Heading north along the west coast, you arrive by morning in
Krossfjorden. Here you might board the Zodiacs for a cruise near the
towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. On the green
slopes near the glacier, colorful flowers bloom while flocks of
kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the cliffs. You have a good
chance of spotting an Arctic fox scouting for fallen chicks, or a
bearded seal paddling through the fjord.
In the afternoon you sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway – you can still see its tracks – Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen and Nobile in their airships, Norge (1926) and Italia (1928).
Pushing east to Nordaustlandet, you reach the area where the Italian captain Sora tried to rescue the Nobile Expedition in 1928. The focus here is the great glacier front of Schweigaardbreen, though you may also land at Firkantbukta, getting the chance to gain some altitude and take a few higher-elevation photos. Alternately, you could make a Zodiac cruise near Storøya, where you might encounter walruses.
Today you try to reach the rarely visited Kvitøya, far to the east and close to Russian territory. The enormous ice cap covering this island leaves only a small area bare. You land at the western tip of Andréeneset, where the Swedish explorer S. A. Andrée and his companions perished in 1897. Another objective for the day is Kræmerpynten, where a sizable group of walruses reside.
The plan is to make landings in Freemansundet, though polar bears sometimes make this impossible. Potential stops on Barentsøya include Sundneset (for an old trapper’s hut), Kapp Waldburg (for its kittiwake colony), and Rindedalen (for a walk across the tundra). You might also cruise south to Diskobukta, though Kapp Lee is more likely your destination. On Kapp Lee is a walrus haul-out, Pomor ruins, and the chance for hikes along Edgeøya.
You start the day by cruising the side fjords of the Hornsund area of
southern Spitsbergen, taking in the spire-like peaks: Hornsundtind
rises 1,431 meters (4,695 feet), and Bautaen is a perfect illustration
of why early Dutch explorers named this island Spitsbergen, meaning
“pointed mountains.” There are 14 sizable glaciers in this area as well
as opportunities for spotting seals, beluga whales, and polar bears.