This year, we arrived in Svalbard in the beginning of May and were greeted by a fairy-tale winter landscape. The premiere trip was followed by four months of adventures, and when we in September bid farewell to our Artic pearl, autumn had arrived and the archipelago had started to prepare for the dark polar night. Via the link below, please find a slideshow with a selection of images and film clips that summarises this year's unforgettable Svalbard season.
Since 1999, we have gathered travellers from all around the world to explore the enchanting Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. After nearly 20 seasons up in the north we can look back at many memorable trips, all of them unique. When we embark one of our expedition ships and head out in the unspoiled wilderness, we are fully dependent on weather and wind, ice and wildlife. Flexibility, unpredictability and grand nature experiences are the main keywords when you travel to Svalbard with PolarQuest.
As we look out of our ger tents in the morning, we see impressive cliffs and Mongolia's immense blue sky!
We eat a hearty breakfast that is hard to understand how they have been able to make in such a remote place. As we eat, rubber floats are loaded onto an old Soviet truck that will take us to the starting point for today's adventure. We float, row and sometimes have to steer through fast currents. On both sides of us there are steep rock formations and the water surrounding us is as clear as crystal. In several places can we see the taimen, a trout species that can be up to 1.5 meters long. After a couple of hours, we step ashore at the river bank and sit down to have luch.
After a few more hours we are back in the camp where the staff shows us how to put up a ger and how they make horhorg, a traditional Mongolian dish made of lamb, potatoes, carrots and salt, cooked with hot stones. The ingredients were not so many but still the food tasted absolutely amazing.
On our 9-day Svalbard trips, we always include one hotel night in Longyearbyen and you will usually have some time to explore this Arctic village on your own. Longyearbyen is not only Svalbard's administrative centre, there are also restaurants, cafes and museums to discover here. Mia Lundqvist works as Staff Manager at the PolarQuest office, but also as guide on our Svalbard expeditions and has spent a lot of time in the village. Here she shares her best tips on things to do on site!
Looking for fine dining? Visit Longyearbyen's best restaurants, Huset and Gruvelaget.
– Huset mixes local products and Nordic flavours with an impressive collection of wines. It is said that the restaurant’s wine cellar store more than 20,000 bottles, making it one of Scandinavia's largest.
Gruvelagret is to be found in an old mining storage and the interior reflects early mining history in Longyearbyen. Here you can enjoy a unique and cosy dining in the outskirts of the village.
Taste Svalbard's own beer! Since 2015 there is a brewery on Svalbard. Why not make a visit and try their five different beers?
– The beer is also served at several other bars and restaurants in the village like Kroa, Svalbar and Huset.
Have a fika at the cafe Fruene.
– Order a bun or buy some locally made chocolate - of course shaped like the king of Svalbard; the polar bear!
Learn more about Svalbard in the village’s museums.
– I recommend both the classic Svalbard Museum and the somewhat more recessed North Pole Expedition Museum.
Take a walk to Nybyen.
– After a 30-minute walk into the valley, you reach a range of houses that were built as accommodation for the miners, named Nybyen. Today, in addition to the restaurant Gruvelagret, you find a small art gallery and a nice bar called Coalminers Cabin here.
Get 300 meters into the mountain during an exciting visit to Gruve 3.
– The process of mapping the coal resources of the valley started as early as 1928, with mining in Gruve 1 and Gruve 2. In 1971, mining also started in Gruve 3 and continued until 1996 when it was closed. Today it is open for public visitations and well worth one!
Admire the entrance to the global seed vault.
– You are not allowed to visit the actual vault, but you can still imagine it, situated 125 meters deep into the mountain. Preserved by the permafrost, over 900,000 different seeds from all over the world are stored here.
July 4th 2017 - Bjørnfjorden, Virgohamna & Smeerenburg
What a day! Our morning began as we sailed in to Bjørnfjorden and dropped anchor in front of the Smeerenburg glacier. After breakfast we headed out in the Zodiacs for a closer look at the ice and the wildlife associated with it. The glacier is very active and we witnessed several calvings. Eider ducks, black guillemot, glaucous gulls, kittiwakes, Arctic and great skuas were seen and photographed.
