Spitsbergen Explorer - A Travel Journal by Janys Olsen

Janys is a Polar Cruises Travel Specialist who traveled to Spitsbergen in July 2017 aboard the Ocean Nova.  Here is a log of her travels.

July 3- Embarkation Day - Longyearbyen

Flew into longyearbyen, was met by the ground operator and transported to the ship (Ocean Nova) by Zodiac.

A blue whale was spotted this evening & we stayed put for about 30-40 minutes to watch it.

Still trying to get used to all the daylight!


July 4- Krossfjorde

This morning we woke up to Beluga Whales! Then we did Zodiac cruising all morning. Seeing lots of birds & seals (harbor) who were extremely curious & playing splashing the Zodiacs.

This afternoon I did the long hike. The Expedition Leader had great stories to tell on our walk.

Briefing this evening included blue whales & Svalbard history.

I love the ship! Love all the public spaces, roomy, up keep is good.

Loving the Arctic! The history, wildlife & diversity is amazing.


July 5th- Polar Bears & Monaco glacier

Polar bear day! We saw 4 polar bears today! Had a great Zodiac cruise where we watched a bear swimming & hanging out on the sea ice. Saw a young walrus, grey/red phalarope & ivory gull as well!  We just looked & cruised for bears today.

A few presentations today: Polar bears, glaciers and Polar Science – very informative.

Ice has broken up & we are going to do a full circumnavigation of Svalbard, how exciting.


July 6- Texas Bar, Liefdefjorden

We crossed 80 degrees North!

I decided to do the medium hike & saw lots of flowers & reindeer poop, but no actual reindeer. Love hiking in the Arctic. Feels good to stretch the legs & get exercise.

There is a gym onboard & several of us passengers formed a workout group.

Saw another bear on the ice today so we wedged the ship closer & just watched it from the ship.

Today’s tops: Sea Ice/climate change, Flora, & history

Great trip so far!


July 7- Alkefjellet & Torellneset

Kayaked today & LOVED it- they offer double or single kayaks. Michele, the kayak guide is awesome. We kayaked around the cliffs & saw the colony of guillemots. Kayakers got pooped on & it was an awesome experience. Saw an Arctic fox! It had just killed a bird & was eating it.

While cruising we saw a mama Polar bear with her cub! We stayed on the ship & just cruised by as they were laying down.

This afternoon we did a walk & observed walruses!


July 8- Kapp Waldburg, Sundneset & Diskobukta

Saw nesting kittiwakes & a young fox (it was so cute, very calm & let us approach without being afraid).

We did a walk & 3 passengers & the doctor got stuck in the mud- it was quite the adventure getting everyone out- everyone had a good laugh & handled it very well.

On the afternoon hike we saw reindeer, including a calf. This was by far my favorite hike with the scenery, flowers, waterfall & reindeer.

We did a late night landing at Diskobukta to see more kittiwakes & 4 foxes! I am tired! So many landings & hikes! I’m impressed with all that is offered at each landing- the staff are doing a good job of showing us fantastic stuff & offering us some great hikes with options for all abilities.


July 9- Kvalvagen

We had a relaxed day because our morning landing was aborted due to a bear.

We had a morning of lectures.

Zodiac cruise at Isbukta to see the glaciers.

Tonight they offered a paint night, which everyone loved. Water colors, color pencils & paper was provided and the passengers painted one of their favorite memories from the voyage. It was enjoyed by all.

The weather has been great, we are so lucky.


July 10- Isbjornhamna & Burgerbukta

Today we did a hike to see Little Auks at Isbjornhamna. There was also a polish science station. We saw a mama fox & her 2 kits and a reindeer.

We saw a glacier calve, which was very exciting.

The kayakers (including me) paddled in one of the most beautiful places-Burgerbukta & had the best weather. Heard ice crackling, saw glaciers, & just enjoyed the sunny/warm afternoon. The other passengers enjoyed a Zodiac cruise.

Polar plunge was done today off the ship as well as the outside BBQ- followed by a dancing party.


July 11- Bourbonhamna & Camp Millar

Did hikes this morning. You can feel that passengers are getting tired. The hikes were pretty easy & shorter. The staff is great at asking what each group is feeling & wanting to do.

This afternoon we hiked again & saw about 30 reindeer. The scenery at Camp Millar was spectacular & we have just had the best weather.

They have offered kayaking at least once or twice almost every day of this trip (for those signed up for the kayaking options). The kayakers are very happy.


July 12- Alkhornet & Barentsburg

We hiked at Alkhornet today and encountered reindeer. One approached our group while we sat and observed and almost went nose to nose with the guide. It is pretty amazing to see how curious & tame the reindeer are here in the arctic.

We also saw rich tundra. My favorite is the Arctic Poppy & Purple Compass Plant (Silene acaulis).

This afternoon we disembarked at Barentsburg, a Russian mining settlement on the eastern side of the outermost part of Gronfjorden. It was nice to visit a town to see another side of Spitsbergen. There is a museum, gift shop, post office, brewery, hotels, and restaurants. We had a walking tour of town as well as a cultural performance with traditional Russian songs and dance.


July 13- Longyearbyen, Disembarkation

We disembarked the ship on a rainy day in Longyearbyen just after breakfast. I found a place at the Radisson Polar Hotel to sit and relax while waiting for the town to open up and my transfer to the airport.

I love Longyearbyen, and was amazed at all the shops that had great outdoor gear and clothing. I need to remember to leave more room and weight in my luggage so I can do some serious shopping next time. It really is a cool town with more than I expected.

I highly recommend a voyage to Svalbard https://www.polarcruises.com/arctic/destinations/spitsbergen