Wrangel Island: Across the Top of the World 2020

Khlebnikov Cruise Ship
110 Passengers

This unique expedition crosses the Arctic Circle and includes the isolated and pristine Wrangel and Herald Islands and a significant section of the wild North Eastern Siberian coastline. It is a journey only made possible in recent years by the thawing in the politics of the region and the retreat of summer pack ice in the Chukchi Sea. The very small distance between Russia and the USA along this border area was known as the Ice Curtain, behind which then and now lies one of the last great undiscovered wilderness areas in the world.

The voyage journeys through the narrow Bering Strait, which separates Russia from the United States of America, and then travels west along the Chukotka coastline before crossing the De Long Strait to Wrangel Island. There we will spend four to five days under the guidance of local rangers on the nature reserve. Untouched by glaciers during the last ice age, this island is a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity and is perhaps best known for the multitude of Polar Bears that breed here. We hope to catch many glimpses of this beautiful animal. The island also boasts the world's largest population of Pacific Walrus and lies near major feeding grounds for the Gray Whales that migrate thousands of miles north from their breeding grounds in Baja, Mexico. Reindeer, Musk Ox and Snow Geese can normally be seen further inland. A visit to massive bird cliffs on nearby Herald Island is also planned. The ‘mammoth steppe' vegetation complex, a rich and diverse relic from the Pleistocene epoch nurtures over 400 plant species and never fails to astound visitors with its sublime beauty. The number and type of endemic plant species, the diversity within plant communities, the presence of relatively recent mammoth tusks and skulls, a range of terrain types and geological formations in the small geographical space are all visible evidence of Wrangel's rich natural history and its unique evolutionary status within the Arctic.

The human history of Wrangel Island is fascinating on its own. Highlights include a 3,400 year old Paleo-Eskimo camp in Krassin Bay, controversy over discovery and ownership of the island, the amazing story of the survivors of the Karluk, Ada Blackjack the heroine of the island, the Soviet occupation and militarization and more recently, the establishment of this world class nature reserve. A host of similarly enthralling stories hail from several optional landings along the northern coasts of Chukotka. Our expert expedition team will take you on guided walks, Zodiac cruises and provide lectures to help you better understand and appreciate this unique High Arctic landscape.

Exclusive Overland Experience - explore the interior of Wrangel Island by six-wheel Tundra vehicle. The High Arctic environment that few people experience is now accessible on this 3-day, 2-night extension. You will travel by special tundra buggy, camp in field huts and enjoy wildlife encounters and photographic opportunities that professionals dream about. $1,450

Brief Itinerary

Day 0 Nome, Alaska
Day 1 Anadyr
Day 2 Anadyrskiy Bay and At Sea
Day 3 Lavrentiya and Cape Dezhnev
Day 4 Kolyuchin Island
Days 5 to 9 Wrangel and Herald Islands
Day 10 At Sea, Bering Strait and North Siberian Coast
Day 11 At Sea and Unnamed Bay
Days 12 & 13 Penkigngey Bay, Gil;mimyl, Arakamchechen Islands, Yttygran and Nuneangan
Day 14 Preobrazheniya Bay
Day 15 Anadyr - Nome, Alaska

Day 0 — Nome, Alaska

For those departing Nome, Alaska your adventure begins with a flight across the Bering Sea and International Date Line to the remote port of Anadyr.

Day 1 — Anadyr

All expedition members will arrive in Anadyr; depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and expedition team on board the Kapitan Khlebnikov. We will depart when everybody is on board.

Day 2 — Anadyrskiy Bay and At Sea

As we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards the Bering Strait there will be introductory lectures and a series of compulsory briefings and drills. Relax or enjoy some birding and cetacean watching with our naturalists and settle into ship life.

Day 3 — Lavrentiya and Cape Dezhnev

We arrive in Lavrentiya Bay this morning to visit the Chukchi region’s administrative center of Lavrentiya. We will explore the township and visit the local museum which displays an interesting insight into Yupik and Chukchi cultures. There may be an opportunity to view Chukchi song and dance and to interact with the locals. Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev this afternoon. The north-eastern most point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of America from this remote and lonely outpost. It is also a historic landmark named after the Siberian Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific.

Day 4 — Kolyuchin Island

Kolyuchin Island was once an important Russian Polar Research Station and one of a number dotted across the Arctic. Near the derelict buildings are some of the most spectacular bird cliffs in the Arctic where puffins, guillemots and gulls can be observed and photographed up close. We continue our journey north across the Chukchi Sea, there may be sea ice to negotiate our way through as we get closer to Wrangel Island; this could offer our first opportunities to see Polar Bears, seals and walrus on ice.

