Wrangel Island: Across the Top of the World

Discover the Wild Siberian Coast aboard the Heritage Adventurer or Spirit of Enderby

Overview

This expedition cruise along the wild north Siberian coast reveals a world of spouting whales, enormous bird colonies, walrus haul-outs, and native villages. Aboard the Heritage Adventurer or Spirit of Enderby, you’ll navigate from Russia through the Bering Strait to Wrangel Island, a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity and well known for its polar bear population. You may catch many glimpses of this magnificent animal as well as walrus, reindeer, snow geese, and migratory bird species that nest here in the brief Arctic summer. The islands’ human histories are fascinating as well, and your expert expedition team lends insight to the stupendous landscapes and fantastic wildlife encounters you enjoy.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1
Nome, Alaska, USA

Your expedition begins and ends in Nome, Alaska's most famous gold rush town. Make your way to the designated meeting point for your transfer to Heritage Adventurer (times and meeting point will be confirmed with your voyage documents) where the captain and expedition team will be waiting to welcome you aboard. You will have the opportunity to settle into your accommodation and familiarise yourself on board before joining your fellow expeditioners on deck as we set sail across the Bering Strait and International Date Line for Provideniya, Russia.

Day 2
Provideniya, Russia

After clearing Russian Customs and Immigration there may be an opportunity to explore this fascinating former Soviet military port and administrative centre followed by an afternoon expedition.

Day 3
Yttygran Island and Gil'mimyl Hot Springs

Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where whale bones 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. Gray Whales are frequently seen around the island. After landing at Whale Bone Alley we will take the Zodiacs on a whale-watching excursion. This afternoon we intend to make a landing at the Gil'mimyl Hot Springs. They are a short walk from the coastline, but well worth the effort. There will be a chance to explore the tundra for birds, plants and animals as we walk to and fro. After a soak in the springs we will re-join the ship for a relaxing evening.

Day 4
Bukhta Pultin and Cape Dezhnev

This morning there may be an opportunity to enjoy a Zodiac safari of Bukhta Pultin. Beyond its narrow entrance this sheltered and rarely-visited bay opens revealing a new world. Explore the coastline, fields of wildflowers, look for wildlife or hike up the ridgeline and take in the impressive helicopter view.

This afternoon we plan to be at Cape Dezhnev, the north-eastern most point of the Eurasian continent. This cape commemorates the accomplishment of the Cossack Semyon Dezhnev who was the first European to sail through this strait in 1648 (80 years before Bering did). On the cape is a lighthouse, a monument and the remains of a Border Guard base. If the weather and sea conditions are suitable we plan to land here and give you the opportunity to explore the area. A short distance south of the cape is the former Inuit settlement of Naukan. The Soviet government relocated these people to other Chukotka settlements in the 1950s as it was thought they posed a security risk, supposedly because of the close proximity of Alaska. It is still possible to sense the melancholy in the air because the people never wanted to leave. As the relocation was fairly recent, there is a wealth of historic data and photographs that makes this visit even more poignant.

Day 5
Kolyuchin Island and Kolyuchin Inlet

Today is an expedition day where we plan to visit Kolyuchin Island and Inlet. Once the location of an important Russian Polar Research Station, this small island has since been abandoned following the collapse of the USSR. While the buildings are now derelict, the abundant wildlife the men studied is still there. Near the old station at the north-western end of the island are some of the most amazing bird cliffs in the Arctic, where puffns, guillemots, gulls and cormorants can be observed and photographed just metres away. A prominent walrus haul out often congregates at the south-eastern end and, if the animals are present, you can expect some excellent photographic opportunities from the Zodiacs. We also plan to visit Belaka Spit near the mouth of the Kolyuchin Inlet. So huge that it is visible from satellite photos, it contains vast numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders. This wild and desolate landscape is also a strangely beautiful birding hotspot. Joined by Beringia National Park rangers, we plan to search the dunes and tidal areas for Emperor Geese. If we are lucky, the Gray Whales which frequent the area will be feeding just metres offshore.

