Preparing for your Arctic Cruise.

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Following a few easy guidelines will help ensure you have an enjoyable Arctic Cruise.

  1. Keep all your documents for the cruise in a single easy to locate place to help avoid misplacing items and to reduce time spent searching for particulars.
  2. Keep important information and documents on your person, they are not much use in your checked in luggage.
  3. Keep readily to hand the telephone number of airlines, hotels, and the ship. It is also a good idea to carry check-in times, verification codes, confirmation paperwork, and other important details.
  4. Make copies of your passport, itinerary, and any important documents and store these separately from the originals in your luggage.
  5. Leave a copy of all the relevant information with somebody at home in case of emergency.
  6. If you are delayed in your travel, use the emergency contact sheets to inform people and cruise representatives of the delay.
  7. Contact your mobile phone provider about the options available for temporary worldwide coverage before leaving home. If you are not traveling with a phone or computer remember there are internet lounges at airports and hotels usually provide computer access for guests.
  8. Buy Travel Insurance when booking your trip, it is money well spent and will be invaluable to help deal with unexpected delays and events.
  9. Plan ahead and thoroughly read through your pre trip documents which are there to help prepare you for your cruise. This information tells you what to expect, including polar weather and temperature, what clothing to pack for the Arctic and advice for getting the most out of your time away.
  10. Use soft luggage that can easily be stored and pack sensibly, small ships do not have as much storage area as the larger cruise liners.
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Day 2: Saturday, 16 May 2015 Ny Alesund

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Having sailed north overnight in relatively bumpy seas, we stopped at Ny Alesund, the scientific community on the southern shore of Kongsfjord that developed from the mining operation at Kings Bay after 1967. In 1926, Roald Amundsen and Umberto Nobile successfully piloted the airship “Norge” from Ny Alesund, over the North Pole to Alaska. In the same decade, three other attempts were made to overfly the North Pole from Ny Alesund, including that of Nobile, in 1928, aboard another airship called Italia, which crashed on the sea-ice with a loss of 8 crew members and several rescuers, including Roald Amundsen. From 1992, foreign countries were permitted to build research facilities at Ny Alesund, and today, is has a summer population of around 300 that dwindles to around 35 in winter.

 

We walked around the community, looked at the dog-kennel area, the old telegraph house and the bust of Roald Amundsen. The museum was being renovated, but it was possible to visit the shop, where post cards could be sent home stamped with the furthest north post mark in the world. We also walked out to the tower where Amundsen’s airship, Norge, had been tethered prior to its trans-polar flight.

 

We sailed north out of Kongsfjorden and were briefly exposed to the choppy seas of the previous night before entering the sheltered waters of Bjornfjorden and Smeerenburg. As we will soon be approaching the sea ice, we had a bear safety talk from Rupert, after dinner.

Day 1: Friday, 15 May 2015 – Embarkation, Longyearbyen.

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We arrived in Svalbard in the early afternoon along with most of the guests who had flown north from Oslo on the same flight. At Longyear airport we were greeted by Rupert, the Blue Planet Expeditions representative, and a mini bus that was waiting to take us to the ship

Due to the fact that we couldn’t embark the MS Stockholm until later in the afternoon we stopped just long enough to offload our luggage. Once this was completed we got back into the minibus and continued onwards for a tour of Longyearbyen.

The town is small but its uniqueness and interesting history provided an interesting interlude, and our guide Wiggo, who is a fourth generation Svalbard resident, gave us a potted history that was both interesting and humorous. Longyearbyen is the furthest North town in the world, a distinction shared with the northernmost church and university campus. The town is also home to the World Seed Bank – a strategic repository for seeds of most of the world’s plants and trees and the crops we rely on.

On our tour, we also learned about the colourful social history of Longyearbyen, and of Svalbard, which, while not having an indigenous people, only a century ago was the ultimate representation of the ‘wild west’. During that time, Svalbard was populated by coal miners, whalers, fox and polar bear trappers – tough, self-reliant people. The human population was scattered sparsely along the archipelago’s cold shores in rudimentary cabins built from driftwood. The capital was formed in Longyearbyen, which had grown up at the bottom of the valley off Isfjorden where the first coal had been discovered. There was no law in Svalbard in those days, adding to the harsh nature of life there, and it was a place suited only to the hardiest and most independent people.

The Svalbard treaty of 1920 saw Norway open its remote High Arctic territory to any other country or people who wanted a part of it, although only Russia staked any claim, later consolidating their access to coal in other areas of Isfjorden, and designating the towns of Barentsburg and Pyramiden as formal Russian inholdings in Svalbard.

After a break at Cafe Fruene, we stopped at the Radisson Hotel to pick up guests who had arrived in Longyearbyen earlier, and then drove down to the port where we boarded the ship.

Just after 5pm, we let go the lines and sailed west into Isfjorden and the beginning of our adventure along the west coast of Spitsbergen.

The expedition vessel MS Quest visits Stromness in Orkney.

Another of the small expedition vessels that is featured on our website visited Stromness this week. We managed to get some photographs of her alongside the dock, but couldn’t get onboard due to the security measures required for a vessel over 500gt.

Nevertheless it was nice to see her in the flesh, and she is a beautifully maintained little vessel.