Days 5 to 9 — Wrangel and Herald Islands

Ice and weather conditions permitting, we will spend the next few days on Wrangel Island and we will also attempt to include a visit to nearby Herald Island. There are many landings that we can make to search out wildlife, wild flowers and Arctic landscapes. Polar Bears will be high on our list of animals to see and with a little patience we should be rewarded with a number of encounters. Musk Oxen and reindeer were introduced to the island in 1975 and 1948 though reindeer numbers are low. We also have a chance to visit Dragi Harbor where the survivors of the Karluk which was crushed by ice in 1914 scrambled ashore and lived until they were rescued. Wrangel Island is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance particularly as it is a major Polar Bear denning area. Also each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, skuas, Arctic Terns, Ross’s, Sabine and Ivory Gulls.

Day 10 — At Sea, Bering Strait and North Siberian Coast

As we sail through the Bering Strait we will pass the Diomede Islands, sometimes called Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle because they straddle the International Date Line. Here Russia and America are separated by only 2.3 nautical miles of ocean. We will remain in Russian territory as we cruise south past the islands. We continue along the North Siberian Coast, bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous lagoons and inlets. This area offers plenty of places to land and explore this extensive coastline. We will be on the lookout for whales, walrus and other wildlife. We will see Chukchi villages whose residents survive in an unforgiving climate, hunting seals and whales just as their ancestors did.

Day 11 — At Sea and Unnamed Bay

This afternoon we plan to visit Unnamed Bay. Surrounded by hills we will explore the bay’s tundra terrain as the protected peninsula provides a great opportunity to stretch our legs after the transit south. Walks skirt up to a summit that has stunning views out over the bay, sheltered lagoon and braided river beneath. The landscape is breath-taking with big sweeping valleys and lunar-like hill tops devoid of vegetation. Sculptured geological formations stand high above the water. Brown bears may be present fishing in the river or loping across the valley. Later in the season the transition between summer and autumn colors here becomes evident; the first of the Lingon and Bearberries ripen and a yellowish cast begins to show on the vegetation. Cotton-grass with its distinctive white seed-heads that resemble tufts of cotton spreads across the hills, and are carried on prevailing winds. Sandhill Cranes may also be seen around the bay.

Days 12 & 13 — Penkigngey Bay, Gil;mimyl, Arakamchechen Islands, Yttygran and Nuneangan

Pengingay Bay is a long and deeply incised fiord. Walkers can explore the hillside behind the beach climbing to the 1,300 ft (400 m) summit of Mt Gatgangey, or enjoy the peaceful surrounds sitting by the lake or birdwatching. Pika and Ground Squirrel may be spotted. The tundra here has a stunning diversity of plants. A number of interesting migrants may be nesting here including Arctic Warbler and Grey-cheeked Thrush. The bay is often visited by Humpback Whales. We will also visit Gil’mimyl where local Chukchi hospitality is shared, or we can enjoy birdwatching or the hot springs. At nearby Arakamchechen Island there is a prominent walrus haul out and Gray Whales can frequently by seen around the island. Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley. Whalebones stretch along the beach for nearly 1/3 mile (1/2 km). Gray Whales are frequently seen around the island. We will also cruise by Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands where seabirds nest and walrus can be found.

Day 14 — Preobrazheniya Bay

Today we will be in the vicinity of Preobrazheniya Bay where there are some outstanding ‘Bird Cliffs’ where we plan to Zodiac cruise. The rock faces, ridgelines and soaring granite spires are home to an abundance of bird life. Species that can be seen include Common and Thick-billed Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Least and Crested Auklets, Vega Gulls and Arctic Tern. Both Horned and Tufted Puffins are normally in vast numbers stretched along cliffside grasses. This evening relax as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr.

Day 15 — Anadyr - Nome, Alaska

After breakfast it will be time to say our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel.

* Itinerary may be subject to change


    Heritage Suite
Features a large lounge area, separate bedroom with double bed and a single bed in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Large, forward and side-facing windows offer fantastic views.
    Mini Suite
Features a separate bedroom with a double bed and a single bed or sofa in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Mini Suites have forward facing windows.
    Superior Plus
Cabins include two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
    Superior Triple
Cabins include one bunk (one upper and one lower berth) and one additional lower berth, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.