North Spitsbergen Photographic Symposium Voyage


About the onboard Photography Symposium

Open to all passengers, the photography symposium offered on this departure is a highlight to photography buffs and beginners alike. This program runs alongside our regular series of presentations on history, ornithology, geology and the natural world. The members of the photographic team will each have a special area of expertise including wildlife photography, landscape and composition, along with technical elements including gear and equipment and computer-based processing, file management and storage.

Throughout the voyage, you will make regular use of the ship-board multi-media studio for breakout sessions and to review and critique your images. Depending on the weather conditions and light available both onshore and on the water, your photography goals will be set accordingly.  With a varied and diverse itinerary and flexible plans, the aim will be to make the most of the beautiful light, even if outside conventional shore landing times.

Spitsbergen is a fantastic subject for photography and our dedicated Photography Symposium Voyage aims to help passengers capture both landscape and wildlife photos to be proud of. Aside from the spectacular Arctic landscapes of towering mountains, remote bays, stunning glaciers and glistening sea ice, the potential wildlife encounters on this voyage are plentiful.

Some of our most memorable voyages over the last decade or so have been early summer expedition cruises to North Spitsbergen, where Aqua-Firma guides and marine scientists have had the privilege to encounter wildlife including polar bears and graceful blue whales. The mountainous landscapes of Spitsbergen are often still steeped in snow, the air carries a distinct chill and the first hints of Spring inspire a great deal of wildlife activity. There are more than 2000 polar bears resident in the Spitsbergen Archipelago and now mothers and their polar bear cubs begin searching for food in earnest on the ice after a long dark Winter.

Whilst sea ice will have released its complete Winter grip of Spitsbergen, there is still likely to be plenty of sea ice left to find, where ringed seals can be found and polar bears are out hunting them. This is also a period when we have been enjoying some good sightings of whales, which include blue whales, fin, minke, humpback and the all-white beluga.

Arctic foxes and resident Ptarmigan birds begin to change from their white winter coats and feathers to darker mottled shades, in an attempt to blend into the growing vista of tundra. Spitsbergen reindeer, which are smaller than their cousins in Scandinavia, amble by, inquisitive of new visitors. The emerging spring is stunning - still waters reflecting calving ice fronts and carrying interesting forms of floating ice.

In the north of Spitsbergen, your guides will be searching for bustling walrus colonies at haulout sites, as well as large long tusked individuals basking on ice floes. The sea bird cliffs are alive with thousands of migrant birds who have travelled here to feed on rich waters and breed. Guillemots, Arctic terns, eider ducks, glaucous gulls, skuas and little auks are amongst the many species you may observe.
This memorable voyage will be onboard a very well appointed ice-strengthened small expedition cruise ship, which will provide an inspiring environment for likeminded people. Whilst some viewing will be from the deck of the ship, there will also be opportunities to step ashore for guided walks and enjoy cruising coasts and fjords in small rigid inflatable boats (RIBs or Zodiacs). Sea kayaking is also an option. Throughout the day you will be accompanied by expert guides, whilst in the evenings a programme of onboard natural history talks and photography workshops will bring to life all that you are seeing by day and help you to work on your image compositions, lighting and choice of camera settings to improve the images you take.

North Spitsbergen Voyages provide access to some outstanding glacial scenery. On this voyage, the aim will be to reach the Hinlopen Strait and the island of Nordaustlandet, the most northerly of the major Spitsbergen islands. Ringed by high mountains and shimmering glaciers, these northern bays and fjords offer outstanding and memorable Arctic scenery, as well as opportunities, we hope, to move through floating sea ice, watching out all the while for polar bears, seals, walruses and beluga whales. The furthest north you might reach is 81 degrees - just 540 miles south of the geographic North Pole.



10 Day Sample Itinerary

There is significant variability in ice concentration and location from year to year. The itinerary below provides a realistic expectation of places we intend to visit. The day-to-day itinerary will likely change based on the presence/absence of ice and our local knowledge of wildlife hotspots often seasonally dependent on the movement of sea ice.

Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen

Arrive in Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Spitsbergen. Before embarking there is an opportunity to stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and Polar Museum are well worth visiting. We suggest you use the opportunity to visit the Svalbard Museum, which harbours an interesting collection on the history of Spitsbergen, the mining industry and polar exploration. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.

You will board your vessel in the afternoon and as the crew throw the lines, you will sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. With almost 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year, you enjoy the views from the outer decks of the ship as you depart. You meet your fellow passengers and the expedition team during an introductory briefing and enjoy a welcome dinner as you set sail.

Day 2: Bourbonhamna

Beluga whales are frequently seen as they transit the narrow sound near Bourbonhamna. It is estimated there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. The beluga has no dorsal fin; a diagnostic feature of whale species that live in the High Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. It has been postulated that the beluga's lack of dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice. On your shore excursion, an old hunting cabin and other artefacts are points of interest during your scenic hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. However, it is the huge piles of beluga whalebones that catch everyone’s attention. The bones and all artefacts are protected by the Svalbard Government. While wandering on shore you hope to catch a glimpse of the reindeer that inhabit the area.

Day 3: Illiehook Glacier and Krossfjorde

Lilliehook Glacier, at the head of the northwestern arm of Krossfjorden is an incredible sight. The glacier face stretches almost seven kilometres and has a height of around 80 metres. Viewed from the ship or on a Zodiac cruise, you come to appreciate the enormous scale of our surroundings. The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a variety of different species. You anchor off one small harbour and cruise in the Zodiacs along the bird cliffs near the 14th July Glacier. As you cruise the dark waters, you are always on the lookout for bearded and ringed seals, both species known to frequent this fjord.

Day 4: Lefdefjorden And Monacobreen

No trip along the north coast of Spitsbergen would be complete without a visit to Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier). A wide glacier face at the head of the fjord makes for spectacular kayaking and Zodiac cruising. The coastal plain near the mouth of Liefdefjorden offers superb hiking and is often a great place to spot polar bears that come here to hunt for ringed seals or feed on bird eggs.

Day 5: Phippsoya – Northernmost Point

At 81° north latitude, Phippsoya is just 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. The high ice classification of your ship (Class 1A) allows you to approach the edge of the pack ice in safety and comfort. Because of its proximity to the permanent Arctic ice pack, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewings. In recent seasons this voyage has enjoyed excellent encounters with polar bears in this vicinity. If you can get up to the ship’s bridge you can take a picture of the GPS showing your latitude; or, better yet, take your own handheld GPS with you and mark in the waypoint as you are so close to the North Pole!

Day 6 – 7: Hinlopen Strait and Nordaustlandet

From the ice edge you enter the main channel separating Svalbard’s two main islands. In Hinlopen Strait the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to more than a hundred thousand breeding Brunnich’s guillemots, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. It is a spectacular site and a challenging one for the Zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or Zodiac cruise between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here, affording you breathtaking views.

Day 8: Uglesangen and Smeerenburg

As your Zodiac approaches the shore of Fuglesangenoya, it becomes apparent there are thousands of birds nesting on this island. Home to a large dovekie colony, the formation of the island allows for excellent viewing without impacting upon the perimeter of the colony. Just a few miles from Fuglesangen is the old whaling station of Smeerenburg, literally translated as ‘Blubber Town’. As you hike the shoreline of the old station, you learn about the importance of whaling in the discovery and exploration of the Svalbard archipelago. The blubber ovens stand as a reminder to this harsh industry in an equally harsh environment.


Day 9: Poole Pynten, Prins Karls Forland

The sight and sound of a walrus haul-out spells Arctic like nothing else can. You can visit the walrus colony on Prince Charles Island and hope to see these odd-looking animals ashore.

Approaching from downwind can often confirm that walruses are ashore - the smell of a Walrus-haul out is quite 'unique'! Tonight you celebrate your journey with a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain. It's a great time to reflect on a wonderful voyage in this wild and remote place.

Day 10: Disembark in Longyearbyen

Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen this morning, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.

A transfer into town is provided for those choosing to stay a few days. If you are departing today, you have a few hours this morning to explore the town, before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromsø or Oslo.


28 Jun - 07 Jul 2020 - from US$ 6,495

Longyearbyen - Longyearbyen (10 Days)
Actvities: Kayaking, Hiking, Photography
Includes: complimentary expedition gear rental onboard

Price Includes:
•  Voyage as indicated in draft itinerary
•  All meals, snacks, coffee and tea
•  All shore excursions and zodiac activities
•  Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport or local hotel on disembarkation
•  Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff
•  Resident photography guide available to assist all guests
• Access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up and management
•  An emergency trained medical physician onboard
• Onboard sauna, plunge pool, jacuzzi and fitness centre including personal trainer and massage options (charge applies for massage and spa treatments)
•  Sea Kayaking programme available (additional charge of $695pp) – must be reserved at the time of booking your voyage and you must have some prior paddling experience
•  Access to well stocked library full of polar reference books  
•  End of voyage slideshow and take home USB  
•  Port fees and all permits to access visited areas
•  All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme
•  Comprehensive pre-departure material
•  Use of expedition gear package worth US$900 (including quality waterproof/windproof jacket and bib-pants plus insulated rubber boots designed for extended walking. Also included are binoculars and a Nordic trekking pole for use when onshore. A waterproof backpack completes your package.
•  High quality eco-friendly amenities in every cabin
•  Aqua-Firma automatically offsets the Carbon Emissions of your polar voyage and flights booked through us in getting to and from your voyage.

Price Excludes:
•  International flights (please enquire)
•  Land based accommodation (please enquire)
•  Pre and post land arrangements (please enquire)
•  Travel insurance
•  Passports and visas
•  Arrival and departure tax
•  Meals ashore
•  Excess baggage on flights
•  Items of a personal nature (alcohol unless otherwise stated, laundry etc)
•  Tips
•  Telecommunication charges (ie. email, satellite phone)

Single supplement: There is no single supplement to pay if you are willing to share your cabin with someone of the same gender.

Potential Fuel Surcharge: If the cost per Brent barrel price rises significantly then there may be an additional fuel surcharge applied to some voyages.

Activity Level: Low to Medium

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