Northern Explorer: Across The Bering Sea

Silver Discoverer Cruise Ship
Silver Discoverer
120 Passengers

Expedition Highlights:
• Marvel at spectacular natural landscapes, pristine tundra and massive volcanoes.
• Travel along the historic routes of explorers and traders.
• Be on the lookout for rare wildlife including the western grey whale and Steller’s sea lion.
• Identify countless birds: puffins, guillemots, cormorants, Steller’s sea eagle, Brown-headed Thrush, Siberian Ruby-throats, Alder-thickets, Black legged Kittiwakes, and Crested or Whiskered Auklets.
• Photograph a variety of wildlife including walrus, fur seal, otter, red fox and the enormous Kamchatka brown bear.
• Fly to the famous Valley of the Geysers in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve on an optional helicopter excursion.
• Cruise and explore by Zodiac, watching for walrus haul-outs and sea otters at play in the surrounding waters.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
Day 2Korsakov (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Sakhalin Island, Russia
Day 3Tuleniy Island, Russia
Days 4–7Kuril Islands, Russia
Day 8Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia
Day 9Cruising Bering Sea
Day 10–12Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.A. (Cross the International Date Line and gain a day)
Day 13At Sea
Day 14Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.A.
Day 15Unga Spit, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.A.
Day 16–18Alaska Peninsula, Alaska, U.S.A.
Day 19Seward, Alaska, USA 

Day 1 — Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

Once all guests have embarked, we depart on our spectacular 19-day Northern Explorer expedition. This afternoon you will be introduced to your expedition team and participate in the safety drill. Tonight we invite you to familiarise yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travellers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Day 2 — Korsakov (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Sakhalin Island, Russia

Today we clear into Russia. Once the formalities are concluded and time permitting, we will explore part of this city, founded in 1853 as Sakhalin's first Russian military post. From here we drive to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of the island with a population of just over 160,000. Founded as a small Russian settlement in the 1880s, the city became a Japanese prefect capital when the southern half of Sakhalin was declared a Japanese colony in 1905; after WWII it was returned to Russia. Highlights include a visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Regional Museum housed in an impressive former Japanese mansion, and the bustling market. Enjoy a performance of traditional Cossack song and dance.

Day 3 — Tuleniy Island, Russia

Tuleniy means “seal” in Russian, and during the summer months the island is home to literally tens of thousands of northern fur seals and Steller sea lions. Our visit at the height of the breeding season is well timed to see not only the seals and sea lions, but also the Black-footed Kittiwake, Tufted Puffin, Common Mure and Pelagic Cormorant that summer on the island.

Days 4–7 — Kuril Islands, Russia

Stretching over 800 miles from the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula to Hokkaido in Japan, this chain of over 30 volcanic islands is an important breeding ground for Stellar Sea Lions and one of the richest areas in the world for seabirds; up to 14 species of auks, as well as Spectacled and Pigeon Guillemots can be found in there. As we travel southward, these are some of the places we hope to visit:

Chirpoy Island
By Zodiac we search along the coast for the profusion of wildlife that lives in the area including Steller sea lions,  fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets.

Yankitcka Island
Yankitcka is impressive. It’s actually a sinking volcanic caldera accessible only by Zodiac and only during high tide. Inside the magnificent lagoon with its fumaroles and hot springs, we can still see traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago and a visit here is invariably one of the high points of the entire voyage. The number of auklets, which breed here, is truly incredible. If we are lucky we may also catch a glimpse of an Arctic fox or even the rare and elusive Whiskered Auklet.

Matua Island
Matua is home to one of the Kuril’s most active volcanoes, with more than 14 documented eruptions in the past 250 years. Learn about the Japanese military base that was set up here during WWII and how the Japanese used to capture geothermal heat from the volcano to keep the runway open during winter. Hikers are rewarded with good views of the abandoned military positions and hopefully get a glimpse of the island’s population of Brown-headed Thrush, Siberian Ruby-throats and Alder-Thickets.

Lovushki Islands
We search for northern fur seals and Steller sea lions around this cluster of small islands and rocky outcrops. Here we have our best views of auklets by far! Aboard our Zodiacs, we drift among them — Whiskered, Crested and Parakeet Auklets. Tufted Puffins with their ridiculous bills and flowing yellow head plumes are also here, and many fulmars.

Makanrushi Island
Explore coast waters home to sea lions and revel in the view of the dramatic Makanrushi volcano.

Shumshu Island
Watch sea otters at play in the waters surrounding our Zodiacs, and observe the activities of the many cormorants that reside in the harbor-side bird cliffs.

Atlasova Island
At 6,500 ft. (2,000 m), Alaid is the highest volcano in the Kurils, and praised by the Japanese for its almost perfect volcanic cone. We land by Zodiac on the black lava beach for a walk to see the remains of the Taketomi tufa cone and the women's prison, or gulag. Women, many of them political prisoners during the Soviet rule, were sent here to raise foxes for fur.

Day 8 — Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russia

Petropavlovsk, town of Peter and Paul, derives is named from the two sailing ships used by Vitus Bering when the great explorer reached Avacha Bay in 1740. It is the only major city on the peninsula and one of the oldest. Petropavlovsk is also the scientific and cultural center of the region, and today we’ll see why as local guides take us on a comprehensive tour including the museum of ethnography and natural history, the art school, the gold-domed orthodox cathedral and the marketplace. As an exciting alternative, guests can purchase a helicopter excursion to the Valley of the Geysers in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, one of the world’s most active geothermal regions and a region of savage beauty with smoking volcanoes, boiling geysers, bears, wolves and taiga forests. It is easy to understand why the valley is considered an important sacred site by the indigenous people.

