Travel to Norway
Travel to Norway from home or onward from our Finland safari.
Note: Cheesemans' are members of World Cetacean Alliance and abide by responsible whale watching practices.
Sail islands found deep in the Russian Arctic to find seals, polar bears, walrus, and more surrounded by icy scenery. The archipelago was completely unknown to humanity until 1870, and since then has been obscured from the common traveler by veils of ice and politics. Travel when ice retreats enough to allow passage, taking advantage of this season’s window and a newly open political climate to explore the recently declared Russian Arctic National Park. Discover a dynamic environment of shifting sea ice and glaciated islands that create the perfect habitat for seals, polar bears, walrus, sea cliff breeding bird colonies, and the possible rare and elusive bowhead whale. The high Arctic is a polar desert, beautiful and stark, sometimes profoundly inhospitable, sometimes bountiful by turns. This exploratory voyage will take you from Longyearbyen on the west coast of Svalbard, east to Franz Josef Land, and back. Journey into waters where polar adventure and opportunity await!
• Spend eight landing days on one of the planet’s most hidden and seldom visited wildlife destinations, the northernmost archipelago in Eurasia.
• Discover some of the world’s most dense populations of polar bears and walruses.
• Ice, seascape, and landscape photography with dramatic lighting and arctic intensity.
• Participate in citizen science alongside a team of international marine scientists.
• Our 14 leaders are polar specialists, photographers, scientists, and naturalists who will provide lectures, workshops, and guided excursions.
Itinerary Updated: March 2018
|Jul 18||Travel to Norway from home or from our Finland safari.|
|Jul 19||Arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.||Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen, Longyearbyen|
|Jul 20||Board the Sea Spirit.||On board the Sea Spirit||B, D|
|Jul 21 - 22||Sail across the Barents Sea to Franz Josef Land.||On board the Sea Spirit||B, L, D|
|Jul 23 - 30||Explore Franz Josef Land’s stark and beautiful polar environment with eight landing days.||On board the Sea Spirit||B, L, D|
|Jul 31 - Aug 1||Sail back across the Barents Sea to Svalbard.||On board the Sea Spirit||B, L, D|
|Aug 2||Disembark and fly homeward from Longyearbyen.||B|
|Aug 3||Arrive home.|
Ted grew up traveling extensively and began studying and photographing wildlife as a child. After completing a Master's degree in Tropical Conservation Biology at Duke University, Ted returned to California to lead and organize expeditions full time with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris. Ted currently leads expeditions to Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Caribbean while pursuing a doctoral degree studying humpback whales. He also recently founded the citizen science project Happywhale.
Scott Davis is a professional photographer specializing in wildlife, nature, travel, and editorial imagery. Originally trained as a wildlife and marine biologist, Scott's research and photo assignments have taken him to far corners of the globe and all seven continents. His photographic work has appeared in numerous national and international magazines and newspapers, commercial websites, prestigious stock agencies, and corporate reports. His patience for teaching and love of capturing the essence of his subjects make him one of our most popular tour leaders.
Expedition and Trip Leader, Naturalist, Geologist, and Photographer, Hugh has over 20 years of professional guiding experience. The vast landscapes and incredible wildlife of Alaska and the Polar Regions are his subject and passion, evident in his inspired leadership and stunning professional photos. Hugh receives unending praise for his amazing knowledge, delightful and accommodating personality, and attention to every trip detail.
Born in a small coastal town in the Netherlands, Ab started birdwatching at a very young age and grew up surveying breeding bird populations in the dunes around his hometown. Ab managed the landscape for the Dutch Royal Family for over 15 years while using his arborist skills as a climber to help with owl research. He also served as a volunteer crewmember with the Royal Dutch Lifeboat Association for more than 10 years, bringing rigor and resourcefulness to their Zodiac crew. We challenge you to stump Ab with any arctic ornithology question.
Andreas grew up in the Bavarian Alps and served in the mountain ranger division of the German army. In the mid 1980s he took his love of the wilds and of mountainous environments to Svalbard and has averaged about four months per year above the arctic circle ever since. He is author of the Brandt Travel Guide for Svalbard, now in its 4th edition, and has enjoyed Arctic guiding from Greenland through the Norwegian Arctic and east through to the Siberian coast. In Franz Josef Land, he rediscovered the Greely Island lost camp "Kane Lodge" of the 1901-1902 US Baldwin-Ziegler expedition. As well Andreas identified a plane wreck on Rudolf Island as the last surviving Russian ANT-6 4-engine research plane, by which the Soviet Union succeeded to land at the North Pole in 1937. Here’s an interesting question for history: if neither Peary nor Cook made it to the North Pole, were these Soviets the first to 90°N?
