Experience a rare chance to explore wondrous islands on our Franz Josef Land voyage.
Cross the Barents Sea to a world few have seen. Enter the Russian Arctic National Park and watch for polar bears, whales, walruses and seals. Enjoy long tundra walks and geological oddities. Get up close to spectacular bird cliffs and visit fascinating historic huts of explorers like Fridtjof Nansen.
- Photograph unique stone spheres at Champ Island
- Look out for walruses, rorquals and elusive bowhead whales
- Watch for hunting polar bears on pack ice and on land
- Marvel at the frozen landscape of Franz Josef Land – 85 per cent of which is glaciated
Number of passengers: 126 passengers (including kayakers)
In true expedition style we encourage exploration and adventure, offering flexibility in challenging environments in a way that puts you among the action to see and do as much as possible. This itinerary is only a guide and subject to change due to ice and weather conditions.
Day 1 Kirkenes. Embark the Greg Mortimer
Arrive in Kirkenes, Norway, where you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions to commence a tour of Kirkenes prior to boarding the Greg Mortimer late afternoon.
The tour of Kirkenes starts with a drive to the Russian border to learn about the significant historical events that have occured in this area. Afterwards, continue to the mining community at Bjørnevatn, discovered in the 1860s and holding the largest iron reserve in Norway. The proliferation of mines in the area were home to many people during the fighting and liberation at the end of World War II. At Mount Storfjellet, enjoy marvelous views of the area before ending your tour with a visit to the Borderland Museum, different to traditional war museums by focusing on the effects of war on people rather than exhibiting war paraphernalia. Learn about the Soviet prisoners of war, deported teachers and many other fascinating, seldom-heard stories.
Transfer to the pier for embarkation, where you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings
Day 2 Murmansk
After sailing overnight into Russia, we stop in Murmansk to undergo formalities required to enter Russia. During clearance procedures, you will have the opportunity to go on a city tour of Murmansk, as well as the choice between visiting Lenin, the world's first nuclear icebreaker, or the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO).
Murmansk City Tour and the First Nuclear Icebreaker
Visit the Palace of Culture, Memorial of the Defenders of Kola Land, Savior-on-Waters Complex Memorial and a visit to the Orthodox Church. Continue to the icebreaker.
The historic icebreaker Lenin is the world’s first civilian nuclear-powered vessel. Built for use in waters that are continuously covered by ice, these ships are significantly more powerful than their diesel-powered counterparts. Lenin was launched in 1959 and served for 30 years plying the ice-covered waters of the Northern Passage. Converted to a museum, visitors are now able to experience a guided tour to see the inner facilities of the icebreaker including the bridge, where the nuclear reactor was kept.
Murmansk City Tour & Museum of the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO)
Murmansk is a unique and fascinating Russian city situated on the north coast of Kola Peninsula. Murmansk is the largest city in the world above the Arctic Circle with a population of approximately 350,000 people.
On this excursion, visit the Palace of Culture, Memorial of the Defenders of Kola Land, Savior-on-Waters Complex Memorial and a visit to the Orthodox Church. Continue to the Museum to the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO) for a guided tour.
The Museum was opened in 1977 and covers the history of Arctic exploration, particularly the development of the Northern Passage known in Russia as “The Great Northern Sea Route”. There are great exhibitions of historic photographs, a portrait gallery of polar captains, nautical devices, displays of ship bells, a model of a nuclear reactor and a fascinating collection of micro model ships.
Note: It’s recommended to wear comfortable shoes for the excursion. A reasonable level of fitness is required as some uphill walking, narrow stairs and 200 steps to climb at the Monument to the Defenders of the Kola land. Women are advised to cover their heads during the visit to the church.
Days 3-4 At Sea and Novaya Zemlya
Over the next two days at sea, enjoy informative and entertaining lectures from our expert expedition team including naturalists, historians and geologists. We will cruise along the coast of Novaya Zemlya to have our first glimpse of the tundra of the high Arctic. Novaya Zemlya was once an important nuclear research site during the cold war and today, only a few places in the north are accessible to visitors. These islands offer stunning rugged arctic landscapes - enormous extinct volcanoes, jagged cliffs and the most isolated mountain range in the Baltic Sea. Time and weather permitting, we will attempt to launch our Zodiacs to explore the Oransky Islands late on Day 4. Fingers crossed!
Just north of the northern tip of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago is Oransky, a group of several small inshore islands located within the Russian Arctic National Park established in 2009. The islands themselves are not inhabited by humans, but remnants of early hunting activity are visible. At the nearby Zhelania Cape, situated at the northeastern-most tip of the Northern Island, a manned weather station was operated as well as a military base, but both were closed in the 1990s. On Oransky Islands, Brünnich’s guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous gulls, black guillemots, Atlantic puffins and great skuas can be found breeding. You may get a chance to see a massive walrus rookery, various species of whale and the Novaya Zemlya reindeer. If we're very lucky, we may also see polar bear, and the ones found at Novaya Zemlya are considered to be a genetically unique sub-species.
