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Tall Ship Sailing in Svalbard and Spitsbergen

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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Why we love this sailing ground

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.  

Polar bear cubs paying a visit to tall Ship Antigua. Photo by Anna Margaretha
Polar bear cubs paying a visit to tall Ship Antigua. Photo by Anna Margaretha

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. Blue Clipper and our Icelandic owned fleet of Opal, Hildur and Donna Wood have recently started offering Svalbard Voyages. All of them have skippers experienced in Arctic Waters with good wildlife knowledge.

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...."

A Blog About Remote Travel - Searching for Polar Bears on a Tall Ship - Andy March 

See our dedicated Polar Tall Ships Website for all Polar Voyages
See our dedicated Polar Tall Ships Website for all Polar Voyages. Photo from Tecla crew

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.

Feel like a polar explorer on a square rigger in the Arctic
Feel like a polar explorer on a square rigger in the Arctic

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.

Walrus is on most wildlife enthusiasts hit list. Photo M McManus
Walrus is on most wildlife enthusiasts hit list. Photo M McManus


Which ship for my adventure?

Sail the High Latitudes on a Square Rigger 

Antigua is a barquetine meaning she has three masts and square sails on the foremast. She is licensed for worldwide charter and can take 32 guest crew. You are encouraged to join the watches and take part in sailing.

Barquentine Antigua in Svalbard
Barquentine Antigua in Svalbard with wildlife guides

Sail to Svalbard - Spitsbergen on a Schooner

Three masted schooner Blue Clipper is a new addition to the adventure charter fleet. Her skipper loves the Arctic and has created an all summer programme of voyages in high latitudes in 2018.  There is an epic ocean voyage from Iceland to Svalbard via Jan Mayen Island. She also has one voyage based in Svalbard before she then sails to Norway and the Lofoten Islands.

Blue Clipper has a worldwide charter licence and loves hot and cold destinations
Blue Clipper for the Arctic. Photo by Valery Vasilevskyi

Iceland Wooden Sailing Ships in Svalbard

Wooden Schooners Opal and Hildur and gaff ketch Donna Wood have been operating in East Greenland for several years. One of this Icelandic owned fleet will be offering voyages in Northern Norway and Svalbard in 2019. Opal is the biggest. When the wind blows strong like in the photo above, she can charge her batteries, and on calm days if she has to motor she uses her hybrid electric engine. Silence is a great thing in the Arctic. You can hear the call of a Northern Diver, the crack of a glacier calving or the splosh of an iceberg going for a flip.

Topsail schooner Opal in the Arctic
Topsail schooner Opal in the Arctic
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Navionics Tool - Southern Spitsbergen - your tall ship sailing ground

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