Bart is a professional landscape photographer from Belgium who specializes in the use of light and ambiance. For years he was an impassioned ornithologist and he made the logical transition from binoculars to camera. Bart gives weekly workshops and lectures to amateur and advanced photographers, both in Belgium and abroad, and organizes many international photo tours. Recently, he won several national and international photo contests and his images were displayed in the Mall Galleries and projected onto the National Theatre in London.
After a childhood in mountainous Caucasia, Boris studied geography and oceanic ecosystems at Moscow State University, receiving a master’s degree in biodiversity and biomonitoring. Since the age of 20 he has participated in marine surveys throughout the Russian Arctic, Caspian Sea, and Mediterranean Sea with the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Boris studied the distribution patterns of beluga whales in the Russian Far East for his PhD, by conducting aerial and boat surveys, counting and satellite tagging seals, whales, polar bears, and walruses. Now when not aboard ship Boris works for WWF Russia as a coordinator of the Russian Arctic Marine Protected Areas planning project.
Olga is a research associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Her career began with studying sleep in cetacean species, with field work over the last 15 years bringing her to almost all the seas surrounding the Russian Federation. Recently she has focused on Belugas, mammal-eating killer whales, and the bowhead whales found in the Sea of Okhotsk, and in the Franz Josef Land and Svalbard archipelagos. During our voyage, Olga will share her knowledge of the whales of the Arctic and will direct our efforts to use our ‘platform of opportunity’ in a quest for scientific knowledge of Franz Josef Land marine mammals.
Phil directs the Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program at the NOAA’s Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, where studies range from Harbor Porpoises to Blue Whales; his own primary research interests relate to the population biology, behavioral ecology and conservation management of large whales. Phil has previously directed large whale research at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and remains a Research Associate with the Smithsonian Institution (National Museum of Natural History) in Washington DC. He holds a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), and conducted post-doctoral work in genetics at Cambridge University and at the University of Copenhagen. Over the past thirty years, he has advised several governments and other bodies on whale research and conservation.
Yulia is a Research Associate with NOAA’s Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. She currently works on historical studies of whaling, and also uses whaling data to facilitate assessments of the status of whale populations today. Yulia has published detailed investigations of Soviet illegal whaling, and has played a key role in correcting the Soviet whaling catch record in the North Pacific. She also recently exposed extensive illegal catches by Japan in the 1960's. Russian by birth, Yulia holds a Ph.D. from Southern Cross University in Australia. In addition to her historical research, she has studied whales in various locations including Alaska, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and the Russian Far East. She is a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee.
John hails from the world's southernmost capital, Wellington, New Zealand. Growing up surrounded by the natural beauty New Zealand, his character and foray into photography were shaped by his environment. Starting out as a casual hobby from a young age, John's work soon developed into a passionate pursuit to become a nature and travel photographer. As New Zealand's most prominent landscape and wildlife photographer on the Instagram platform, John enjoys connecting with a global community of photographers and teaching others how to better their own photography skills. For John, creating curated imagery has become a way to communicate a message, capture beautiful moments, and share unique experiences with the world.
A keen nature guide, he travels from pole to pole to lead expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Now living in France, he speaks French, English, German, and Spanish allowing him to interface with people from all over the world. Jonathan’s first experience of the polar regions was as a 24-year-old research engineer at the coastal French Antarctic Dumont d'Urville station, both the windiest place on Earth – regularly topping 120mph (200kph) – and where "The March of the Penguins" was filmed. He overwintered twice in Antarctica, the second time high on the Antarctic plateau at the Concordia station. His passion is guiding and filmmaking.
Jonneke followed a childhood passion for plants and flowers through studies as a designer-gardener. She was turned on by the beauty of high latitudes during a 1989 voyage to the Scottish Islands. Through the 1990s she took every opportunity possible to travel to Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land, the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, Norway, Iceland and Antarctica, until in 1998 she abandoned a career as a financial controller to work as a tour operator specializing in the arctic and Antarctic. She brings to our voyage a great knowledge of the botany of Franz Josef Land, where a remarkable diversity of plants survive remarkably in the face of an unforgiving polar climate.
