Spitsbergen is an Arctic archipelago about 650 kilometres (400 miles) north of Norway. The archipelago ranges from Bear Island at 74° North to Rossøya at 81° North. It is by far the largest wilderness area of Europe; it covers an area of about 62,500 km², about the size of Ireland. About 60% of the land is glaciated. Since 1925 Norway has sovereignty over Spitsbergen according to the international Spitsbergen Treaty. The Norwegian name for the archipelago is Svalbard.
The name Spitsbergen was given by the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz, who discovered the islands in 1596 during a mission to find a new sea route to the fabled land of Cathay, the Far East. The meaning of the name Spitsbergen in the Dutch language is "Jagged Peaks" because of the sharp pointed mountains that Barentsz met in the north-west of Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen, which has a population of about 3000 in 4 settlements, is still today virtually an unspoilt wilderness. Imagine a place the size of Ireland with only about 50 kilometres. (30 miles) of road.
The main settlement is Longyearbyen, which has approximately 2000 inhabitants and is one of the world's northernmost villages. Longyearbyen is a modern village with a wide range of facilities such as a supermarket, tourist shops, several pubs and hotels, a cinema, a swimming pool, a sports hall and a church. Longyearbyen even has its own university, the UNIS, that offers Arctic studies.
In the beautiful Kongsfjord the northernmost of the four settlements on Spitsbergen can be found. Ny-Ålesund even boasts being the northernmost settlement in the world at latitude 78° 55′ North. Originally a mining settlement it is now a privately owned village that sells services to scientists - it is a village for scientists, an Arctic laboratory. Ny-Ålesund is inhabited by a permanent population of approximately 35 persons. In summer up to 120 international scientists work here. Their research includes environmental studies, for instance climate change, geology, biology, oceanography, zoology and more.
Although Spitsbergen is close enough to the North Pole to become an Arctic freezer in winter, it has a remarkable mild climate. This is due to the Gulf Stream, a huge Atlantic surface current that delivers warm water to the Spitsbergen coast and moderates the climate. The average temperature on the west coast in summer is around 5°C (41°F), and in winter, -12°C (10°F). In general the temperatures on the east side are lower than on the west as the warm Gulf Stream does not reach the east coast that much. As Spitsbergen lies far within the Arctic circle, it experiences the midnight sun from April to August. At this time of year the sun is above the horizon for 24 hours a da
North Spitsbergen itinerary:
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, while in the surrounding area of Longyearbyen, more than 100 species of plants have been recorded. 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 get on the Zodiacs for an exhilarating cruise along the sculpted front of the 14th of July Glacier. On the surprisingly fertile 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 opportunistic Arctic Foxes, patrolling the base of the cliffs in case a hapless chick falls from its nest, and Bearded Seals, who cruise this scenic 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
Depending on the weather we may now sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. 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’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 Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet, home to Reindeer, Pink-footed Geese, breeding Ivory Gulls, and Walruses.
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.
Retracing our route westwards, we visit Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favoured by Ringed and Bearded Seals. The cliffs and shoreline of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation, which flourishes in sheltered spots. On the offshore island of Ytre Norskøya, we visit a 17th century Dutch whaling site, whose large graveyard is a poignant reminder of the hardships and dangers of life here at the time. The island’s bird life is prolific, with colonies of Little Auks, Black Guillemots, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Puffins and Arctic Skuas accessible to visitors.
We 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 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 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 cruise through beautiful Borebukta, following a glacier front before continuing to Longyearbyen.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home
MV Antarctic Dream is a Dutch built ice-reinforced vessel and served under the name Piloto Pardo for the Chilean Navy. The vessel was rebuilt as an unrestricted, worldwide passenger vessel and was completely refurbished in July 2005. MV Antarctic Dream is registered in Belize. The vessel features a spacious dining room / observation lounge, bar, lecture room, fitness room plus sauna, boutique and passenger bridge.
The vessel offers accommodation for 84 passengers in 42 twin cabins with private toilet and shower. 4 Suites, 16 Superior cabins and 20 twin private cabins have portholes or windows and either two separate lower beds or queen beds. 2 Additional twin private cabins have no portholes / windows (inside cabins). All cabins have furthermore a desk, closed circuit TV, and inter-cabin phone service. Satellite email and phone service is available on the bridge.
The vessel is manned by 18 well-trained Chilean crew members. The on board staff consists of 1 expedition leader, 4 guides / lecturers, 1 hotel manager, 1 barman, 1 doctor, 4 chefs and 7 waitresses / cabin cleaners. The MV Antarctic Dream's expeditions offer you the ideal introduction to Spitsbergen and Greenland. Departing from and finishing most of the times in the port of Longyearbyen, we take in the most exciting sights Spitbergen. Our program is orientated to the viewing of wildlife and the breathtaking scenery of narrow waterways, glaciers and icebergs.
The Captain and the expedition leader will assess conditions daily with the intention of maximizing your time ashore. This means taking full advantage of opportunities to land passengers with our zodiacs and making best use of the light of the long summer days. On board lectures are offered by geologists, historians, naturalists and expedition leaders. Join the captain and the rest of our 36 crew and staff members for an awe-inspiring journey of discovery and adventure.
Ice class: The MV Antarctic Dream has a 1-inch thick steel ring which is 3 meters high surrounding the hull in the area closest to the ice. The frames have 300 mm of distance in between. The propeller has protection for working in ice. The vessel is not an icebreaker but can handle loose ice of about 300-500 mm in thickness. She was constructed under the following notation of Lloyd’s Register: + 100 A1 strengthened for navigation in ice.
MV Antarctic dream accommodates 42 twin passengers cabins all with lower beds and private toilet and shower, as follows:
4 with large window
(3 with queen beds, 1 with two single beds)
16 with large window
(6 with queen beds, 10 with two single beds)
20 with small porthole
(5 with queen beds, 15 with two single beds)
Twin private inside:
2 with no porthole or window
(2 with two single beds)