Day 9 — Cruising Bering Sea

A leisurely day at sea is yours to enjoy. Begin perhaps with a late breakfast and another cup of coffee or tea during the first of the day’s lectures. Join the lectures and hear fascinating tales of adventure and learn more about the region’s endemic wildlife and remarkable nature. Our knowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields

Day 10–12 — Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.A. (Cross the International Date Line and gain a day)

The Aleutians stretch 1300 miles (2600 km) from Kamchatka to Alaska, onetime stepping stones for Russian trappers and traders, who established settlements on the islands; Dutch Harbor became a trans-shipping point for the gold boomtown of Nome. Today most of the islands form part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, renowned for its dramatic, sea-sculpted coastlines, abundant marine animals and millions of migratory and nesting seabirds — a full 80% of all seabirds in North America use the refuge. For the next few days we will wind through the Aleutians with a fairly flexible itinerary, making the best of the weather and local reconnaissance. Here are some places we hope to visit:

Attu is the westernmost point of the United States and the site of the only WWII battle fought on North American soil — over two thousand Japanese soldiers lost their lives at Massacre Bay. The island is an ornithologist’s paradise and today we hope to see some of the Asian migrants that are occasionally spotted. Be on the lookout for Peregrine Falcons, Lapland Longspur and Aleutian Canada Goose.

Sirius Point, Kiska Island
Kiska Harbor, Kiska Island
A morning Zodiac tour along the cliffs of Sirius point can only be described as "magical". We search for Least and Crested Auklets, Peregrine Falcons and Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, all while keeping an eye open for the sperm whales that frequent the area. Evidence of the Japanese occupation during WWII haunts Kiska Harbor. Once ashore we see the remains of a Shinto shrine left behind by the 6000 strong occupying force. During our nature walks we hope to see Ptarmigans, Lapland Longspurs and Bald Eagles.

Adak Island
The high winds of Adak are a blessing for birders; many migrants from Asia and elsewhere can be spotted. Indigenous (but often rare) shorebirds abound, and eagles are ubiquitous. Visitors not insistent upon scoring "First North America" sightings will find plenty of variety to enjoy. Hiking on the tundra may also be possible.

Day 13 — At Sea

A leisurely day at sea to exchange notes with fellow travelers and take advantage of the luxurious amenities aboard Silver Discoverer. Help our birders spot some of the seabirds found far away from their nesting grounds. Enjoy a lecture, an interesting book, or just relax in the comfort of your suite and watch a movie on the in-suite interactive television.

Day 14 — Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.A.

Together with the city of Unalaska, Dutch Harbor, is a bustling community with about 4,000 residents. It is connected by bridge to the rest of Unalaska on Amaknak Island, and its name is frequently applied to the entire town. During our city tour, we visit the World War II bunkers and the spectacular Russian Orthodox Church.

Day 15 — Unga Spit, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.A.

Explore the islands by Zodiac, watching sea lions laze on the rocky shores and delightful sea otters playing in the extensive bull kelp beds which surround the islands. There is a spectacular petrified ancient forest embedded in sea cliffs on this island.

Day 16–18 — Alaska Peninsula, Alaska, U.S.A.

For the last leg of our expedition, we journey along the Alaska Peninsula, which extends 400 miles (644 km) from mainland Alaska toward the Aleutian island chain. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, with active volcanoes; towering mountain peaks, rolling tundra, rugged, wave-battered coastlines and the largest brown bear population in the state.

Semidi Islands
This stunning and nearly uninhabited archipelago is home to some of the largest populations of native and undisturbed wildlife in the United States. There are 2.5 million birds here, almost half the breeding seabirds of the Alaska Peninsula. You’ll find huge numbers of Horned Puffins, Northern Fulmars and jaegers, and over a million murres. Ancient Murrelets and Parakeet Auklets are among the other species found, while the surrounding sea is home to sea otters, sea lions, seals, porpoises and whales.

Geographic Harbor, Amalik Bay, Katmai National Park
Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park is on the top of many “Best of Alaska” lists because of its otherworldly landscape, including 15 active volcanoes. Here we have the opportunity to get up-close and personal to abundant wildlife and raw beauty; the scenery is magnificent at Geographic Harbor at the head of Amalik Bay, and the bears are ubiquitous.

Kukak Bay is well known for its concentration of bears and the salmon on which they feed, and this is one of the prime areas in this region for bear viewing. Enjoy guided excursions to see bears, sea mammals and birds; or, fish for fish and release.

Chiswell Islands, Katmai National Park
Almost 40 million birds representing 30 species congregate in colonies along the coast of Chiswell Islands. Over 20,000 Horned and Tufted Puffins return to make their nests every summer. Visit rookeries teaming with birds, including Parakeet Auklets, Black-Legged Kittiwakes, Ancient Murrelets and Red Face Cormorants.

Day 19 — Seward, Alaska, USA

Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.


Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your Expedition Leader and Captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather and wildlife activity. Expedition Team members scheduled for this voyage are subject to change or cancellation.

* Itinerary may be subject to change

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