Travel to Norway from home or onward from our Finland safari.
Note: Cheesemans' are members of World Cetacean Alliance and abide by responsible whale watching practices.
Relax in Longyearbyen for the night, preparing for your expedition.
Board the Sea Spirit and travel east by northeast into the Barents Sea, hoping for good whale watching conditions.
Enjoy a lecture series about Franz Josef Land and the high Arctic environments you are traveling through. North of the Arctic Circle you travel through 24hrs of daylight, a wonderful novelty allowing the possibility of wildlife sightings at any hour. By afternoon of your second day you will be approaching the remote Franz Josef Land archipelago. Before you can land, your initial call is to the Russian polar station Nagurskoye in Cambridge Bay for customs and passport control.
Due to the expeditionary nature of this voyage, specific stops cannot be guaranteed. Flexibility is paramount in expedition travel; the following itinerary depends on the conditions at the time of travel. We strive to land often and stay as long as possible, abiding by the guidelines of minimum impact travel set by AECO, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators.
Sailing into the waters of Franz Josef Land finds us in a rarified space. Curtained behind ice and political lines for most of human history, almost no compelling place on the planet has received less travelers. Yet you can expect to find iconic arctic wildlife including polar bears, walruses, bowhead whales, and enormous nesting colonies of seabirds. You will sail, Zodiac cruise, and hike around stunning, stark scenery filled with glowing glaciers and illuminated icebergs.
Zodiacs make the ideal platform for exploring cliff-nesting seabird colonies where you find large numbers of thick-billed murres (Brünnich’s guillemots) and black-legged kittiwakes flanked by black guillemots, dovekies, fulmars, and ivory gulls. The timing is perfect for the semi-annual event of every arctic sea cliff bird colony, when young guillemots leap seaward, attempting to evade glaucous gulls on their maiden glides into the sea.
Human exploration of the arctic was not friendly to wildlife. Svalbard was discovered in the 1600’s and immediately set upon by sealers and whalers. Walruses were eradicated and bowhead whales were hunted until they were extremely rare. But what the sealers and whalers did not know was that healthy populations were sheltered 300mi to the east, hidden for another 300 years in Franz Josef Land. Fortunately for us, these refuge populations are where today’s wildlife is now healthiest, repopulating waters that were hunted out. Around Franz Josef Land you can Zodiac cruise near important walrus haul-outs where large numbers of calves are born, and you can reasonably hope to find the elusive bowhead (Greenland) whale.
Potential Zodiac Cruising or Landing Sites:
Alger and Mathilda Island
Discover relics from many expeditions, including the huts of Camp Ziegler built by Baldwin in 1901. Zodiac cruise among illuminated icebergs. Ivory gulls are commonly found here.
Apollonoff and Stolichka Island
Zodiac cruise around the largest known walrus haul-out in the archipelago with up to 1,000 animals, dominated by females and calves, and keep your eyes out for polar bears looking for sick or helpless prey. Common eiders, arctic terns, and small colonies of little auks and glaucous gulls are found in this dramatic landscape they call home.
Walk amid the stacks and grottos of sandstone up to the bell-shaped hill for which the island was named. Travel back in time to Eira Lodge, built in 1881 by Leigh Smith and used as a refuge for several generations of explorers. While Smith was here, his vessel Eira was crushed by ice. We intend to avoid a similar fate. Walk amid three- to ten-thousand-year-old whale bones and see nesting glaucous gulls.
Known for its special geological phenomenon: perfectly round stone spheres from around 1cm to 2m in diameter scattered amid the highest mountains in the archipelago. Claimed to be one of the most beautiful islands, the red, yellow, and green mosses are juxtaposed against the dramatic snow-capped peaks and surrounding glaciers, providing stunning opportunities for photography. Zodiac around the cacophony of bird calls along the cliff known to house nesting black-legged kittiwakes, little auks, and black guillemots.
East of Champ Island, you’ll Zodiac cruise Pondorff’s narrows in an extreme geographic rarity, a narrow stretch of open water between two dramatic glacier fronts that face each other.
