Across the Top of the World: Wrangel Island

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.


Russia
© Kosyanikova

Duration: 15 days
Starts: Anadyr, Rusia
Ends: Anadyr, Russia
Languaje: English speaking voyage

Extra excursion: Exclusive Overland Traverse US$1,450pp
*Optional Charter Flight Nome-Anadyr-Nome


Included Activities


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 kilometres north from their breeding grounds in Baja, Mexico. Reindeer, Musk Oxen 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 in its own right. 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 militarisation 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.

Itinerary

© A. Terauds
© E. Bell
© E. Bell

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
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 ship. We will depart when everybody is on board.

Day 2: Anadyrskiy Bay
At sea today, there will be some briefings and lectures it is also a chance for some ‘birding’ cetacean watching and settling into ship life. Late this afternoon we plan to Zodiac cruise some spectacular bird cliffs in Preobrazheniya Bay.

Day 3: Yttygran, Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands
Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where whale bones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. 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 4: Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village
Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev early this morning. 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. A few nautical miles to the west of Cape Dezhnev we visit Uelen Village the most north-eastern village in Russia. The population is predominantly Chukchi and the village is one of the largest centres for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world. We’ll be entertained by villagers and visit the bone-carving workshop during our visit.

Day 5: Kolyuchin Island
This small 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.

Days 6 to 10: 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 Harbour 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 11: 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 12: Kolyuchin Inlet
So huge that it is visible from satellite photos, this inlet contains vast numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders. We concentrate our visit on the Belaka Spit near the mouth of the inlet. It is a wild, desolate landscape that is strangely beautiful. We search the dunes and tidal areas for birdlife including Emperor Geese and Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Gray Whales frequent the area and are sometimes spotted feeding only metres offshore.

Day 13: Bering Strait and Chukotka Coast
Early morning 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. Later this afternoon we make an expedition landing on the Chukotka coast, our last chance to enjoy the wildlife and tundra landscape.

Day 14: At Sea
Relax as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr.

Day 15: Anadyr
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. Enquire for a full itinerary.

Optional
In co-operation with the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve we are excited to offer a limited number of seats on a very special Overland Traverse through the heart of this incredible landscape. For curious explorers who join us to circumnavigate Wrangel Island, there is no reason to just wonder what lies beyond the coast, over the crest of the hills and mountains. The High Arctic environment that very few people will ever experience is now accessible and exclusively available to passengers travelling with Heritage Expeditions on selected 'Across the Top of the World' expeditions.

We are offering a limited number of seats on these very special 3-day (2-night) Overland Traverses. A true expedition in every sense, this is a rough and tumble adventure for those looking to explore well beyond the road less travelled and don't mind stepping out of their comfort zone. Built for conquering the corrugated terrain - not comfort - transport is by a formidable, six-wheel Russian Tundra vehicle. While travel days can be long, there are countless opportunities for wildlife encounters and exceptional photography during your journey. At night, retire to the rustic surrounds of authentic Wrangel Ranger huts and enjoy hearty and nourishing camp-style fare.

Each off-road traverse across this rugged island is led by rangers from Wrangel Island and offers lucky guests a first-hand experience into the wilds of this remote region. We have been offering these traverses to adventurous guests since 2011 and numbers are strictly limited; we encourage you to book early to avoid disappointment.

Depending on the weather, wildlife and other external elements, guests will enjoy one of the following three Overland Traverse options:

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.

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 only archaeological site on the island where remains of a Paleo-Eskimos summer camp were discovered. Enjoy an evening walk on the tundra and stay 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.

Option 3
Day 1: Doubtful Harbour On arrival the Overlanders will go ashore, 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 only archaeological site on the island where remains of a Paleo-Eskimos summer camp were discovered. Enjoy an evening walk on the tundra and stay overnight at the Neozhidannaya Ranger Huts.

Day 3: Ptichy Bazar As we make our way up to, and along, Goose River to the birding cliffs of Ptichy Bazar we will be looking for Musk Oxen and Arctic Fox. Enjoy fantastic views from the cliffs and over the coast where Kittiwakes, gulls, puffins and cormorants can be seen during nesting season. We will return to the ship around midday.

Northbound and Southbound options available. Southbound itinerary will operate in reverse to the above itineraries.

Price: US$1,450
Price Includes: Transport, accommodation (basic field huts) and meals. (This is in addition to the cost of the cruise)
Price Excludes: Travel insurance, gratuities and other items of a personal nature.

*Note: 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.

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
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 ship. We will depart when everybody is on board.

