Wrangel Island & The Bering Strait

An extraordinary expedition 'Across the Top of the World'

There are few places on this planet as remote as Wrangel Island, a chunk of land in the Arctic Ocean to the north of Siberia that is famous for its extraordinary wildlife, including remarkable numbers of Polar Bears that come to feed on the huge number of Walruses that occur here. Musk Ox is another draw, as are Grey and Humpback Whales, Emperor and Snow Geese, Spectacled and King Eiders, Ross's and Sabine's Gulls, Yellow-billed and Pacific Loons, Snowy Owl and even the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, either here or in eastern Chukotka around the Bering Strait.

A shaft of sunshine amidst an early autumn snowstorm at Wrangel illuminates two Polar Bears feeding on a stranded Grey Whale; food that will keep them going until the sea ice forms once more. (Mark Beaman)

A shaft of sunshine amidst an early autumn snowstorm at Wrangel illuminates two Polar Bears feeding on a stranded Grey Whale; food that will keep them going until the sea ice forms once more. (Mark Beaman)


Monday 7th August - Monday 21st August 2017
(15 days)

Second departure: 21 August-4 September
Leader: Heritage Expeditions leaders
Group Size Limit: 15
Tour Category: Easy for the most part, occasionally Moderate


This unique expedition crosses the Arctic Circle twice and the 180° meridian four times, comes within a ‘stone’s throw’ of the International Dateline and includes the isolated and pristine Wrangel and Herald Islands and a significant section of the wild Northeastern Siberian coastline of the Chukotka peninsula. It is a journey only made possible in recent years by the thawing in the politics of the region and the retreat of the summer pack ice in the Chukchi Sea. There is only a very small distance between Russia and the United States of America along this border area around the Bering Strait, which was said to be divided by the ‘Ice Curtain’, behind which, then and now, lies one of the last great undiscovered wilderness areas in the world.

Our expedition starts at the town of Anadyr, the capital of the Chukotka Autonomous Region, at the mouth of the Anadyr River. Here, Belugas and Largha Seals gather to feast on the summer salmon run, which is also harvested by the indigenous Chukchi people as well as European Russians.

As we make our way towards the narrow Bering Strait, which separates Russia from the United States of America, we will have the chance to make a number of landings along the wild coastline of Chukotka. We will see huge numbers seabirds, and zodiac cruise into the heart of some spectacular colonies. Attractive Horned and Tufted Puffins are the star attractions here, joined by Crested, Parakeet and endearing Least Auklets, Common and Brünnich’s Guillemots (or Common and Thick-billed Murres), Pigeon Guillemots, Pelagic Cormorants and Glaucous Gulls.

At Yttygran Island we will have the chance to see ‘Whalebone Alley’, where whale ribs were erected to form arches by the indigenous Chukchi and Inuit hunters of centuries past. On the nearby mainland we may well get the chance to visit some former reindeer herders and enjoy a geothermal hot spring dip, in between looking out for the likes of Sandhill Cranes and King Eiders.

At the Bering Strait itself we will hope conditions are calm enough for a landing at Cape Dezhnev, the most northeasterly point on the Asian mainland, a mere 82 kilometers (52 miles) from Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska. Not far beyond, almost at the Arctic Circle, is the remote settlement of Uelen, where Humpback and Grey Whales often gather in numbers, joined by countless Short-=tailed Shearwaters. Here we will have a chance to see  something of the interesting local culture of these traditional hunters of marine mammals.

Before we cross the De Long Strait to Wrangel Island, we will visit remote Kolyuchin Island. Here we can explore a fantastic seabird colony where puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes can be seen and photographed at really close range. Kolyuchin also hosts a huge Walrus haul-out which we will visit in order to enjoy some encounters with these strange yet endearing creatures.

At Wrangel Island we will spend up to five days exploring the island under the guidance of local rangers from 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 concentrate here before the sea ice reforms in the autumn. We hope to catch many glimpses of this beautiful animal. Wrangel is also a crucially important and safe denning area for many female Polar Bears.

