guillemots and piratical Glaucous Gulls. During the breeding season, the base of the cliffs is patrolled by Arctic Foxes and Polar Bears, especially females with young cubs, searching for young birds that have fallen from the nesting ledges.
We start the day quietly cruising the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to 1,431m while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name ‘Spitsbergen’ – pointed mountains – to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area and very good chances of encounters with seals and Polar Bears.
Today we land on Ahlstrandhalvøya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden. Here piles of Beluga skeletons (the Beluga is a small white whale), the remains of 19th century slaughter, are yet another reminder of the consequences of thoughtless exploitation. Fortunately, Belugas were not hunted to the edge of extinction and may still be seen locally. Indeed, there is a good chance that we will come across a pod. Cruising into Recherchefjorden during the afternoon we can explore an area of tundra at the head of the fjord where many Reindeer feed.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home.
Dates and Cost
- Plancius – 10 Days 25 Jul – 03 Aug 2016
- Plancius – 10 Days 12 Aug – 21 Aug 2016
- Plancius – 10 Days 21 Aug – 30 Aug 2016
|Quadruple||Triple + Porthole||Twin + Porthole||Twin + Window||Twin Deluxe||Superior|
- Ortelius – 10 Days 8 Jul – 17 Jul 2016
- Ortelius – 10 Days 17 Jul – 26 Jul 2015
- Ortelius – 10 Days 26 Jul – 04 Aug 2015
- Ortelius – 10 Days 22 Aug – 31 Aug 2015
|Quadruple Porthole||Twin non private||Twin + Porthole||Twin + Window||Superior||Suite|
- Voyage aboard the indicated vessel as indicated in the final itinerary
- All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea
- All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac
- Programme of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced staff
- transfers and baggage handling between the hotels, airports and ship only for those passengers on the group flights in Longyearbyen-Spitsbergen, and Narsarsuak-Greenland
- All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the programme, and comprehensive pre-departure material.
- Onboard M/V Plancius free loan of boots & snow shoes
What’s not included
- Any airfares, whether on scheduled or charter flights
- Pre-and post land arrangements
- Transfers to/from the vessel outside Spitsbergen, passport and visa expenses
- Government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is strongly recommended)
- Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges
- Customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard (guidelines will be provided).
MV Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy and was named ‘Hr. Ms. Tydeman’. The ship sailed for the Dutch Navy until June 2004 and was finally purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions. The MV Plancius has been completely rebuilt as a 110-passenger vessel and complies with the latest SOLAS-regulations (Safety Of Life At Sea), offering a restaurant/lecture room on deck 3 and a spacious observation lounge (with bar) on deck 5 with large windows, with full panorama view. The vessell has large open deck spaces (with full walk-around possibilities on deck 3), giving excellent opportunities to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. She is furthermore equipped with 10 Mark V zodiacs, including 40 HP 4-stroke outboard engines and 2 gangways on starboard side, guaranteeing a swift zodiac operation. The vessel is equipped with a diesel-electric propulsion system which reduces the noise and vibration of the engines considerably. The 3 diesel engines generate 1.230 horse-power each, giving the vessel a speed of 10 – 12 knots. The vessel is ice-strengthened and was specially built for oceanographic voyages.
MV Plancius is comfortable and nicely decorated, but is not a luxurious vessel. The voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are and will still be primarily defined by an exploratory educational travel programme, spending as much time ashore as possible. This vessel is manned by 17 nautical crew, 19 hotel staff (6 chefs, 1 hotel manager, 1 steward-barman and 11 stewards / cabin cleaners), 8 expedition staff (1 expedition leader and 7 guides-lecturers) and 1 doctor.
MV Plancius accomodates 53 passenger cabins, all with private toilet and shower, as follows:
- Quadruple: 5 cabins with private facilities.
- Twin Porthole: 19 cabins with porthole, private facilities, lower berths.
- Twin Window: 26 cabins with window, private facilities, lower berths.
- Twin Deluxe: 2 cabins with 2 windows (aft and side view), private facilities, lower berths.
- Superior: 10 cabins with private facilities, double beds.
The ice-strengthened vessel “Ortelius” is an excellent vessel for Polar expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctica, providing us with possibilities to adventure remote locations such as the Ross Sea and Franz Josef Land.
“Ortelius” was built in Gdynia, Poland in 1989, was named “Marina Svetaeva”, and served as a special purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science. The vessel is re-flagged and renamed “Ortelius”. As Plancius, Ortelius was a Dutch / Flemish cartographer. Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598) published the first modern world atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Theatre of the World in 1570. At that time, the atlas was the most expensive book ever printed.
The vessel has the highest ice-class notation (UL1 equivalent to 1A) and is therefore very suitable to navigate in solid one-year sea ice and loose multi-year pack ice. “Ortelius” is a great expedition vessel for 100 passengers with lots of open-deck spaces and a very large bridge which is accessible to the passengers. The vessel is manned by 34 highly experienced Russian nautical crew, 15 international catering staff, including stewardesses, 6 expedition staff (1 expedition leader and 5 guides/lecturers) and 1 doctor.
”Ortelius” offers a comfortable hotel standard, with two restaurants, a bar/lecture room and a sauna. Our voyages are primarily developed to offer our passengers a quality exploratory wildlife program, trying to spend as much time ashore as possible. As the number of passengers is limited to approximately 100 on the “Ortelius”, flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities. “Ortelius” carries 11 zodiacs of which 9 are in use and 2 on reserve. The zodiac engines are 60hp Yamaha.
On selected voyages, helicopters are also used for ice reconnaissance and for passenger shore excursions.
A considerable number of quadruple and twin cabins with shared facilities (toilet and showers to be shared in the corridors) offer attractive lower starting prices for our Polar voyages. The vessel offers basic but comfortable cabins and public spaces.
The cabin lay-out is as follows: 5 quadruple cabins with bunk beds and shared facilities (these can also be used as triple or twin cabins); 14 twin cabins with 2 lower single berths and shared facilities; 9 twin cabins with portholes, private toilet and shower and 2 single lower berths; 10 twin cabins with windows, private toilet and shower and 2 single lower berths; 6 superior cabins with double beds, private toilet and shower and a separate day room, and 1 suite with a double bed, private toilet and shower and a separate day room. All cabins are spacious outside cabins with a minimum of two portholes or windows per cabin.