Enjoy the photographs – details of this vessel and her expeditions can be found on the Blue Planet Expeditions website

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MS Stockholm in Stromness

We had a pleasant suprise yesterday as the MS Stockholm sailed into Stromness harbour as part of a relocation cruise from her home port of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Never one to shy away from an opportunity to have a look around a ship we grabbed the camera and headed down to the port to take some pictures of the vessel. We have chartered the MS Stockholm the past few seasons in Svalbard – a quite capable expedition ship if ever there was one.

Enjoy the pictures below 🙂

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August in Svalbard

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The M/S Stockholm in Forlandsundet, Svalbard

As our 15th to 25th May expedition to Svalbard has almost sold out we decided to find out if anybody else needed some help filling their trips. After a few enquiries we found the following berths still available on the M/S Stockholm which we are also using in 2015.

The M/S Stockholm has an expedition in August that requires 1 female in a share berth, and 1 male in a share berth – see here for details, 18th to 28th August Svalbard Expedition.

Let us know if this is of interest to you by contacting us at info@blueplanetexpeditions.co.uk

 

 

Provisional Members of AECO

AECO2 (2)Blue Planet Expeditions are pleased to announce that we have been accepted as new provisional members of AECO – the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators.

AECO is an international association for expedition cruise operators operating in the Arctic and other organizations with interests in the industry. The association was founded in 2003 and has since become an important organization representing the concerns and views of arctic expedition cruise operators.  AECO is dedicated to managing responsible, environmentally friendly and safe tourism in the Arctic and strive to set the highest possible operating standards.

The association’s geographical range is considered to encompass the Arctic area north of 60 degrees north latitude. The core areas are Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Greenland, Arctic Canada and the national park, Russian Arctic.

We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with AECO and its members.

Press realease from AECO

 

Day 11: Longyearbyen (disembarkation)

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After breakfast, we disembarked from the Stockholm and went into Longyearbyen in our minibus to spend a few hours there before our afternoon flight to Oslo.  It is said that strangers are only friends we have not yet met, and we departed Longyearbyen for our various homes as new-found friends who will hopefully now remain in contact in one way or another – bound together through having shared a grand adventure.

Day 10: Isfjord – Templefjorden

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After a calmer night than the previous one, we reached Poolepynten, a promontory jutting-out into the shallow waters off the east coast of Prins Karl’s Forland that is often a very good place to see quite large numbers of walrus ‘hauled-out’ on the beach.  On this occasion, there were none, so we continued south for Isfjord, Skansebukta and Templefjorden, in a last effort to find some more wildlife before the end of the trip.  Polar bears and puffins were high on everyone’s list, considering what we had seen on the trip, and we had decided to visit two locations that could, possibly, yield another sighting of both.

At Skansebukta, the bird cliffs seemed almost deserted until we approached them more closely in the Zodiacs, when they revealed some of most of the birds we would generally expect to see in Svalbard: Brunnich’s guillemots, black guillemots, kittiwakes, pink-footed geese, barnacle geese, glaucous gulls, snow-buntings, northern fulmars, but no puffins.  We did see a fox briefly, before it disappeared into what appeared to be a den and did not re-emerge.  After about an hour and a half at the cliffs, we returned to the Stockholm for lunch on the aft deck before sailing for Templefjorden in hope of seeing bears and seals on the fast ice we expected to find there.

Arriving in Templefjorden, we found several miles of fast ice extending towards the glacier at its head, with over 100 bearded and ringed seals scattered over the surface.  We went a short way into the ice and then stopped so as to minimise altering it and disrupting the seals.  Sitting in silence, we scanned the ice and the shoreline beyond it for bears that may have crossed the short distance between the Barent’s Sea and Templefjord but there were none.  We did see an Arctic fox to our port side, but it was more than half a kilometre away and did not come any closer.

The white landscape and the seals on the unbroken ice around us, framed against a blue sky, was a fitting end to our trip despite our not finding any more bears or puffins.  Backing out of the fast ice, we sailed out of Templefjord to Isfjord, arriving in Longyearbyen at around 9pm and tying-up at the quay for the night.

Day 9: Krossfjorden – Prins Karl’s Forland

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The previous night had been quite short for most of us, as there had been a number of swells from about 3am that rearranged our cabins, with chairs falling-over, clothing and unsecured items falling to the floor and distant sounds of banging and breaking glass and china.  After about 5am, the sea swell diminished as we turned into the protection of Krossfjorden, where we were no longer exposed to the wind from the Greenland Sea.

In Krossfjorden, we stopped at the bird cliff at Kongshamaran, on Kong Haakon’s Halvoy, which is usually a good place to see puffins.  While that proved not to be the case on this occasion, in addition to Brunnich’s Guillemots and Kittiwakes, there were snow buntings, pink-footed geese and barnacle geese, at the cliffs, the latter having been seen only fleetingly on the trip so far.

Leaving Krossfjorden, we sailed south for Magdalenafjorden, which exposed us briefly to the wind again before reaching the shelter of the fjord.  We had hoped to see little auks at the colony near the head of the fjord, on the northern side, but visibility was poor and the snow was too deep for us to hike up to it anyway.  With the view of the glacier also obscured, and no walrus at a beach where they are frequently found, we dropped anchor behind the sheltering point of Gravneset to have dinner and decide whether to leave Magdalenafjorden sooner rather than later, depending on the weather.  Having originally thought we’d remain there until the early hours of the morning, we decided to leave after dinner, taking advantage of a brief window in the generally inclement weather to cross the exposed area to our south before reaching the protected waters between Spitsbergen and Prins Karl’s Forland.