Join us on an unforgettable five-star Arctic expedition cruise to the Land of the Polar Bear with the Polar specialists, Ponant. Sailing on a luxury mega-yacht you will experience, up close, the Arctic at its most exuberant: ice-choked fjords, soaring icebergs, tundra flowers in bloom, and wildlife in its natural habitat: Beluga whales, walruses, Arctic fox—and the king of the Arctic, Polar bears, hunting in the midnight sun.
Polar bears and walruses will be on the ice edge, birds will be returning to breed and the Arctic will be teeming with wildlife on shore and in the sea and sky. You will experience some of Nature’s most wondrous wildlife encounters. And history awaits you in every facet of your journey: you will follow in the footsteps of men who struggled to survive in these icy wastes: adventurers, explorers, whalers, colourful characters whose lives have left their mark on this vast continent, still visible today. If ever you have thought of seeing the Arctic for yourself, rather than second-hand on television, now is the time.
We shall explore the Planet’s most beautiful and unspoilt region in a style that is beyond the ordinary, experiencing luxurious comfort, refinement, fine wine and French cuisine aboard the gracious Le Boréal luxury expedition yacht, designed and reinforced to handle the Polar ice, especially quiet so as not to disturb the wildlife, and refitted at a cost of millions of pounds. Her diminutive size allows her to go where other ships cannot pass, and lets her passengers go ashore at exceptional places. Using Zodiac inflatables, headed by experienced and passionate Arctic expedition guides, we shall be escorted as close as possible to Nature at its most thrilling and awe-inspiring.
This is an Arctic expedition as if on a private yacht, these Polar cruises book up quickly—and of course our Members enjoy exclusive preferential rates.
We shall experience the Arctic’s rich beauty, glide among towering icebergs and encounter the iconic wildlife first-hand, including those emblems of the Arctic, Polar bears. We shall experience this unbelievably spectacular ice realm from a luxurious mega-yacht, purpose-built for Arctic expeditions, part of the Ponant fleet, which has 30 years’ expertise in Polar exploration. Captains, navigators and naturalists have a lifetime of specialist knowledge of this remote region. This will be the cruise of a lifetime, perfection in which to behold these strongholds of precarious beauty and endangered Arctic wildlife.
We chose Ponant for our Arctic exploration because of their extensive knowledge of the Polar region and their environmental credentials, as well as the luxury, comfort and culture of life aboard their all-but-private yachts. This is the cruise company also chosen by experienced travel specialists such as Abercrombie & Kent, for example. Ponant was founded by mariners from the French Merchant Navy, and as such their focus is on maritime exploration and endeavour. On board our yacht, on our Zodiac inflatables and on our hikes, we shall be at one with our surroundings, silently exploring the dramatic mountain scenery and tidewater glaciers, with some of the Arctic’s finest wildlife viewing opportunities and, in every step, a history of Man’s search and discovery in this pristine yet hostile environment.
On this voyage, like the Polar adventurers of old, we shall venture to the edge of the North Polar ice cap. Here, at the dynamic boundary between implacable ice and bountiful sea, we shall have a rare opportunity to dream about the Polar explorers while experiencing raw Nature and events which, even now, are seldom experienced in real life.
Our destination, Spitsbergen, is the ultimate for incredible sights of Arctic animals and scenery. From Polar bears to blue whales, Spitsbergen boasts wildlife not found in other parts of the Arctic. Snowcapped mountains and blue glaciers provide a dramatic background for portraits of charismatic Arctic wildlife. With a full itinerary of spellbinding destinations, and at this time of year, with daylight around the clock, your opportunities for wondrous sights are limitless. And the islands and fjords of Spitsbergen—one of the High Arctic’s most pristine and protected environments, the last islands before the Pole—guard some of the world’s most magical and unique opportunities for Zodiac expeditions.