Days 6-10
Wrangel and Herald Islands

Ice and weather conditions permitting, we spend the next few days on Wrangel Island, with a visit to nearby Herald Island. The earliest human occupation on Wrangel Island dates back to 3200 BC and it has been established they were seasonal hunters from Siberia. The island’s presence was speculated about and marked on maps by early Russian explorers but it wasn’t until 1849 that it was “rediscovered” by the British. A Canadian expedition attempted to establish a settlement and claim the Island for Canada, but they were evicted by the Russians who claimed the island. Today it is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance. A lot of its significance lies in the fact that it is a major polar bear denning area. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as a polar bear maternity ward because of the large numbers of pups born here. 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, and Ross’s, Sabine’s, and ivory gulls. 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. Musk oxen and reindeer were introduced to the island in 1975 and 1948 respectively, though reindeer numbers are low. We also have a chance to visit Dragi Harbor where the survivors of the Karluk, crushed by ice in 1914, scrambled ashore and lived until they were rescued. Ice conditions permitting, we will explore Herald Island to the east of Wrangel Island.

Day 11
North Siberian Coast

Although this area is well mapped and charted, there have been very few expedition cruises and consequently there is a lot of scope for expedition landings. Depending on weather and sea conditions the crew will attempt an expedition landing. There are several choices, including a purported large walrus haul out at Cape Vankarem. 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. A smaller Chukchi village, Nutepelmen, is situated on a spit at the entrance to Pyngopikhin Lagoon, farther west of Cape Vankarem.

Day 12
Unnamed Bay and Lavrentiya

Picturesque Unnamed Bay is our planned destination for this morning where we will Zodiac cruise to shore. Welcomed by an expansive stretch of beach, backed by a lagoon and surrounded by rugged hills, there's much to discover. Enjoy a walk along the beach and tundra looking for wildlife, or scale one of the nearby peaks and take in the stunning vistas. Dropping anchor in beautiful Lavrentiya Bay, we expect to spend the afternoon exploring its historically and culturally rich village. A former indigenous settlement, this Soviet-planned community was established in the 1920s as an administrative centre where local Chukchi and Siberian Yupik were encouraged to move to. We plan to visit the Lavrentiya museum, meet local elders and enjoy an authentic taste and slice of village life in the main square.

Day 13
Bukhta Penkingney and Arakamchechen Island

This morning we will be launching our Zodiacs with a landing planned at Bukhta Penkingney, a long fiord cut into the coastline by glaciers and a popular spot for whale watching. Here a small braided river, its gravel bed studded with Willow bushes, winds its way down to the sea where we land. Exploring this scenic location we will be looking for Arctic Ground Squirrels and Pikas, Willow Ptarmigan, Sandhill Cranes and brown bears attracted by the berries and salmon-filled river. This afternoon we plan to cruise over to Arakamchechen Island just north of Cape Chaplino and separated from the Chukotka mainland by the 8-kilometre wide Senyavina Strait. Having watched Gray Whales feeding here previously, we recommend being out on deck as we slowly cruise through the strait. On Arakamchechen Island we will explore the lush tundra and, if they are present, view the prominent walrus haul out.

Day 14
Provideniya

After clearing Russian Customs and Immigration in Provideniya we will set sail for Nome across the Bering Strait. One of the world's most nutrient-rich stretches of water, each spring the Bering Strait is the scene of one of the planet's largest wildlife migrations. Beluga, Bowhead and Gray Whales, walrus, Ringed Seals and numerous seabirds are all known to frequent the strait so there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife encounters. Join the expedition team for a recap and disembarkation briefing before enjoying a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey as we sail back across the International Date Line.

Day 15
Nome, Alaska

After breakfast and clearing US Immigration and Customs formalities it will be time to say our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to take you to the airport or a designated central location. Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and/or opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.

Highlights

Highlights

Wrangel Island, one of the last undiscovered wonders of the world
Plentiful wildlife, including polar bears, snow geese, walrus, snowy owls, and more
Chukchi village visits and Whale Bone Alley, conditions permitting
Zodiac excursions, expert guest lecturers

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $9350  
Arrive: Nome, Alaska
Depart: Nome, Alaska
Lodging: 14 nights aboard expedition vessel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship
Activity: Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

Cultural exploration and walking tours

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