The island also boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific Walrus and lies near major feeding grounds for the Grey Whales that migrate thousands of kilometres north from their breeding grounds in Baja California. Musk Ox, Reindeer, Arctic Foxes, Snow Geese, Pomarine Jaegers (or Pomarine Skuas) and Snowy Owls can normally be seen. A visit to the 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 and colourful 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 Palo Inuit camp in Krassin Bay, the controversy over the discovery and ownership of the island, the amazing story of the survivors of the Karluk, the fortitude of Ada Blackjack the heroine of the island, the Soviet occupation and militarization, and more recently, the establishment of a world class nature reserve.

On our way back to Anadyr we will visit the north coast of Chukotka and in particular Kolyuchin Inlet, a large marine bay almost walled off from the sea by the long spit called Kosa Belyaka. This interesting area is home to Pacific and Yellow-billed Loons (or Pacific and Yellow-billed Divers), the lovely Emperor Goose, and King and Spectacled Eiders. The critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper still nests in the area and sometimes stays into August.

As we pass through the Bering Strait once more we will visit the Diomede Islands, the larger of which is Russian, the smaller American. The islands are divided by the International Dateline as well as the International border, so one island is in today, the other is in yesterday (or, alternatively, today and tomorrow)! Yet more seabirds, seals and cetaceans will enliven our voyage back to Anadyr and the end of our expedition, perhaps including the rare Short-tailed Albatross.

We shall be sailing on the Professor Khromov, a ship operated by Heritage Expeditions of New Zealand (who call her Spirit of Enderby). Ships of this class are Finnish-built vessels under Russian registry that were built in the 1980s and early 1990s under commission from the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. They were originally intended for oceanographic research, but were subsequently adapted for expedition-style cruising following the financial cutbacks that later affected all formerly Soviet research programmes. These ships are, of course, not ‘cruise ships’ in the traditional manner and will appeal most to those for whom exploring wild places and enjoying wild nature, rather than enjoying luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers, is the prime attraction.

Cabins are furnished with two berths and have some storage space and an outside view (many having en-suite bathroom facilities). Public facilities include restaurant, lounge/bar, lecture facilities and library. Food is plentiful, of good quality, waiter-served and prepared by European, New Zealand or Australian chefs. The ship carries a small complement of expedition staff, including a naturalist, who give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the region, where required, and also guide shore excursions.

As much of the sailing as possible is done at night, thus maximizing opportunities for going ashore and enjoying the wildlife and beautiful landscapes to the full. Landings are carried out by means of a fleet of zodiacs and naiads, rugged, fast-moving inflatables designed for expedition work, which allow safe landings on remote coastlines in all types of conditions. The sheer speed and efficiency with which the crew carry out these landings, coupled with the small complement of passengers, allows everyone plenty of time ashore at most locations. Further information about the cruise, including photographs and details of the ship layout, including cabin layouts, are available on the Heritage Expeditions website (www.heritage-expeditions.com).

The great advantage of taking this particular cruise, if you are especially interested in seeing the fantastic wildlife of the region, is that the itinerary and day to day schedule are strongly wildlife-orientated. The expert expedition team will take you on guided walks and zodiac cruises, and provide lectures to help you better understand and appreciate this unique High Arctic landscape.

Itinerary

Day 1  The tour begins today at Anadyr, the capital of the Chukotka autonomous region in far northeastern Siberia, where we board the Professor Khromov (or ‘Spirit of Enderby’) before sailing for the Bering Strait and Wrangel Island this evening. We will spend the next 14 nights aboard. If you fly to Anadyr from Moscow you will follow a spectacular route that loops northwards over the north Siberia tundra, passing over the northern end of the Ural Mountains, the estuaries of some of the greatest rivers in Asia and vast expanses of tundra pocked by thousands of lakes and inscribed by meandering channels.