Days 5-11 Franz Josef Land
Franz Josef Land is a stark yet beautiful world of glaciers, mosses and lichens. Approximately five million sea birds nest on the archipelago every year, with the thick-billed guillemot accounting for approximately 20%. Other seabirds such as fulmar, kittiwake, Brünnich's guillemot, black guillemot and little auk are common throughout the archipelago. On the flat tundra nest other species such as: common eider, purple sandpiper, Arctic skua, glaucous gull, ivory gull, Arctic tern and snow bunting. Franz Josef Land is home to two arctic giants – the polar bear and the walrus. There is also a population of Arctic fox, which typically have their territories near seabird habitats. The waters of Franz Josef Land are visited by whales, including humpback, bowhead, narwhal, and white beluga whale. Walrus, ringed seals, bearded seals and an amazing species of mammals, choose Franz Josef Land and the water areas around it as their home.
While there are many exciting places we can choose to visit over the following week, weather, wind, and sea-ice conditions will determine our itinerary in Franz Josef Land. A sample of some of the places where we may land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife and scenery include:
Bell and Mabel Island
The remains of an empty cabin built in 1880 by British explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith can be found on Bell Island. On Mabel island offers an opportunity to get close to a little auk colony as the birds nest between the rocks on the slope above the beach where the Zodiacs land.
Cape Flora - Northbrook Island
Located in an unglaciated area in the Southwest of Northbrook Island, Cape Flora is one of the most famous historical site in Franz Josef Land because it is one of the most accessible locations in the archipelago and often served as a base for polar expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cape Flora features some of the most beautiful tundra in Franz Josef Land, but landings on the rocky beach, which is prone to swell from the Barents Sea can often be tricky. Cape Flora is where Benjamin Leigh Smith’s vessel Eira was shipwrecked in 1881, after being trapped in pack ice.
Geographers Bay (Prince George Land)
Prince George is the largest and longest island of the Franz Josef Archipelago. Most of the island is covered in large glaciers and ice domes, such as the Brusilov Ice Dome - the highest point of the island. A landing at Geographers Bay allows for a hike up one of the ice domes to stretch our legs and to enjoy the wonderful views over the archipelago, as Prince George Island is not fully glaciated. It’s also a great spot for enjoying the typical flowers of the north Arctic tundra.
Tikhaya Bukta (Hooker Island)
Tikhaya Bay was a major base for polar expeditions, and where a team of meteorologists from the Russian Sedov station were marooned at the beginning of the Second World War. It was also the location of a meteorological station between 1929 and 1963. The remains of the old Russian station is worth visiting and after thousands of rusting barrels were found and cleared here five 5 years ago, the station now resembles a ghost town or a living museum. You will also find here the world’s northernmost (Russian) post office!
Rubini Rock (Hooker Island)
The impressive basalt cliffs create the best bird cliffs in the archipelago housing more than 100,000 birds comprising of mostly Brünnich guillemot, but also kittiwake and little auks. The bird cliff lies just off Calm Bay and is perfect for Zodiac cruises. The island is a volcanic plug, the central remains of conical volcano.
Cape Tegethoff (Hall Island)
The place of the first landing in 1873 by Austro-Hungarian expeditioners Julius Von Payer and Karl Weyprecht after the Tegethoff sunk in 1873. Beautiful basalt rocks and bird cliff rookery of guillemot, gulls, kittiwake and little auks.
Cape Triest, Champ Island
Champ Island is famous for the incredible stone spheres (geodes), commonly called “Devils Marbles” with sizes ranging from tennis balls to boulders that are three metres in diameter! These rocks are a unique geological feature that can be found only in the Arctic regions. Keep a look out for walrus in the water or hauled out on the beach.
Sarko Passage - Newcombe sound (Nansen archipelago)
Beautifully glaciated landscape featuring an enormous glacier front with a lot of sea Ice. It’s one of the best spots to marvel at glaciers, ice and perhaps polar bears!
Cape Norway (Jackson Island)
The place where the famous Norwegian explorers Fritjoj Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen spent the winter of 1895-96 after returning from their attempt to reach the North Pole. We can see the remains of the stone hut built by the men including a big log that was used as a makeshift roof. A commemorative plaque provides marks this event where the men survived the winter until the following summer, when they resumed their journey southwards.
