Halfway between Norway and the North Pole lies an enchanting archipelago swept by warm Gulf Stream waters along its west coast; frigid pack ice from the north, polar desert winds from the east and lush sea breezes from the south.
Svalbard is so remote not even Paleo-Eskimos reached there and despite later periods of shore-based whaling, hunting, trapping, mining and scientific expeditions much remains a pristine wilderness. It’s ours to explore in ultra-luxury from our Discovery Yacht, Scenic Eclipse.
Mountainous Spitsbergen, the largest island in the archipelago, dominates Svalbard’s northwest corner. At its heart is Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s largest, and the world’s most northerly settlement. As perpetual summer daylight bathes surrounding mountainsides, admire Longyearbyen’s colourful houses and fascinating museums before setting sail down Isfjorden.
Due to the extraordinary nature of Svalbard, especially fast-changing weather and ice conditions, our Discovery Voyage itinerary is flexible, with the Captain and Discovery Leader working together to give you experiences that exceed your expectations. Here are some of the highlights that await you.
Enjoy breathtaking scenery from your suite’s private verandah as Scenic Eclipse navigates spectacular waterways like Magdalena Fjord, and join Discovery Team specialists on Zodiac cruises along calving ice fronts of the Waggonway or 14th July glaciers. As you slowly move amongst the brash ice and bergy bits, watch for polar bears on shore and reindeer grazing on tundra hills.
In Kingsfjorden, we may visit Ny Ålesund, a mining town turned polar research centre, or farther north, Amsterdamoya, where our Discovery Team historian leads us to Smeerenburg (literally Blubber Town) the remains of a 17th Century Dutch whaling settlement, where walrus often haulout. Just across the channel are the ruins from the Swedish balloon expedition base camp, where Andrée and his two co-pilots launched, never to be seen alive again. Today delightful harbour seals remain to entertain.
North of Spitsbergen, Scenic Eclipse aims for the Arctic pack ice, an ethereal world where walrus bob on ice floes, polar bears hunt seals and beluga whales rise in open leads. Scenic Eclipse, is built to Polar Class 6 standards and its state-of-the-art design allows us to push deeper into the pack thus improving our chance to see more and reach places other ships can’t, including beyond 80 degrees latitude to Seven Islands, Svalbard’s northernmost island group.
If ice conditions allow, thrill to a passage down Hinlopen Strait, which separates Spitsbergen from Nordaustlandet, an ice-capped polar desert where female polar and cubs prowl. Vegetation is sparse, but fossils are many and walrus frequently sleep on its cobbled beaches. Across the way are soaring birdcliffs that literally buzz with some 200,000 nests of Brünichs guillemots, kittiwakes and gulls. Carry binoculars to spy Arctic foxes scavenging for fallen eggs and chicks along the base.
On Svalbard’s south side, visit Sundneset, a fertile plain covered in green mosses and delicate flowers including the yellow marsh saxifrage, moss campion, bell-heather and elegant sunburst lichen. Round South Cape, the most southerly point of Spitsbergen, to explore the deep fjords of Hornsund and Bellsund, where reindeer graze on tundra near preserved trappers huts, puffins join guillemots on bird cliffs, and beluga whales rise like ghosts beneath ice fronts.
Focus on the wonders of Svalbard in our Arctic in Depth voyage or combine it with explorations of other destinations like the Norwegian Fjords, Greenland’s stunning east coast, and the thermal wonders of Iceland. No matter which Arctic cruise you choose, travelling in 6-star ultra-luxury on the World’s First Discovery Yacht, accompanied by up to 20 Discovery Team specialists keen to share their expertise and enthusiasm for special places, will leave you with indelible memories to treasure.