Polar Bear Quest: A Voyage Through Svalbard

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Tour Description

From Tromsøe, the “Gateway to the Arctic,” our Svalbard polar bear expedition makes for the North Cape, where we’ll stand on the northernmost tip of the European continent. With such heady beginnings, this trip is one you’re sure to treasure for years to come. Our home for this Svalbard tour, the comfortable 110-passenger Clipper Adventurer, whisks us to the former whaling station of Bear Island, now home to thousands of breeding seabirds, and into the Svalbard Archipelago, where we’ll come face to face with immense glaciers and black basaltic islands as well as our ultimate goal—polar bears. Zodiac excursions bring us even closer to these magnificent creatures.

Polar Bear Quest Expedition highlights include:

  • Time in Tromsøe, the jumping-off point for our polar bear tour; ride the cable car up 1,800-foot Mount Storsteinen and visit the unique Arctic Cathdral.
  • Ample time for Svalbard adventure travel, with seven days in the archipelago; see remains of North Pole expeditions on Danskøya Island.
  • Whales, seals, and kittiwakes in Liefdefjorden, where the Monaco Glacier spills into the sea at the deepest part of the waterway.
  • Huge herds of reindeer and a healthy population of mighty polar bears on Edgeøya Island, the third largest in the Svalbard Archipelago.
  • A look at local life in the brightly colored village of Longyearbyen, a former Arctic mining town and capital of Svalbard.

What to Expect:

Svalbard polar bear adventure travel requires a relatively moderate level of exertion. During our voyage, you will need to climb into and out of Zodiacs for shore excursions, and walk moderate distances over rough terrain, rocky beaches, ice, and snow. Waterproof boots with a good tread are advised. While the temperatures on the water will feel cooler, the general temperatures will range from the low 40°sF to the high 50°sF. We will mail a complete list of recommended clothing and suggested reading about five months prior to your departure for your polar bear expedition.


Day 1

Depart USA

Depart this evening on your independent flight to Oslo.

Day 2

Oslo, Norway

Arrive in Oslo this afternoon and walk to our airport hotel. Lunch is on your own and the day is at leisure to explore this charming capital. Gather this evening for a welcome dinner at our hotel.

Day 3

Oslo / Tromsøe / Embark Clipper Adventurer

This morning depart on your independent flight to Tromsøe, known as the “Gateway to the Arctic” and enjoy a tour of this charming university city that has also been the launching point for many polar expeditions. A cable-car ride up the 1,800-foot Mount Storsteinen affords fabulous views. We visit the unique Arctic Cathedral, built in 1965 and famous for its dazzling wall of blue and gold stained glass—one of the largest stained glass windows in Europe. Its pendulous chandeliers represent hanging ice formations. We also visit the Polar Museum where exhibits offer a look at the city’s history as a center for Arctic hunting and the starting point for Arctic expeditions. This evening embark the Clipper Adventurer for our first dinner and overnight as we sail northward.

Day 4

Skarsvaag / North Cape

This morning we go ashore in Skarsvaag and drive up to the 1,000-foot-high plateau that rises from the Barents Sea. The community of North Cape (Nordkapp) is commonly referred to as the northernmost point of the European continent. English explorer, Richard Chancellor, sailed past the cape in 1553 while searching for a northeast passage. Here an impressive edge-of-the-world Visitors Center features historical exhibits and a film about the region.

Day 5

Bear Island (Bjørnøya)

For nearly three centuries, Bear Island—which sits halfway between North Cape and Svalbard—was the home of a major Barents Sea whaling station. Today, thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes, murres, dovekies, and multiple varieties of gulls make their home on the jagged cliffs and rocky pinnacles that rise vertically from the sea—often enshrouded in a mystical fog. We cruise by Zodiac along the eroded cliffs and make a landing for a tundra walk among seasonal Arctic wildflowers and to search for Arctic fox.