At Cape Tegetthoff, photograph the towering dorsal fin shaped cliffs amid seabird colonies.
Surrounded by glaciers, lava solidified to form Rubini Rock in Tikhaya Bay, named after the opera singer Giovanni Battista Rubini reportedly because of the raucous calls of around 100,000 nesting seabirds along the cliffs, including thick-billed murres (Brünnich’s guillemots), little auks, black-legged kittiwakes, northern fulmars, glaucous gulls, and black guillemots. You may encounter bearded or harp seals, polar bears, and with luck walrus or a bowhead (Greenland) whale.
Tikhaya bay is also home to the first Soviet polar station, Bukhta Tikhaya in operation from 1928 to 1959. In this most sheltered part of Franz Josef Land you can discover 43 of the archipelago’s 55 flowering plant species alongside possible sightings of rock ptarmigan, purple sandpiper or arctic fox.
Travel back in time to Cape Norvegia to see the remains of Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen’s 1895–1896 wintering site, after their attempt to reach the North Pole. Walk among poppies, saxifrages, buttercups, willows, and beautiful carpets of red moss and watch black-legged kittiwakes flitting around their colony. Polar bears often roam nearby, and you may encounter narwhals and beluga whales near the coast.
Cape Flora is home to a few polar expedition bases amid thick carpets of colorful mosses. Leigh Smith spent ten months here after ice crushed and sank his ship in 1880 and where a chance encounter occurred between Frederick George Jackson and Fidtjof Nansen. You’ll visit remnants of the largely intact settlement from the Jackson expedition. You may witness young thick-billed murres (Brünnich’s guillemots) aloft and arctic foxes foraging. You’ll also zodiac cruise in Günther Bay near an important walrus haul-out.
Prince Rudolf Island
If Franz Josef Land is unusually ice free, you will take the opportunity to navigate to Eurasia’s northernmost point, Cape Fligely, a site where the presence of polar bears can make it a challenge to set foot on this unique spot.
Discover the remains of the stations of early polar explorers like the Austrians, Weyprecht and Payer, who first discovered Franz Joseph Land in the 19th century.
Before you depart Franz Josef Land, you’ll have your final call at the Russian polar station Nagurskoye in Cambridge Bay. Sail westward to Svalbard.
Disembark the Sea Spirit in Longyearbyen to catch your flights homeward.
Sail islands found deep in the Russian Arctic to find seals, polar bears, walrus, and more surrounded by icy scenery.
The Sea Spirit is an “all-suite” luxury vessel built for sailing in ice with an ice-strengthened hull and retractable fin stabilizers. All the cabins have a private, en-suite bathroom, a lounge area, ample storage, and a television with DVD player, plus unobstructed exterior views via portholes, picture windows, or a private balcony. The ship is outfitted with a presentation room for onboard lectures, Internet access, a gym, library, game room, lounge, bar with bartender, and dining lounge with chef-prepared meals.
The Sea Spirit carries a fleet of ten Zodiacs for your excursions, driven by our own experienced leaders. Located at the rear of the ship, the Zodiac loading area provides a safe and relatively sheltered place from which to embark on your adventures.
|Type||Description||Cost Per Person|
|Triple||Triple occupancy, one king-sized or two twin-sized beds plus one twin-sized sofa bed, picture window. On Ocean Deck 3.||$9,990|
|Main Deck||Double occupancy, one king-sized or two twin-sized beds, two portholes. On Main Deck 2.||$13,550|
|Classic||Double occupancy, one king-sized or two twin-sized beds, picture window. On Ocean Deck 3.||$14,550|
|Superior||Double occupancy, one king-sized or two twin-sized beds, picture window. On Club Deck 4.||$14,950|
|Deluxe||Double occupancy, one king-sized or two twin-sized beds, private balcony. On Sports Deck 5.||$16,850|
|Premium||Double occupancy, one king-sized or two twin-sized beds, private balcony. On Sun Deck 6.||$18,550|
|Owner’s||Double occupancy, one king-sized bed plus sofa bed, private deck, living room, game/meeting area, jetted bathtub, BOSE stereo system. On Sun Deck 6.||$23,950|
We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we will not charge you a single supplement. If space is available, some cabins can be booked for a single occupant by adding 70% over the listed cabin cost for Main Deck, Classic, and Superior cabins or adding 100% over the listed cabin cost for Deluxe, Premium, and Owner’s cabins. Single rooms are subject to availability.
Please note that we cannot guarantee a specific cabin number. If changes occur, we will do everything in our power to assign a cabin of equal or greater value as the cabin type specified in your reservation. Deck plan, cabin arrangements, and cabin amenities are subject to change by ship operator.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Second||May 1, 2018||$4,000|
|Third||November 1, 2018||$4,000|
|Final||February 15, 2019||Remaining balance|
Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.
Refunds are given depending on the time left before departure according to the following table. The cancellation fee of $300 per person can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance that could reimburse your trip costs in the event of your cancellation.
|Dates||Forfeited Amount per Person|
|On or before December 14, 2018||$300|
|December 15, 2018 to January 14, 2019||10% of tour cost|
|January 15 to February 14, 2019||40% of tour cost|
|On or after February 15, 2019||100% of tour cost|
Franz Josef Land is locked in ice most of the year, but in late summer sees enough open water from the last influence of the Gulf Stream. The climate, consequently, will hover around freezing, sometimes well above on calm, windless days but generally in the range of 25 to 40°F (-5 to 5°C). Penetrating cold is not usually a problem, though be prepared for wind chill and potential wetness from splash while riding in Zodiacs. It is also possible to get wet weather, but often it is with wind, so an umbrella is not usually practical. Waterproof gloves, warm cap, layers of light, loose, warm clothing, and water repellent outer garments are necessary. Sunscreen is critical. The temperature on the ship is comfortably warm, but you may still wish to dress in layers and keep a warm layer handy in case there is exciting wildlife (such as a polar bear or bowhead whale!) to watch from the ship’s deck.
You must be fit enough to get into and out of Zodiacs from the rear loading platform on the Sea Spirit. Once ashore, you must be able to get in and out of the Zodiacs including, occasionally, on a rocky coastline. You’ll have opportunities for optional short, relaxed hikes, varying by interest and ability from less than a mile over varied terrain (tundra, flat areas, hilly and grassy areas, or rocky slopes) to longer and more challenging hikes, depending on local conditions. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging. Landing details will be given in advance of each landing and you will always have complete freedom to participate or not participate in the landings and nature hikes.
Airfare, except flights listed as included, is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Contact us before booking your flights; we will send more information about 12 months before your departure.
In collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, we are very excited to offer an active science program aboard your voyage. Scientists at the Russian Academy of Science recognize that ships are very rare in these waters, and are eager to join us as a ‘platform of opportunity’. Expedition staff scientist Dr. Olga Shpak will direct activities on board, including visual wildlife surveys and wildlife photo identification. We want your participation to contribute to helping the world understand this seldom visited, yet rapidly changing Arctic environment. Of particular interest are sightings of bowhead whales, because no credible population estimate exists for the Franz Josef Land population. Biopsy sampling and individual photo identification may be attempted if conditions are favorable. For walrus – the Franz Josef Land population is very important for repopulating the North Atlantic – you will use the opportunity to document distribution, numbers, sex and age structure of groups on haul-outs, and change of haul-out locations. For polar bears, you may collect sighting information, and biological material may be collected if found on landings.
Don’t let a fear of seasickness scare you away! For all but the most sensitive, seasickness is rarely a problem in this region. Svalbard and Franz Josef Land are on the European continental shelf, limiting the scale of open ocean swell (this is NOT the Drake Passage). The majority of the voyage will be within the sheltered waters of the Franz Josef Land archipelago, but swells are possible during the crossings to and from Franz Josef Land. It’s a good idea to bring medication if you get seasick or are unsure, but you may find that you do not need it after a couple days once you have your “sea legs.” Even those who have experienced seasickness reported that the incredible wildlife and overall experience were well worth the temporary discomfort. Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness and contact us if you have any concerns.
"Cheesemans' delivered what they said they would - provided maximum time in the field with qualified leaders and guides well experienced in tracking, anticipating and explaining wildlife behavior."
"Hugh Rose is a world-class guide and educator representing a world-class company."
"Scott Davis was awesome! He helped me so much with my photography, and was always ready to answer questions with a great outgoing personality."
"Ted Cheeseman is the greatest! He runs a fantastic trip, always getting the best for each participant. He is knowledgeable, approachable, and completely genuine. I would go anywhere with him!"