Within its thick and bright ice armour, Time seems to stand still in Spitsbergen—and our yacht Le Boréal will glide quietly through the icy scene to reveal a Nature coloured by Polar hues. Icebergs, icecaps, ice floes—a fascinating universe where more than half the landmass is covered in glaciers, ice carpets which collapse into the sea in jagged heaps. At the icy edge, Polar bears hunt in the midnight sun. Svalbard boasts one of the Arctic’s highest concentrations of Polar bears, the world’s largest land carnivores and a symbol of the imperiled Arctic wilderness. This is one of the best places in the world to view Polar bears hunting in their preferred habitat: the pack ice.
Our departure port is Longyearbyen—Long Year Town—capital of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago and the northernmost capital on the planet. The landscapes of this former mining town are breathtaking. The glaciers, the mountains stretching as far as the eye can see and the untouched Nature, make you feel you’re in unexplored territory. We sail first to Cross Bay’s plutonic rocks and tundra, past mountain slopes carpeted by flowers, amid 14 Alpine glaciers plunging into the sea. In this setting of wild beauty, we’ll set off to discover one of the most beautiful fjords in Svalbard: Kongsfjorden (the fjord of the King), a gateway to grandiose landscapes.
The Fjord of the King is home to Ny-Ålesund, formerly an important mining town and fishery station, transformed into a scientific base which is now the focus of an international research community, currently populated by 14 independently operated research stations led by 10 nations (UK, Norway, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, India, China, The Netherlands and Italy). Founded in 1916, this small town was the departure point for many Arctic expeditions, including those of the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who was first to reach the South Pole, the first to make a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage, and one of the first to cross the Arctic by air. He was one of the greatest figures in Polar exploration. He died here, while taking part in a rescue operation for two more explorers with the seaplane Latham, but crashed somewhere into the Atlantic Ocean on his way north to Svalbard. Amundsen and the plane were never found.
Tragedy and beauty are never far apart in the Arctic. We shall see breathtaking images of snow-capped mountains reflected in the water where superb icebergs try to outdo each other in their beauty, a delight for photographers. Bearded seals, reindeer, barnacle geese and black guillemots frequent these places, with their unique atmosphere. We shall sail to the end of the fjord and admire the Kongsbreen (glacier of the King) and its three characteristic rocky points, which take their names from three Scandinavian countries: Svea (Sweden), Dana (Denmark) and Nora (Norway).
We shall sail on to another protected areas of Svalbard, the Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park. This Park was established in the early 1970s to protect this exceptional environment against the growing interest of the mining industry. Nunataks, glaciers, islands and large bays, Arctic tundra scattered with moss and lichen in shades of silver and gold . . . This region will fascinate you with its landscapes and with the numerous vestiges that bear witness to the history of the men—whale hunters and those involved in the first expeditions to the North Pole—who found themselves on these shores from the start of the 17th century. In this pristine environment, Arctic sterns or seals lounge on the rocks that emerge at low tide.
The Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve has been protecting the northernmost and coldest part of the archipelago, Nordaustlandet (North East Land), since 1973. This vast Polar desert covered by two ice caps is the second largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Protected by the gulf stream, the fjords and cliffs in the west and north are home to large colonies of birds and walruses. The landscapes in the colder east and south are dominated by imposing glaciers that calve majestic icebergs in the vast Hinlopen Strait.
The islands in the Hinlopen Strait consist mostly of doleritic intrusions (upper Jurassic to Cretaceous). Spectacular not only, but also from a geological point of view is the Alkefjellet on the west side of the Hinlopen Strait south of the Lomfjord, where dark basaltic (‘doleritic’) rocks intruded bright Permian limestone. The intrusion is a good 100 metres thick and forms vertical cliffs, on which thousands of Brunich’s Guillemots are breeding. At one point the limestone is metamorphosed due to the heat of an ‘intrusion’ and turned into marble. Large colonies of thick-billed murres have taken up residence on the sheer cliffs. You may see Polar bear or Arctic fox roaming here. And then your captain will set sail right up to the limit of the ice, to the every edge of the northern ice floe.
At the edge of the ice, weather conditions and ice allowing, you can go out in a Zodiac inflatable for a unique experience in the middle of these floating slabs of ice. In addition to this grandiose journey through the middle of these floes, with their cut and blue-tinged edges sometimes more than 2 metres thick, it is also often an opportunity to see birds, seals—and Polar bears.
The Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve has been protecting the northernmost and coldest part of the archipelago, Nordaustlandet (North East Land), since 1973. This vast polar desert covered by two ice caps is the second largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Protected by the gulf stream, the fjords and cliffs in the west and north are home to large colonies of birds and walruses. The landscapes in the colder east and south are dominated by imposing glaciers that calve majestic icebergs in the vast Hinlopen Strait. Large colonies of thick-billed murres have taken up residence on the sheer cliffs. You may even get the chance to see a bear or an Arctic fox roaming in the vicinity.
Located to the North-West of the Svalbard archipelago, the Monaco Glacier is one of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful and majestic. Also named in honour of Prince Albert, it stands as an impenetrable, blue-tinged jagged wall, the last glacier before reaching a latitude of 80° North. Imagine the ice cracking as it breaks free and crashes into the transparent water. And to make the landscape even more magical, you might spot bears and whales, which have a special fondness for this area of the Arctic.
At the northern entrance of Isfjorden lies a paradise for bird lovers: the Alkhornet Cliff. It is home to thousands of birds, a joyous tumult of gulls, guillemots, pink-footed geese, terns, gulls, puffins, Arctic skuas and more … and this is the scene of the famous ‘bird jumping’ by the Brunnich Guillemot chicks, which jump from nests along the cliff’s edge into the sea below. The Alkhornet Cliff, easily recognisable by its rhinoceros-horn shape, is 428 metres in height and has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because its cliffs support about 10,000 breeding pairs of seabirds. The moss tundra below the cliffs receives nutrients from the seabird colonies and is lush in places, providing grazing for reindeer, nesting places for geese and denning sites for Arctic foxes. With a little luck, you will see these regular visitors—and watch the chicks fall from the cliffs!
Pyramiden will make a different impression. Founded by Sweden early in the 20th century as a mining town, built in the form of a pyramid at the foot of a mountain, it was sold to the Soviet Union, which abandoned it in 1998, leaving it a ghost town. It remains a fossil town, all the buildings from its glory days conserved as if it was still in use. You can walk past a swimming pool, swings, a football pitch and cinema. Reindeer like to wander the deserted streets of this dead town, the only companions for the few men who still live there in summer. Soviet culture, architecture and politics permeate the town, from the block-style housing to the bust of Lenin—the world’s northernmost statue of the Communist leader—gazing down on Pyramiden’s main square. It was meant to be an ideal Soviet society. To truly appreciate the town, one needs to see it, and to read the strange history of its impressive rise and mystery-shrouded fall.
Sailing on, deep inside Isfjorden you will visit the Nordenskiöld Glacier—one of the most beautiful and stunning discoveries of your cruise. Clearly visible from Space, its front of ice, nearly 5 km wide, is one of the most spectacular in the Svalbard Archipelago. Soaring 30 metres into the sky, the glacier, like a gigantic frozen statue whose sections of ice sometimes come spectacularly loose, is wildly impressive. Its reduction in size is also a warning: climate change, whatever the reasons, is shrinking the Polar ice-cap. Between 2011 and 2014, Greenland lost around 1,000 billion tonnes of ice. There is good reason to see the Arctic now, and to fully understand its precious eco-system for ourselves.
One of the most threatened of Arctic species because of the shrinking Polar ice-cap, the Polar bear, may well make another appearance in these parts as we sail on to our home port of Longyearbyen, where our extraordinary cruise will end. Here, on the shores of the idyllic Adventfjord, amid breathtaking landscapes of glaciers and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see, we shall disembark, ready for our transfers and return flights. During this unforgettable expedition, our ship will have sailed to latitudes of 80° north—and you will have discovered that unique feeling of having truly reached the top of the world.
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