Anadyr is the largest town in the region, at the head of Anadyr Bay, and is nowadays a collection of colourful apartment blocks that are a long way from the grey and buff concrete blocks of the Soviet era. Many of the gable ends hold huge murals celebrating various aspects of Chukotka life. Even the cranes in the port are brightly painted in red, yellow and green! A large wooden Russian Orthodox church overlooks the harbour, topped by golden domes and eastern-style crucifixes. The interior is full of beautiful icons, painted, carved or made from intricate beadwork.

The clean waters of the Anadyr River hosts a huge summer salmon run that, as well as local amateur Chukchi and European Russian fishermen, attracts numerous Beluga whales and Largha Seals that one can watch at very close range feeding on the seasonal bounty. Glaucous and Vega Gulls pick over the salmon remains along the tideline.

Day 2  As we cross the Gulf of Anadyr this morning there will be some briefings about the expedition and there will be a first chance to look for cetaceans, seals and seabirds from the bow or from the bridge. Humpback Whales are by far the commonest cetaceans in this area. But Grey, Fin and Minke Whales are also likely during our expedition. Largha Seals are generally closer to shore, but Bearded Seals can be encountered even far from land. We should see the first of many, many Short-tailed Shearwaters, as well as Northern Fulmar, Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers (or Pomarine, Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas), and Arctic Tern.

This afternoon we plan to zodiac cruise at some spectacular bird cliffs in Preobrazheniya Bay. The steep cliffs here hold perhaps as many as 100,000 seabirds, with huge numbers of Common and Brünnich’s Guillemots (or Common and Thick-billed Murres) and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Less numerous but far more colourful and photogenic are the many Tufted and Horned Puffins that nest here, while dense and noisy of flocks of Crested Auklets wheel overhead. We will also come across our first Pelagic Cormorants, Least and Parakeet Auklets. Needless to say, photographic opportunities are splendid. Away from the cliffs, Harlequin Ducks haunt the more open stretches of coastline.

Afterwards we will land at the ‘dock’ for a nearby settlement where a medley of ‘artefacts’ can be enjoyed ranging from an old wooden boat and old Soviet-era truck to various whale and Walrus bones. Arctic Ground Squirrels will surely be around, feeding on the lush summer vegetation and chittering with alarm if we get too close. They are very tame and once can take great photographs as they stuff their cheek pouches with seeds, flowers and leaves.

Day 3  Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley. Whalebones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre, although only a few of the arches formed by whale ribs are still standing. Dating from hundreds of years ago, the purpose of the ‘alley’ is much debated by anthropologists.  Nearby, a low cliff with a fringing beach allows close approach to puffins and guillemots (or murres), allowing for much easier photography than from a rocking zodiac.

Grey Whales are frequently seen around the island, and we will also cruise by Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands where seabirds nest and walrus can be found. This afternoon we plan to make a landing on the mainland of Chukotka where we can visit a former reindeer herder and his family who still uses a traditional ‘yuranga’, a reindeer-hide tent supported on wooden poles. They are genuine and welcoming people and the visit provides insight into how Chukchi people live on the tundra using traditional herbs to make salads, picking mushrooms and harvesting salmon for their flesh and their much-loved red roe, known in Russian as ‘ikra’.

Sandhill Cranes nest in the marshes here and those who want to can walk inland to a hotspring pool where the temperature is not far below that of a Japanese ‘ofuro’ and enjoy a soak, or even a swim, while almost at the Arctic Circle!

Day 4  Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev this morning. The northeastern-most point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of Alaska from this remote and lonely outpost, while much closer are the two Diomede Islands, divided by both the international border between Russia and the United States and the International Dateline. A tower-like monument at the cape celebrates the Cossack explorer Semen Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to voyage through the Bering Strait, predating Bering by many decades. Dezhnev has been largely forgotten, yet his exploits were an epic adventure that took him down the Kolyma, along the Arctic Ocean coast, through the Bering Strait and eventually up the Anadyr River! There is also an abandoned Russian Border Guard station here and the remains of a once-large aboriginal village where the many homes are partly sunk into the ground and roofed by whale bones.

These coastal waters hold great numbers of Humpback Whales and we are likely to see a lot of activity today, including many impressive views of the flukes as the whales dives. Grey Whales should also be around and the sheer numbers of Crested and Least Auklets are remarkable. Even more spectacular are the vast numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters. Millions of these birds migrate northwards from Australia and New Zealand to spend the summer months in the northwestern Pacific, the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea (the latter part of the Arctic Ocean). We could well encounter vast rafts or moving flocks today, watching the birds diving into the sea en masse to feed on small fish or quietly waiting in between feeding frenzies. King and Common Eiders are usually present in the area and we have a good chance of encountering some Spectacled Eiders.

A little to the west of Cape Dezhnev is Uelen, the most north-eastern village in Russia. The population is predominantly Chukchi, living together with some Inuits and European Russians, and the village is one of the largest centres for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world. Provided we can make a landing here (the shingle beach is exposed to northerly winds, so this is not always possible), we will be entertained by some traditional folk-dancing by the villagers and be able to visit the bone-carving workshop. The locals see very few outsiders and are genuinely pleased to show off their traditions.

Day 5  Kolyuchin Island was once an important Russian polar weather 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 Horned and Tufted Puffins, guillemots (or murres), Black-legged Kittiwakes and Glaucous Gulls can be observed and photographed up close. Kolyuchin also hosts one of the largest Walrus haul-outs in the region, some thousands strong. Providing sea conditions allow, we will zodiac cruise to the haul-out, where we may obtain close views of Walruses in the water as they come over to check out these strange craft in the world. Watching them snort and rear up, revealing those wonderful tusks, will be a highlight of the expedition. We can’t get too close to the haul-out itself, however, as the Pacific population of Walrus is still hunted by native people and the animals could panic and stampede if we came too close!

Days 6-10  We will spend these days at remote Wrangel Island and, sea ice and weather conditions permitting, we will also make a visit to nearby Herald Island. There are many landings that we can make here to search out Arctic wildlife, wildflowers and landscapes.

Wrangel Island is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance, particularly as it is a major Polar Bear denning area. The scenery is truly wild and dramatic, with the flat or rolling coastal tundra giving way to several ranges of mountains in the interior. As summer ends the colours of the vegetation turn to red, mauve and gold, producing the most subtly beautiful Arctic landscapes, sometimes contrasting with new snow on the mountains.

Wrangel has a fascinating human history, including a little-known chapter of Arctic exploration that culminated in one of the most epic polar journeys, on a par with Ernest Shackleton’s rescue of his men from Elephant Island. In August 2013 the Karluk, part of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 2013-16, set sail from Alaska to try and find traces of the doomed Franklin Expedition to the Northwest Passage. After the ship became trapped in the ice the cravenly organizer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, abandoned the crew and expedition staff to their fate (he told them he was going hunting, but in all probability simply fled across the ice to Alaska), leaving the ship to drift far to the northwest until it was crushed in the ice and sank in mid-winter! All would seem to be lost, but Robert Bartlett, the Captain of the Karluk, led most of his men across extraordinary obstacles as they travelled across 130 kilometres (80 miles) of drift ice until they reached Wrangel, at what later became Dragi Harbour. (Some of the expedition members set out on their own and perished, a few reaching Herald Island.) From here he set out again, with just an Alaskan Inuit companion, to cross over 200 kilometres (124 miles) of ice to the Siberian mainland. After surviving the crossing they eventually managed to reach the Bering Strait and cross to Alaska, from where Bartlett organized rescue attempts until the remaining survivors were finally picked up in September 2014. Amazingly, one of the survivors, Fred Maurer, volunteered for an equally ill-fated attempt at colonization of Wrangel in 1921 organized by the charlatan Stefansson, perishing after suppliers ran out and he and his companions tried to emulate Bartlett’s feat and reach Siberia. The sole survivor was an Alaskan Inuit woman, Ada Blackjack, who spent two years on Wrangel, alone for part of the time.

