Mid-afternoon we're warmly welcomed aboard the Ortelius, with time to settle in before the welcome dinner.
We sail to Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favoured by Ringed and Bearded Seal. The cliffs and shoreline of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation, which flourishes in sheltered spots. Polar bear are often seen here.
Depending on the weather we may now sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of And ya. Many Common Eiders and Pink-footed Geese nest here, and the rarer King Eider may also be seen. We hope to sail into Liefdefjorden, cruising near the 5km long face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier front are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of Kittiwakes, and on previous voyages Polar Bears have been seen on the glacier, providing wonderful opportunities for photography.
Today we will sail into Hinlopen Strait - home to Bearded Seals, Ringed Seals, Polar Bears, and Ivory Gulls. We will navigate the ice fls of Lomfjordshalv ya in our zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Br nnich's Guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, we will attempt a landing at Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet - home to Reindeer, Pink-footed Geese, breeding Ivory Gulls, and Walruses.
Today we will try to reach our northernmost point at Phipps ya, 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.
Retracing our route westwards, our route takes us through and along the pack ice, keeping watch for Polar Bear and the elusive Greenland Whale (Bowhead). About 40 nautical miles west of Spitsbergen we sail along the edge of the continental shelf, where Fin Whale forage in summer in the upwellings along the Spitsbergen banks. At the mouth of the Kongsfjord we have also good chances to see Minke Whale.
We will land at the northern tip of Prins Karls Forland near Fuglehuken, where Barentsz probably set foot on Spitsbergen for the first time. Seabirds nest on the cliffs and along the coast we will see Harbour Seals, the only population found in Spitsbergen. Further we also will observe the remains of the Polar Bear hunting era, with demolished set guns and bear traps. At the opposite site of Forlandsundet at Sarstangen is a haul out place for Walruses. Alternatively we will sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden and land at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on its cliffs and Arctic Foxes search the cliff base for fallen eggs and chicks, while Spitsbergen Reindeer graze the relatively luxuriant vegetation. The reindeer may seem unbothered by human presence, but this is not really the case. The animals must survive the harsh winter, when temperatures plummet and food is hard to find, so they preserve what energy they can, fleeing only when it is absolutely necessary. In the afternoon we will cruise through beautiful Borebukta, following a glacier front before continuing to Longyearbyen.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport. Trip concludes.