We went back on board to warm ourselves up and enjoy a fascinating talk from David about Andrée and his doomed balloon flight that set off from Virgohamna in 1897, before we got the chance to set foot at the same site in the afternoon. We combined landing on Danskøya with a landing at Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya, a Dutch whaling station in the 17th Century. So the afternoon was filled with history and walruses, as we found a snorting, scratching heap of these fantastic animals at Smeerenburg. It was wonderful to find the wildlife reclaiming the site of exploitation; the walruses were hauled out right next to a blubber oven.
We had one final treat after dinner. As we cruised between the islands in the North West corner of Svalbard and visited the Svitjod glacier in Fuglefjord and we were just about to go to bed when the call we had all hoped for came - polar bears! Mother and cub! Quickly the Zodiacs were in the water and we watched as if we were enchanted when the mother nursed the first year cub who played and became bold whilst the mother tried to go back to sleep. What a day!
This morning found Sea Endurance in the South West fjord of Hornsund, famous for its glaciers and towering mountain peaks. We began our exploration with an extended Zodiac cruise in East Burgerbukta and found a bearded seal lying on an ice floe. Some saw puffins, an Ivory gull and long-tailed duck, and we all came close to black guillemots and kittiwakes resting on icebergs as we approached the dramatic glacier. The crackle of ice and the occasional sound of a rifle shot from the calving glacier broke the silence.
We ventured further in to Hornsund and had a magical meeting with a large pod of Beluga whales. Their white backs were breaking the surface as they kept themselves close to the coast line. The marine mammal extravaganza continued with a humpback whale right in front of us, showing its white and black patterned tail.
We then landed at Gnålodden – a spectacular setting for a small trappers hut, once used by Wanny Wolstad. The high cliff is home to countless of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots, and their noise gives the place its name. There was a chance to walk up the slope to have a closer look at the birds and a lucky sighting of a blue Arctic fox, or stay near the shore to see the Pomore remains and whaler’s grave.
We all woke up excited this morning as David announced a blue whale sighting from the bridge! Everyone was up before breakfast to catch a glimpse of the largest animal to ever live on this planet. We were lucky to get a very close meeting with two different blue whales as they swam next to the ship.
After breakfast we took a trip to the northernmost society on earth, the scientific research town of Ny-Ålesund. An opportunity for some retail therapy and to learn some history in one place was given as we strolled through the village. Mia and David told the story of Roald Amundsen’s journey to the North Pole with the airship Norge, and we also visited the anchorage point for the airship. The cold winds were blowing quite fiercely this morning so we all appreciated a chance to buy a warm waffle from the ladies at the waffle stand in town.
The afternoon brought us to Krossfjorden and the 14th of July Glacier where we had a spectacular meeting with the Atlantic puffin. A small colony has started to congregate at the entrance of the bay and we got to witness courtship behavior and boding between pairs. With the Zodiac engines turned off could we listen to the snaps and crackles of the ice around us and saw a few large chunks fall off the glacier. Then we went ashore for a walk underneath a busy bird cliff and to watch some reindeers navigate the steep cliffs to graze on the plentiful vegetation that had grown under the cliff, fertilized by the bird colony.
As we finish the day we sail further north, and when we wake up there will be ice in all directions!
We flew across a snowy, mountainous landscape before landing at the airport outside Longyearbyen. Many of us spent the evening having dinner at the restaurant Kroa.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast there was time to get familiar with the village. We also had lunch and made a visit at the museum before we embarked our little blue ship Sea Endurance. Security reviews and presentations of the guide team were followed by our first dinner on board.
The weather could not have been better, and just before we left Isfjorden behind us, we saw a group of humpback whales swim next to the ship. Then we sailed through the beautiful Forlandssundet in the beautiful midnight sun. A perfect start of our Arctic adventure!