Day 6-12

Svalbard Archipelago

The next seven days are spent exploring the rugged coastline, spectacular narrow fjords, and offshore islands of the Svalbard Archipelago. The nature of polar expeditions requires flexibility regarding the daily schedule of activities. If the weather and ice conditions are in our favor, we may offer landings before breakfast, or even after dinner. Our primary goal is to locate wildlife, which is found here in abundance during the short summer season. Many varieties of seabirds nest in great profusion along the steep cliffs surrounding the islands. In addition to walrus haul-outs, bearded, ringed, and harp seals can be seen basking on ice floes. Throughout our time in Svalbard we keep a watch for polar bears. Though the expeditionary nature of our voyage precludes guaranteeing specific stops, we plan to visit the following places:

Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard Archipelago. Its southernmost fjord, Hornsund, is back-dropped by soaring mountain peaks and rolling tundra which bursts into bloom during the summer. The Polish research station, established here in 1957, is a base for international research and exploration. Numerous seabirds soar overhead and Arctic foxes and groups of reindeer are often spotted in the vicinity.

Danskøya Island
This island was a whaling station in the 17th century, but is better known for its important role in several unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole by balloon. Solomon Andree, the Swedish balloonist, departed from here with two companions in 1897 in an attempt to fly over the North Pole and was never seen alive again. In 1907, and again in 1909, American explorer Walter Wellman flew north from the island in the airship America. Both flights had to be abandoned due to mechanical failure. Remains of both of these expeditions can still be found on the island.

Amsterdamøya Island
This historic island was the site of a Dutch and Danish whaling station founded in 1617. Today, few visible signs exist of the settlement of Smeerenburg, although the careful observer can find remnants of the station’s ovens and a burial ground for those who perished here.

In this dramatically scenic fjord, rugged mountains rise from the permanent ice cap and the Monaco Glacier spills into the sea at the deepest part of the waterway, a favored feeding ground for thousands of kittiwakes. Whales and seals are also common sights.

Lågøya Island
Zodiacs bring us to Lågøya where we search for the elusive polar bear which has been spotted hunting here in the past.

Hinlopen Strait
Rounding the northern tip of Spitsbergen, conditions permitting, we enter the 90-mile-long Hinlopen Strait which divides Spitsbergen from ice-clad Nordaustlandet. Glaciers, chiseled fjords, and icebergs hallmark this desolate and exquisitely beautiful region. Here we board Zodiacs to watch for and photograph bearded, harp, and ringed seals; occasionally, lone polar bears are spotted here; and thousands of thick-billed murres nest on spectacular basalt pillars.

Edgeøya Island
Edgeøya is the third largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago and home to large herds of reindeer, which in turn supports a healthy population of predators, including the mighty polar bear.

The name Bellsund is derived from the bell-shaped mountain near the entrance to this fjord. Here we can see the dramatic faults and folds created when the Eurasian continental plate collided with the Greenland plate 50-60 million years ago. Large breeding colonies of kittiwakes and thick-billed murres crowd the shelves and outcroppings of this rugged landscape.

Day 13

Longyearbyen / Disembark Clipper Adventurer / Oslo

This morning we disembark in Longyearbyen and explore this former Arctic mining town and capital of Svalbard. The brightly colored buildings are quite photogenic and house a variety of small shops and restaurants. In the afternoon board your flight to Oslo and walk to our airport hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 14

Oslo / USA

Depart on your independent flight to the USA, arriving the same day.


Pricing Information

Clipper Adventurer

A Clipper Adventurer expedition guarantees a superb ride, thanks to stabilizers and an ice-hardened hull that allow her to navigate easily in the most rugged natural environments. The vessel is outfitted with state-of-the-art satellite navigation and communication equipment as well as a fleet of Zodiac landing craft, allowing guests to land anywhere nature or curiosity dictates—one of the many advantages of a Clipper Adventurer cruise. To provide the utmost in comfort aboard all Clipper Adventurer voyages, each cabin boasts an ocean view, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, an in-room music system, and en suite bathroom. Guests will find a dining room, lounge, library, gift shop, infirmary staffed by a registered physician, laundry, and small gym onboard the vessel. The Clipper Adventurer is classified A-1 ice class for unrestricted passenger service by the Lloyd’s Register. Ship registry: Bahamas.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.