Cape Fligely (Prince Rudolf Island)
At 81° 51’N, this is the northernmost point of Eurasia, where we can cruise along the ice edge and perhaps get a glimpse to the North Pole in clear weather conditions.
Teplitz Bay (Prince Rudolf Island)
An old abandoned Russian meteorological station is located here – it was once the northernmost weather station in the world. The bay is often chock full of ice but provides a marvellous opportunity to enjoy the northernmost zodiac cruise!
Walrus Haulout at Stolichky (Stoliczka) or Apollonov Island
Walrus can be found everywhere on the sea ice in the Franz Josef archipelago. We hope to visit one of the established haul-out sites to observe them on land. Polar bears can be seen almost everywhere on, or between the islands. We may see some on land but we hope to find them on the pack Ice, their natural habitat. Seeing polar bears is a highlight of a voyage to Franz Josef Land and can happen at any moment. We will change the itinerary in case we encounter one or more bears, maximising every opportunity spending time observing the king of the Arctic!
Days 12-13 At Sea
The return crossing of the Barents Sea offers some good opportunities to encounter whales, perhaps the elusive bowhead whale if we’re lucky, and certainly plenty of opportunities to photograph sea birds.
Day 14 Murmansk
Back in Murmansk for clearance procedures before continuing to Kirkenes.
Day 15 Disembark Kirkenes
Arrive in Kirkenes in the morning, farewell your expedition team and fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature. A transfer to the airport is included in the cost of the voyage.
NOTE: At the conclusion of the voyage, we do not recommend booking flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.
- Airport transfer and Kirkenes city tour on Day 1 prior to embarking Greg Mortimer
- Group sightseeing tour of Murmansk on Day 2
- Group transfer from ship to airport in Kirkenes on Day 15
- On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
- All meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage
- Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner
- Captain’s Welcome and Farewell reception including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages
- All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises
- Educational lectures and guiding services from expedition team
- Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic
- A 3-in-1 waterproof polar expedition jacket
- Complimentary use of muck boots during the voyage
- Comprehensive pre-departure information
- Port surcharges, permits and landing fees
- International or domestic flights, unless specified
- Transfers not mentioned in the itinerary
- Airport arrival or departure taxes
- Passport, visa, reciprocity and vaccination charges
- Travel insurance or emergency evacuation charges
- Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
- Optional excursions not included in the itinerary
- Optional activity surcharges
- All items of a personal nature including but not limited to: alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, additional medical expenses such as medication, gratuities, Wi-Fi, email or phone charges
Note: A $15 USD per person per day gratuity for the crew is automatically added to your onboard account. It is at your discretion if you would like to remove the tip (or increase/decrease the amount) when you settle your bill. It is not necessary to tip the expedition team members. This gratuity amount is included for suites as part of their ‘Suite Benefits’.
Lectures on wildlife, our environment, history and destinations
Whale and mammal spotting
From USD $1,150.00/pp
One of the most exhilarating ways to experience Antarctica, the Arctic or any of our global voyages. The experience of …
One of the most exhilarating ways to experience Antarctica, the Arctic or any of our global voyages.
The experience of sea kayaking in the humbling wilderness of Antarctica or the European Arctic is guaranteed to stir your soul. Paddle between brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes, skim past penguin rookeries or under soaring bird cliffs, or drift quietly as you watch wildlife unobtrusively, absorbing the majestic scenery.
Led by experienced guides, paddling in small groups allows us the opportunity to paddle between ice floes, brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes as well as allowing easy and intimate access to beautiful coastlines.
Rather than travelling large distances, our aim is to see as much as possible. We paddle anywhere between 5 to 15 kilometres (2 to 4 hours) per outing, sometimes taking a snack and a flask of hot chocolate to enjoy on our excursion.
Each group of 4 to 10 kayakers will have their own intimate exploration of the small hidden bays and coasts that may be inaccessible to the Zodiacs and will also make time for their own shore excursions and wildlife encounters.
When we visit the poles, the elements play an important role. It is important that you have an adventurous attitude and understand that our kayaking time will be affected by the weather that we experience.
Even if your experience is limited, we’d encourage you to call us to discuss your suitability. There is often ample time to gain the required experience before you depart. Kayakers should be aged 14 years or over.
- Kayak & Paddle
- Neoprene boots
- Safety gear
- A 15-litre dry bag
- Life jackets
- Dry suits
- Pogies (insulated mittens that attach to your paddle)
Our guides have years of kayaking experience in our destinations. The sea kayaking guide will lead the group on each excursion, explaining facts about the wildlife and other highlights we paddle across. You can view our sea kayaking guides’ profiles here or see below.
How to Book
Simply inform our Expedition Experts at time of booking that you would like to include the optional sea kayaking activity for your expedition. Places are limited so we recommend reserving your place early.View more details
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