The Svalbard Experience
The islands of Svalbard rise dramatically from the Arctic Ocean halfway between Norway’s North Cape and the North Pole. They give eloquent evidence of nature’s slow but ceaseless industry, scored and corrugated by glaciers that still cover 60 percent of their mass. Stony, sentinel peaks soar above deeply carved fjords and sparkling bays. In summer, the sparse tundra vegetation erupts under the endless encouragement of the Midnight Sun. Migratory birds in their millions arrive from more southerly realms, to nest and breed and nurture their young on steep striated cliffs, shingle beaches and tundra meadows. Elaborately antlered reindeer graze the slopes. Arctic foxes and predatory gulls haunt the nursery edges, alert for opportunity. Seals and walruses haul out to join the breeding season, and patient polar bears patrol the rocky shorelines and floating ice, while whales roll and breach offshore, feeding on the sea’s summer abundance. Here and there, bleached testaments to past human endeavors endure: whalebones and weathered try pots from medieval whaling stations; the wind-sanded timbers of an expedition’s launching site; a hut where someone whiled away a long-ago, dark winter. Riding in Zodiacs and paddling kayaks, observing from the decks and trekking on the islands themselves, we will experience and explore this isolated, unspoiled and breathtakingly beautiful place, as it revels in the endless days of its short, exuberant summer.
The Iceland Experience
Iceland is a paradox. The English words ‘fellow’ and ‘geyser’ are both of Icelandic origin. Of all the Northern lands, Iceland has in many ways the most civilized and settled population. Yet it is also a singularly wild and unbridled piece of the earth, filled with jaw-dropping geologic marvels of monumental scale, enchanting landscapes of exceptional beauty, and is literally boiling with unbounded energy. Its cities enjoy an unbroken heritage of governance and lofty levels of modernity. But its immense, ground-shaking waterfalls, soaring peaks and fuming, pyroclastic vents are interspersed with an untouched, green geography harboring millions of nesting birds alongside prosperous sheep farms, and marine mammals including whales of all sorts, porpoises and seals in the heart of its busily harvested summer seas. Some say the Vikings named it Iceland to hide the secret of its bounteous plenitude. But we will go ourselves, in Zodiacs, kayaks and on foot to discover what wonders await us in Iceland’s tall, winding fjords; broad, verdant valleys; and towering stone sea stacks.
The Greenland Experience
Greenland is the largest island on earth, sprawling from near the North Pole southward across the Arctic Circle, where it wedges between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. Its circumference is fringed with innumerable fjords, cut deep into the planet’s most ancient, vividly colorful rocks. These waterways meander between towering alpine ranges to where shining, serpentine glaciers flow from the immense Greenland Ice Field to calve massive amounts of ice into the sea. This fringe of fjords and mountains is where Greenland’s life is concentrated. In summer it is brilliant with wildflowers, boisterous with colonies of every sort of breeding birds, and alive with grazing bands of caribou and musk oxen, Arctic foxes and polar bears. Seals, walrus and many species of whales from humpbacks to orcas, seis and porcelain-white belugas haunt the shores. Tiny, isolated human communities are scattered among the fjords, accessible only by boats or kayaks from the sea, afoot or, in winter, by dogsled. Our ship is the key to exploring this majestic place. We discover the hidden vistas folded between snowcapped peaks. We thread among towering icebergs in Zodiacs and kayaks, climb flower-bright tundra slopes and meet the people who live in this difficult, exquisitely beautiful place.
The Nunavut Experience
The most remote and least-populated destinations explored during Seabourn Venture’s Arctic season are the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, now included in the huge territory of Nunavut. The islands form a curve complementing Greenland’s western coastline, enclosing Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait. We will visit the small community of Pond Inlet on northern Baffin Island for a look at modern Inuit culture, still linked to age-old traditions by choice and necessity. On Devon Island we will land at the ghost town of Dundas Harbour and sail between flat-topped mountains to Croker Bay’s tidewater glacier. At Beechey Island, we can pay our respects at the graves of three of Sir John Franklin’s Northwest Passage expedition members who perished there during the long winter of 1845. Lady Franklin Island and Monument Island are named for the explorer and his wife, and their tall, weather-beaten cliffs, teeming with breeding seabirds and frequently patrolled by polar bears in search of seals and walrus, provide a dramatic climax to our memorable season in the spectacular, seldom-visited realms of the Midnight Sun.