Wrangel was perhaps first sighted by the Cossack Stepan Andreyev in 1764, but even Ferdinand Von Wrangel failed to find the island during his expedition of 1820-24 to look for Andreyev’s island and it was only in 1849 that it was definitely first sighted in the modern era (it had been colonized for a time by aboriginal people in prehistoric times) by Henry Kellett, Captain of HMS Herald, who landed on Herald Island and could make out another island further to the west. A German whaler, Eduard Dallmann, claimed much after the event to have landed on Wrangel in 1866, but the first definite landing was by the United States ship Corwin in 1881. They claimed it for the United States, but it was later claimed by Tsarist Russia in 1916 and it came under Soviet control in 1924.

The magnificent Polar Bear will be high on our list of mammals to see and we should be able to enjoy a number of encounters. Depending on whether the bears are concentrated by finding a carcass of a dead whale or a walrus, we could come across 10 or more together in just one area. Seeing dozens in total during one of these expeditions while at Wrangel is perfectly normal, although it cannot be guaranteed and numbers will depend on how much effort you personally put into sighting new bears! We should see some interesting behaviour as the bears share food and generally interact with each other. At this time of year the cubs born in the winter are already quite large, following their mothers about the island.

Sometimes it is possible to get quite close to Polar Bears while in a zodiac, but in general distances are such that a 400mm lens or greater are necessary to get good photographs.

Musk Oxen were reintroduced to the island in 1975 and have since thrived, now numbering several thousand. We should see some during our landings and there is a fairly good chance of a close encounter with a Musk Ox or two, especially if you take part in some of the longer hikes on offer into Wrangel’s wild interior. Their long, insulating hair hanging right down almost to ground level and their curved horns with a solid base give these great beasts a most distinctive appearance.

Reindeer were introduced for meat and skins in 1948 and although they are have been protected since Wrangel became a nature reserve, numbers have fallen to quite low levels, owing to some hard winters. Nowadays their horns are scattered across the tundra, providing the centrepiece for some interesting low-level scenic shots.

Wrangel has its own endemic lemming, Wrangel Lemming, and there are also Siberian Brown Lemmings. These little rodents form the staple diet of all the smaller predators in years when they are numerous, and there is no critter more cute than the Arctic Fox, which is ubiquitous on Wrangel. Watching the foxes hunting, dashing around, jumping into the air or mock-fighting with their siblings or mates will be a highlight of our time on the island. As the foxes are both inquisitive and unconcerned about humans, some great close encounters are virtually certain.

Each summer many thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, Pomarine Jaegers (or Pomarine Skuas), Sabine’s Gulls and Arctic Terns. Grey (or Black-bellied) Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones also breed on the tundra (and those travelling through the interior could encounter beautiful Buff-breasted Sandpipers at one of their two Asian breeding sites). Ross’s Gulls can sometimes be seen as they move through the area. Herald Island is another major seabird colony, with Black Guillemots replacing the Pigeon Guillemots.

In the shallow coastal waters around Wrangel we should come across a number of whales and also numbers of Walruses, as there are some big haul-outs on the island. These are favoured areas for Polar Bears, some of which successfully attack and kill Walruses, while others scavenge on carcasses.

Day 11  Bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous lagoons and inlets, the northern Siberian coastline offers plenty of places to land and explore. We will be on the lookout for whales, walrus and other wildlife. We will pass Chukchi villages whose residents survive in an unforgiving climate, hunting seals and whales just as their ancestors did.

Day 12  Kolyuchin Inlet is so huge that it is visible from satellite photos. The inlet provides breeding grounds and a migration stopover for vast numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds. We will land today at Kosa Belyaka (Belyaka Spit) at the mouth of the inlet. This is a wild, low and desolate tundra and coastal landscape that is strangely beautiful. We will search the beaches, marshes, tundra and lagoons for Pacific and Yellow-billed Loons (or Pacific and Yellow-billed Divers), the beautiful Emperor Goose, King and Spectacled Eiders, Pacific Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, Red (or Grey) Phalarope, Red-throated Pipit and Lapland Longspur. There is even a fair chance for Spoon-billed Sandpiper here up until early August, as this remains one of the most important surviving breeding areas for this critically endangered species. Grey Whales frequent the area and are sometimes spotted feeding only metres offshore.

