|Sailing from Oban in Scotland this voyage takes you to the islands of St Kilda, home to the largest seabird colony in the UK. From there it's on to the Faroes and then Jan Mayen which is a volcanic island set in the north Atlantic Ocean, half-way between Iceland and Spitsbergen. The still active volcano, Beerenberg, is 2200m high and dominates the island. During the winter Jan Mayen is often surrounded by pack-ice, the slopes of Beerenberg perpetually snow-covered. Until recently, the island was off-limits as it is a military base, and was rarely visited by tourists, but with permission from the Norwegian authorities we hope to visit the weather station. We will also walk across the island to Kvalrossbukta to look at the remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station. Depending on sea ice conditions we may also cruise the fjords of Spitsbergen. A fantastic voyage with great opportunities for seeing bird life and whales - 9 nights/10 days
We embark at Oban, a small and cozy harbour town in west Scotland. From Glasgow it is a good option to take the train, a marvellous journey through one of the most scenic parts of Scotland. The channels between the Scottish islands offer excellent possibilities to spot Minke Whales (a small baleen whale), White-beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. Several other cetaceans, including Orcas (Killer Whales), are also native to these waters.
To the west of North Uist lie the St Kilda group of islands, built of volcanic rock and with cliffs rising to over 400m, the highest in Britain and home to the largest seabird colony in the country. St Kilda has its own sub-species of birds and mice, and of sheep, the Soay, probably brought here by Stone Age man over 5,000 years ago. Until 1930 St. Kilda was inhabited, but then the last of the islanders left leaving a handful of windswept ruins, though there is also a military base which may be visited.
In the afternoon we reach the Faroes, where we will sail through the maze of channels between the islands and where we pass Skuvoy and the north side of Streymoy with huge seabird colonies.
Day 4 & 5
We sail north to the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen, situated 300 nautical miles north-east of Iceland. During our two days at sea there will be plenty of time to watch for the blow of a Minke, Fin or Blue Whale, which could herald a rewarding encounter with these gentle giants. Perhaps we might run into a pod of Orcas, who can often be quite curious about boats such as ours.
Jan Mayen is a volcanic island of breathtaking beauty and mystique, dominated by Mt Beerenberg. From the slopes of the 2300m volcano, impressive glaciers spill into the sea. Until recently, the island was off-limits as it is a military base, and was rarely visited by tourists, but with permission from the Norwegian authorities we hope to visit the weather station. We will also walk across the island to Kvalrossbukta to look at the remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station and a substantial colony of Fulmars. We also plan to sail by Koksletta where thousands of Little Auks and Brünnich´s Guillemots breed close to a glacier, watched over by piratical Glaucous Gulls.
Day 7 & 8
We spend two days at sea, looking out for Whales, Dolphins and Seals and a variety of seabirds.
Depending on the position of the sea-ice, we cruise the maze of fjords in the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, which is ringed by towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to 1,431m while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name ‘Spitsbergen’ - pointed mountains - to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area but as well as spectacular scenery, the area is renowned for its abundant and varied arctic wildlife. We have very good chances of seeing Seals and with a little luck, the very symbol of the Arctic - Polar Bears. We may visit the Polish research station where the friendly staff will give us an insight into their research projects. Behind the station, the mountains are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Little Auks. Bearded Seals often cruise the inner fjords, whose cliffs are lined with colonies of Brünnich’s Guillemots and Kittiwakes. On the tundra we will have good opportunities to observe foraging Barnacle Geese.
- Alternative - Day 9
We land at Kapp Toscana on Ahlstrandhalvøya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjord, where piles of Beluga skeletons are a reminder of the 20th century exploitation of these small white whales. Numbers are now recovering and there is a good chance of spotting small groups in the area. We then move to Recherchefjord, where a walk on the fragile tundra which backs the fjord may yield sightings of Reindeer and where we visit the remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station at Lagerneset. Alternatively we may land at Midterhuken to explore the remains of 17th century English whaling sites. The weather will determine which good options will be chosen in this area.
We disembark at Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Spitsbergen, for flights south to Norway and onward to home. Alternatively we may stay on the ship and continue our voyage to North Spitsbergen (MLT06).
All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions and in order to take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife.