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ADVENTURE CRUISING


Very little grows here – no trees, a few plants and mosses – but the wildlife remains impressive. Our first Polar Bear went swimming past the ship and we saw others on land, too, as well as a constant stream of whales around the ship. Anything spotted is always announced over the tannoy, ensuring we always had plenty of notice of a new encounter. Under the glow of the Midnight Sun, the ship visited Moffen above the


latitude


(everyone gets a certificate to say you have reached this far north). This crescent- shaped, half-mile long island is no more than a few inches above sea level and the ship is bound by Arctic regulations not to approach closer than 300 metres.


swimming out to the ship to satisfy their curiosity. Photographing these magnificent animals in the orange glow of the Arctic sun was yet another wonder of the cruise, but you had to wonder how these animals survived in heavy seas. Landings were made in Polar Circle boats holding eight people and specially ice strengthened. Ashore, we were free to explore at our own pace, with occasional group landings where we would stay with an expedition staff member. You are encouraged to pick up any litter found on the beach as part of the “Clean up Svalbard” campaign.


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At one point, the boats took us deep into the ice field of the Monaco Glacier, the ice cracking as we pushed our way through it, being watched by seals with one eye open as they tried to catch some sleep in the warmth of the afternoon sun. But this cruise is also about the history of the region, from the early whalers and miners to Polar explorers. Any evidence of human activity before 1946 is now


80 WORLD OF CRUISING I Winter 2011-12


ying huddled together on the pebbled island were some hundred or so walruses, many of whom came


officially protected, with strict access rules, and we found ourselves walking in places where Nansen and Amundsen had once passed. At Ny Alesund, the world’s most northerly settlement, the mast still stands where Amundsen moored his airship at the start of his quest to fly over the North Pole. This small settlement consists mostly of scientists from some 15 countries conducting studies into the biology and geology of the area and global weather changes.


In some places we were dive-bombed


by Arctic Terns while others produced close encounters with wild Svalbard Reindeer (much shorter legged than their Norwegian mainland cousins). But there were some upsetting moments, too. As we approached the beach on Bamesbu the next day, we noticed a long white line above the shoreline. This turned out to be the skeletons of some 550 Beluga whales slaughtered here in the 19th century. The expedition nature of the voyage


was highlighted at another island, where I was looking forward to seeing the rare Little Auk nesting cliffs. However, the swell was so heavy it would have been dangerous to land and we had to move on. Being so far north also meant Internet and mobile phone communication were non- existent for much of the time. The weather here can change


dramatically and quickly as this is only just short of the Arctic pack ice. We experienced overcast grey days as well as dazzling blue cloudless skies, including for our final evening aboard, which featured a wonderful on-deck barbecue.


As far as the great frozen wildernesses


of the world go, this is right alongside Antarctica for spectacular cruising. But it also has the great benefit of being a lot closer! 


HURTIGRUTEN’S Arctic Agenda


Hurtigruten have announced they will have an extra ship in Svalbard in summer 2012, with MS Nordstjernen returning to the region. Among the Arctic itineraries on offer will be the ‘Climate Voyage,’ starting in Iceland and then exploring the west coast of Spitsbergen (8 days from £1,888 per person), departing Jul 19; ‘In The Land of the Polar Bear’ offering a circum- navigation of Spitsbergen (8 days from £2,741pp), departing Aug 23 and 30; and the ‘Explorer Voyage’ along the west coast of Spitsbergen (8 days from £2,221pp), departing Jul 26 and Aug 2, 9 and 16.


Price includes full board basis, wind & water-resistant jacket, landings in Polar Circle boats and lectures by Expedition Team. Not included: international flights, luggage handling, optional excursions and gratuities.


MORE INFO: in the UK, call 0844 272 8961 or visit www.hurtigruten.co.uk; in the US, 1877 849 3414 or www. hurtigruten.us.


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