Across the Top of the World
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Voyage into the High Arctic across the Bering Strait to the wild Wrangel and Herald Islands
This is arguably one of the greatest high Arctic journeys in the world. It is only made possible by the collapse of communism, the relaxing of rules and the retreat of the Arctic sea ice. Our journey begins in Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka autonomous region. We then travel through the Bering Strait west along the north Siberian coastline, before crossing the Longa Strait to Wrangel and Herald Islands. En-route to Wrangel Island we plan to land at Cape Dezneva, the north eastern extremity of the Eurasian land mass, where there is a monument to early explorers. We also visit the small island, Kolyuchin, that was once an important Russian Research Station, where we visit some of the most amazing bird cliffs in the Arctic. Once we reach Wrangel and Herald Islands, we spend 3-4 days under the guidance of the Rangers and staff of the reserve. Untouched by glaciers during the last ice age, it is a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity. It is perhaps best known for the high number of Polar Bears, and this remote outpost is often referred to by biologists as the ‘Polar Bear Maternity Ward’ on account of the large number of cubs born there each year. While on this voyage, we will take every opportunity to discover the rich biodiversity and history of this wild and beautiful land with landings, walks and zodiac excursions. You will feel truly privileged to discover a land and a people that time has forgotten.
- Cruising the coastline of the Russian Far East
- Discovering the historical archaeological site of Whalebone Alley, where 50 to 60 Bowhead whale skulls rest
- Spotting sea birds cruising with the ship, as well as visiting the most amazing bird cliffs in the entire Arctic on Kolyuchin Island
- Wrangel & Herald Islands with their abundance of wildlife, including a high chance of spotting polar bears and possibly their cubs
- Explore the wild desolate coastal area of Kolyuchin Inlet
- Entering the homeland of the Chukchi and Siberian Yupik Eskimo nation
Day 1 Arrive Anadyr, board Spirit of Enderby
All expedition members will arrive in Anadyr. If you require pre or post cruise accommodation or excursions, please contact us. Depending on your arrival time you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka region, before boarding Spirit of Enderby.
Day 2 Sail across Anadyrskiy Bay
We will depart Anadyr Harbour early morning and you are invited to join the Captain, officers and the expedition staff on the bridge. The Anadyr estuary is renowned for its Beluga Whales. Today as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards the Bering Strait there will be briefings, introductory lectures, and a chance to relax or enjoy some “birding” with our naturalists.
Day 3 Yttygran, Nuneangan & Arakamchechen Islands
On Yttygran Island, Russian anthropologists discovered an ancient aboriginal site nicknamed “Whale Bone Alley”. Whalebones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. There are many meat pits used for storage and other remains of a busy whaling camp, that united several aboriginal villages at a time. In one location, immense Bowhead Whale jawbones and ribs are placed together in a stunning arch formation. Grey Whales are frequently seen around the island. After landing at “Whale Bone Alley”, we will take the zodiacs on a whale watching excursion. We will also cruise close inshore of neighbouring Nuneangan Island (Bird Island) where a large number of seabirds nest. On nearby Arakamchechen Island, there is a prominent walrus haul-out. If the animals are present, we will land and walk across the tundra to view them from the cliffs.
Day 4 Cape Dezhnev & Uelen Village
Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev early this morning. This is the northeastern-most point of Eurasia as well as an historic landmark, named after the Siberian Cossack Semyon Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific. A steep scramble from the beach brings you to an abandoned Border Guard base, and the monument to Dezhnev and other sailors who have sailed these seas. A few nautical miles to the west, we will visit Uelen Village, the most north-eastern village in Russia. Archaeological work has revealed that walrus, seal and whale hunters have lived here for over 2000 years. Today the population is predominantly Chukchi, with some Russians and Inuit. Hunting is still very important, but the village is also one of the largest centres for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world. Sculptures from the bone-carving workshop in Uelen can be found in most of the major museums in Russia. We will be entertained by the villagers and visit the bone-carving workshop during our visit.
