Mention Svalbard and most people think of polar bears. Made famous by movies like Golden Compass, the 'Kingdom of the Ice Bear' has a lot more to offer than the chance to see a polar bear in the wild. This high latitude archipelago of several mountainous islands have over 1000 polar bears breeding here but it is a big place and they hunt far and wide. Also known as Spitsbergen, Svalbard is a photographers dream location and we run special photography voyages here - Spiky mountain ranges, glaciers, unusual wildlife like walrus and orca, long fjords to anchor in and fantastic light conditions.
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Spitsbergen Arctic Summer Voyages
Svalbard sits deep in the Arctic Circle at 78 degrees Latitude. Only 650 miles from the North Pole, this incredible wilderness offers sheltered fjords for many different wind directions and dramatic coastal sailing. Accessible via Norway or Iceland the Svalbard Archipelago is the most Northerly sailing ground for Classic Sailing sailing ships. In addition to trips around Svalbard we have Arctic ocean voyages between Iceland and Svalbard and eastwards from Svalbard to Bear Island and the Lofoten Islands on Northern Norway.
Surrounded by open water in summer it is warmer than similar Arctic mainland locations at the same latitude so it has a vital role as a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also supports polar bears, reindeer and marine mammals. Six national parks protect the largely untouched, yet fragile environment, and the icefields and steep mountains still provide an untouched safe haven for wildlife. The largest island of Spitsbergen (Spitzbergen if you are German or Dutch) is the only inhabited one - and the airport at Longyearbyen is a gateway for most visitors and guest crews joining our tall ships. If you have more time you can also sail there with Classic Sailing.
Svalbard Sailing Specialists
Dutch owned tall ship 'Antigua' is our Svalbard specialist, and has been sailing to this high arctic archipelago every summer and autumn for over 10 years.
Wildlife guides will be on hand so that you get the most from your voyage, and there is also a 'Photography special' departure, making use of the natural light in September.
Read more about sailing on Antigua from Andy's blog:
"POLAR BEAR! POLAR BEAR!’. It’s the excitable voice of our expedition leader Andreas. A loud commotion in the gangway outside my cabin. The clock reads 1am. I pull on my clothes over my pyjamas, zip up my jacket and race up on deck where I’m joined by 20 other excited passengers. Bright sunlight reflects off the icy water blinding me for a second...."
In the Wake of Polar Explorers - Spitsbergen / Svalbard
In 1596 Willem Barentsz discovered snow covered mountains 600 miles further north than Norway and called it Spitsbergen. The archipelago is now called Svalbard. Once the haunt of whalers it draws wilderness lovers to its immense glaciers and intrepid sailors to its long fjords once the coastline is free of ice.
Northern Lights & Walks Ashore with Guides
Only 1000km from the North Pole, this raw, beautiful archipelago is enclosed in pack ice for most the year. In the Arctic summer the ice retreats and it teems with wildlife and flowers, the sun shines for 24hours. By September you may see Northern Lights. Enjoy remote anchorages, walks ashore with experienced wildlife guides and sailing amongst different types of ice depending on the voyage dates.
Polar Bears & Walrus
Sixty percent of the land is glaciated but clinging to seacliffs are enormous breeding colonies of seabirds. On land arctic foxes, reindeer and polar bears roam (guides carry rifles as a precaution). At sea many types of whales, walrus and seals can be sighted. Antigua has a library and regular lectures are held in the lounge to learn more.
There are over 1000 polar bear on the island of Spitsbergen alone. Rare wildlife sightings from Antigua include a white humpback whale, belugas, orca.