Day 2: Anadyrskiy Bay
At sea today, there will be some briefings and lectures it is also a chance for some ‘birding’ cetacean watching and settling into ship life. Late this afternoon we plan to Zodiac cruise some spectacular bird cliffs in Preobrazheniya Bay.

Day 3: Yttygran, Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands
Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where whale bones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. 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 4: Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village
Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev early this morning. 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. A few nautical miles to the west of Cape Dezhnev we visit Uelen Village the most north-eastern village in Russia. The population is predominantly Chukchi and the village is one of the largest centres for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world. We’ll be entertained by villagers and visit the bone-carving workshop during our visit.

Day 5: Kolyuchin Island
This small 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.

Days 6 to 10: 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 Harbour 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 11: 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 12: Kolyuchin Inlet
So huge that it is visible from satellite photos, this inlet contains vast numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders. We concentrate our visit on the Belaka Spit near the mouth of the inlet. It is a wild, desolate landscape that is strangely beautiful. We search the dunes and tidal areas for birdlife including Emperor Geese and Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Gray Whales frequent the area and are sometimes spotted feeding only metres offshore.

Day 13: Bering Strait and Chukotka Coast
Early morning 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. Later this afternoon we make an expedition landing on the Chukotka coast, our last chance to enjoy the wildlife and tundra landscape.

Day 14: At Sea
Relax as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr.

Day 15: Anadyr
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. Enquire for a full itinerary.

Optional
In co-operation with the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve we are excited to offer a limited number of seats on a very special Overland Traverse through the heart of this incredible landscape. For curious explorers who join us to circumnavigate Wrangel Island, there is no reason to just wonder what lies beyond the coast, over the crest of the hills and mountains. The High Arctic environment that very few people will ever experience is now accessible and exclusively available to passengers travelling with Heritage Expeditions on selected 'Across the Top of the World' expeditions.

We are offering a limited number of seats on these very special 3-day (2-night) Overland Traverses. A true expedition in every sense, this is a rough and tumble adventure for those looking to explore well beyond the road less travelled and don't mind stepping out of their comfort zone. Built for conquering the corrugated terrain - not comfort - transport is by a formidable, six-wheel Russian Tundra vehicle. While travel days can be long, there are countless opportunities for wildlife encounters and exceptional photography during your journey. At night, retire to the rustic surrounds of authentic Wrangel Ranger huts and enjoy hearty and nourishing camp-style fare.

Each off-road traverse across this rugged island is led by rangers from Wrangel Island and offers lucky guests a first-hand experience into the wilds of this remote region. We have been offering these traverses to adventurous guests since 2011 and numbers are strictly limited; we encourage you to book early to avoid disappointment.

Depending on the weather, wildlife and other external elements, guests will enjoy one of the following three Overland Traverse options:

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.

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 only archaeological site on the island where remains of a Paleo-Eskimos summer camp were discovered. Enjoy an evening walk on the tundra and stay 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.

Option 3
Day 1: Doubtful Harbour On arrival the Overlanders will go ashore, 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 only archaeological site on the island where remains of a Paleo-Eskimos summer camp were discovered. Enjoy an evening walk on the tundra and stay overnight at the Neozhidannaya Ranger Huts.

Day 3: Ptichy Bazar As we make our way up to, and along, Goose River to the birding cliffs of Ptichy Bazar we will be looking for Musk Oxen and Arctic Fox. Enjoy fantastic views from the cliffs and over the coast where Kittiwakes, gulls, puffins and cormorants can be seen during nesting season. We will return to the ship around midday.

Northbound and Southbound options available. Southbound itinerary will operate in reverse to the above itineraries.

Price: US$1,450
Price Includes: Transport, accommodation (basic field huts) and meals. (This is in addition to the cost of the cruise)
Price Excludes: Travel insurance, gratuities and other items of a personal nature.

*Note: 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.


© A. Terauds
© E. Bell
© E. Bell


INCLUSIONS

Pre/post cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation, meals and all expedition shore excursions.

EXCLUSIONS

All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Private charter flight Nome to Anadyr to Nome US$2,000pp
Overland Traverse US$1,450pp

Additional fees:
Local Payment: $500.00pp


* The prices are per person expressed in US Dollars.
NOTE: Embracing the unexpected is part of the legacy—and excitement—of expedition travel. When traveling in extremely remote regions, your expedition staff must allow the sea, the ice and the weather to guide route and itinerary details. This itinerary is a tentative outline of what you’ll experience on this voyage; please be aware that no specific itinerary can be guaranteed.




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