Day 5 Kolyuchin Island
This small island was once an important Russian Polar Research Station, and one of a number dotted across the Arctic. Sadly with the collapse of the USSR, there was no money to maintain them so they were abandoned. The buildings are derelict but the wildlife the men studied is still there. Near the abandoned station at the north-western end of the island are some of the most amazing bird cliffs in the Arctic. Puffins, guillemots, gulls and cormorants can be observed and photographed from just meters away. At the south-eastern end of the island is a prominent walrus haul-out; if the animals are present it is one of the easiest places to observe them and get some great photographs.
Days 6-10 Explore the High Arctic Russian Nature reserve of Wrangel and Herald Islands
Ice and weather conditions permitting, we will spend these days on Wrangel Island, and include a visit to nearby Herald Island. Wrangel Island is one of those islands that you have to visit to appreciate. The earliest human occupation is dated 3200 years BC, and it has been established they were seasonal hunters from Siberia. Wrangel was also formerly a large weather station with a staff of over 80, and for a few years indigenous people grazed reindeer. Today it is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance, sometimes referred to as a polar bear maternity ward on account of the large number of cubs born each year. Local Rangers will accompany us during our stay. Our expedition program will be determined by the weather, sea and ice; but there are many landings that we can make to search out wildlife, wildflowers and Arctic landscapes. Polar bears will be high on our list of animals to see, and with a little patience we should be rewarded with a number of encounters – hopefully including females with cubs. Musk Oxen and reindeer were brought to the Island long ago, and we hope to see these in various locations. It is also the last landfall for migratory species flying north. Each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, Skuas, Arctic Terns, Ross’s, Sabine and Ivory Gulls. We will also visit a number of historic sites like Dragi Harbor, where the Karluk’s crew overwintered in 1914 after their ship was crushed by ice. And if conditions permit, we will explore Herald Island to the east of Wrangel Island.
Day 11 North Siberian Coast
Although well mapped and charted, there have been very few expedition cruises in this area. Much of this coastland has seen few tourists, and so these expedition landings offer a rare opportunity for interaction. Depending on weather and sea conditions we will attempt an expedition landing today. There are several choices. At Cape Vankarem, there is reputedly a large walrus haul-out here that we would like to visit. The area around the Cape is bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous coastal lagoons and inlets. Nearby there is a small Chukchi village whose residents still make their living hunting walrus, seals and whales. Further west there is also another smaller Chukchi village called Nutepelmen, which is situated on a spit at the entrance to Pyngopikhin Lagoon. Depending on weather we may visit any one of these places.
Day 12 Kolyuchin Inlet
The Kolyuchin Inlet is so large that it can be seen on satellite photos from outer space. Huge numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders come here each year to breed. We will concentrate our visit on the spit near the mouth of the Inlet. It is a wild, desolate landscape that is strangely beautiful. We will search the sand dunes and tidal areas for birdlife, including Emperor Geese and Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Grey Whales frequent the area and are sometimes spotted feeding only metres offshore.
Day 13 Bering Strait and Chukotka Coast
In 1867 when the USA purchased Alaska from Russia, the new boundary was drawn between Big (Russian) and Little (USA) Diomede Islands. This makes Big Diomede Island Russia’s eastern-most possession. The Island was originally inhabited by Yupik Eskimos, but after World War II the native population was relocated to the mainland. Today there are no permanent residents, but the Russians maintain a Border Guard station here. It is an important island for birdlife with good numbers of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot, Horned and Tufted Puffin. The island is the northern-most known colony of auklets. We will visit the island, and subject to permission, will land.
Day 14 At Sea
Join the staff for an expedition recap and a disembarkation briefing, then simply relax as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr.
Day 15 Disembark Anadyr
After breakfast, it will be time to say our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to your hotel.
- 14 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 14 dinners
- Comfortable cabin accommodation on the voyage
- All shore excursions as outlined in itinerary
- Services of specialist expedition leaders and staff
- All activities while on cruise including lectures, slide and film shows
- Medical services (there is a resident medical officer and infirmary on board)
- Departure transfer to the airport or hotel
- 15 day voyage
- 14 nights aboard Spirit of Enderby
Trip Main Activities
- Wildlife Viewing
Group Size Min
Group Size Max
A comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking.