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Across The Roof of The World

The Russian Arctic

Wrangel Island

July 24 - August 7, 2022

A unique expedition that crosses the Arctic Circle, including Wrangel and Herald Islands, two isolated and pristine islands in the Russian Arctic.  The ship also stops along a section of the wild North Eastern Siberian coastline; a journey only made possible in recent years by the thawing in the region's politics and the 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.

Itinerary

Day 0: Nome

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

Day 2: Anadyrskiy Bay

Day 3: Yttygran, Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands

Day 4: Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village

Day 5: Kolyuchin Island

Days 6 to 10: Wrangel and Herald Islands

Day 11: North Siberian Coast

Day 12: Kolyuchin Inlet

Day 13: Bering Strait and Chukotka Coast

Day 14: At Sea

Day 15: Anadyr

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Wrangel Island has the highest level of protection of any reserve in the Arctic. It is often called the "Polar Bear Nursery of The World" with hundreds of denning bears. It also boasts a musk ox population of nearly one thousand animals, and it is the last place on the planet where the wooly mammoth is known to have survived, roaming right alongside the musk ox, which miraculously managed to dodge extinction. 

There is truly no better place on the planet to see the musk ox in its native habitat as bulls crash heads with one another, competing for breeding rights. And there is no better place to witness the diverse ecosystem of the Arctic in an area that remains both untouched and uninhabited, save for a handful of rangers and scientists.

Very few companies lead to trips to this distant region, but only one, Heritage Expeditions, offers the opportunity to actually spend two days and three nights on Wrangel. Limited to a group of just five guests who stay with the Russian rangers in their huts, the trip to The Roof of The World is beyond stunning. 

“This grand wilderness in its untouched freshness ... this severely solitary land in the topmost, frost-killed end of creation.”

John Muir

The Spirit of Enderby 

The Spirit of Enderby (Professor Khromov) is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in May 2019 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.

On board there is a recently updated combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.

 

The real emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit.

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 A Day Along the Chukotka Coast

During the six-day voyage it takes to reach Wrangel Island, we stop at several villages along the Chukotka Coast, providing a rare glimpse into both human and animal life in this remote region. The Bering Strait is the scene of one of the planet's largest wildlife migrations, including, Beluga, Bowhead, Gray Whales, Polar Bears, Ringed and Ribbon Seal and countless seabirds. On the mainland, we will be treated to a rare buffet of locally (and sustainably) harvested seal and whale meat along with a dance recital in full native dress. Twice a day we get into our Zodiacs, exploring tiny inlets rife with Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, Sabine and Ivory Gulls, Puffins, and more.

As we travel further north and the pack ice gets heavier, we see an increase in Polar Bears along with their cubs. "Daylight" lasts nearly 20 hours at this time of year. Wildlife watching on deck is possible at any time. 

Things that make this trip unique

There are multiple companies offering trips to the Arctic, but Heritage Expeditions continues to be the only company allowed to overnight a handful of passengers on Wrangel. Even without this optional expedition, traveling to the "The Roof of the World" by way of the Bering Strait is an extraordinary adventure. Several years back. more than 250 Polar Bears were sighted on Wrangel during a single cruise.  Although the pack ice is receding throughout much of the world, this particular region continues to offer lots of ice, and lots of animals. For those travelers who typically aren't tempted to board a ship amongst a throng of hundreds or even thousands, there is both intimacy and privacy aboard the Spirit of Enderby. 

Overland Itinerary 

(limited to five people)

Option 1

Day 1: Doubtful Harbour

On arrival the Overlanders will go ashore and spend the afternoon and evening exploring the area including the nearby spit known for large haul outs of walrus. The overnight accommodation will be Wrangel Ranger huts at Somnitelnaya.

Day 2: Peak Tundra

Travel north firstly over the southern tundra slopes to a mountain pass through the Somnitelnie Mountains and down to a tributary of the Mammoth River, the longest river on the island. In the evening we will enjoy a walk looking for Snowy Owls, Lemmings, Arctic Foxes and a huge variety of High Arctic plants. Stay overnight at the Peak Tundra hut.

Day 3: Academic Tundra (Dream Head)
Continue down the Tundra River to the Academic Tundra, an extensive area that makes up over half the island. There are opportunities to see amazing fields of wild flowers, Musk Oxen, and potentially reindeer. We will return to the ship around midday.

(limited to five people)

Option 2

Day 1: Doubtful Harbour

On arrival the Overlanders will go ashore and spend the afternoon and evening exploring the area including the nearby spit known for large haul outs of walrus. The overnight accommodation will be Wrangel Ranger huts at Somnitelnaya.

Day 2: Neozhidannaya River

Travel west over the tundra as we follow the Mammoth River. Depending on the amount of snow we may need to travel via Devil’s Creek, the archaeological where the remains of a Paleo-Eskimos summer camp were discovered. Enjoy an evening walk on the tundra and overnight at the Neozhidannaya Ranger Huts.

Day 3: Cape Thomas

As we follow the Neozhidannaya River to Cape Thomas on the Western Plateau we will be entering Musk Oxen country, and be on the lookout for this elusive animal. Polar Bears are often seen at Cape Thomas, a known denning site, as well as Snowy Owl, Snow Bunting and Lemming. We will return to the ship around midday.

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Cabins and Prices

  • Main Deck $10,400 Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private washbasin. Shared shower and toilet facilities nearby with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole.Available

  • Superior $11,500One bunk (one upper and one lower berth), writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.Available

  • Superior Plus $12,600 Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.Available

  • Mini Suite $13,000 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 windows.

Overland Excursion: $1,450, including basic field huts and meals. this is in addition to the cost of the trip. 

This Wrangel Island extension is an optional activity and conducted in conjunction with our voyage but independently operated by the Park Rangers. It is subject to minimum numbers, reserve regulations, weather and ice conditions. The journey can involve long hours (up to 12) in an off-road vehicle over rough terrain. Given its location and isolation, occasional extreme weather conditions may be encountered. Participants should be aware that there is no discount or compensation for missed landings that the main expedition makes, possibly including Herald Island while participating in the extension.

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Questions and Answers

What's the weather like?

Temperatures can range from the mid-30s to the mid-50s. However, the damp ocean air often makes it feel much colder. Rain is possible during the southern portion along the Chukotka Coast. Once we enter the pack ice the surface temperature decreases but often the sun's reflection makes it feel much warmer. As always, wear layers!

How close will we get to the Polar Bears.

Close . . . but not too close. The majority of Polar Bear sightings will be from the deck of the ship as the bears walk across the pack ice.  During our landings on Wrangel, we are well-protected by the Island's rangers. 

What about seasickness?

Typically, the seas in this region are no more or less threatening than in other Arctic regions—this is not like crossing the Drake Passage. However, for those who are prone to seasickness, advance preparedness is the key. 

If this is an expedition, what are the physical requirements?

Each person must be ambulatory, The amount of walking or hiking is at the sole discretion of the individual. Most important is the ability to get into a Zodiac.  There will be helping hands to guide you.

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JOIN US ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD

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