Day 13  Early today we will be at the Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait, sometimes called the ‘Today and Yesterday Islands’ or even 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 visit the islands. If the Border Guards give us permission we will zodiac cruise  along the coast of Big Diomede or Ratmanov Island, visiting yet another superb seabird colony and enjoying the interesting rock formations, including one outcrop that looks just like the head of a Bolshevik-era soldier with his peaked woollen cap. We will also pass underneath the small Border Guard post, perched precariously on a steep slope.

As we sail south from the Bering Strait there will be more seabirds and cetaceans to look for. If we are really in luck, either here or elsewhere during the expedition, we will come across the rare Short-tailed Albatross. This endangered species has slowly been making a comeback after nearly being annihilated on its breeding islets in the western Pacific and birds are now being recorded as far north as the northernmost part of the Bering Sea. Late this afternoon we may make a final landing on the Chukotka coast, our last chance to enjoy the wildlife and tundra landscape.

Day 14 We shall be at sea today as we cross the Gulf of Anadyr, with more opportunities to look for cetaceans and seabirds.

Day 15  This morning we will end our journey at Anadyr, where we must say farewell to the ship and crew we have grown to know so well.

Cross-Wrangel Option: For a few people there will be the option to travel across Wrangel by tundra vehicle, spending two nights ashore, either northbound or southbound. The crossing is organized by the Wrangel Nature Reserve staff and one night will be spent at the research base at Doubtful and another in a research hut in the wild interior. Those taking the northbound crossing will be dropped off at Doubtful and then picked up by the ship somewhere in the north and exchanged for those travelling south. The southbound expeditioners will be picked up at Doubtful before the ship sails back to Chukotka. There is an additional charge for the cross-Wrangel expedition and details can be obtained on request.

Accommodation & Transport: For details of the ship, see the introductory section.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few optional moderate hikes on offer at certain landings (an easy walking option is always available on such occasions).

Climate: Conditions will range from cool or even fairly warm to distinctly cold. Dry and sunny periods will be interspersed with overcast weather. Sea fog is quite possible at this season and there may be some rain or even snow.

Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities are very good.

Important: Please bear in mind that circumstances may be encountered during the voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the planned itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather conditions and unexpected opportunities for making additional zodiac excursions. The ship’s expedition leader will keep us fully informed throughout.

Tour Price: For Anadyr/Anadyr cruise-only arrangements:

$11200 (£7725, €10180) in a Main Deck twin-berth cabin with shared bathroom facilities
$11700 (£8070, €10635) in a Superior Cabin with private bathroom
$12500 (£8620, €11365) in a Superior Plus Cabin with private bathroom
$13000 (£8965, €11820) in a Mini Suite with private bathroom
$13800 (£9515, €12545) in an Heritage Suite with private bathroom.

Kindly note that this tour is priced in US Dollars (prices in Pounds Sterling and Euros are only indicative and based on the exchange rates prevailing at the time of calculation: £1 = US$ 1.45, Euro 1 = US$ 1.10). If you are paying in Pounds Sterling or Euros your deposit and final balance payment due will be calculated according to the exchange rate prevailing at the time.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, some soft drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew, a charge of US$500 (payable in cash on board) to cover the landing fees levied by the local governments and any fuel surcharge that may be imposed by the ship operator, are not included in the tour price. Gratuities are entirely at your discretion. The staff work very long hours to make such cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we have been told that most passengers give gratuities of around US$150-225 for such a 15 days cruise.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants not flying in from Nome (Alaska) on the charter flight for this cruise have at least one night in Anadyr prior to the cruise. Kindly note that in the event you decide not travel on the Nome-Anadyr charter and do not arrive in Anadyr in time to embark, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you in Anadyr on request.

Single Cabin Supplement: Single occupancy of most twin-berth cabins can be obtained in return for an 80% supplement on top of the cruise-only price (but suites require a 100% supplement). Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement.

Deposit: 25% of the tour price (including any single supplement).

If you are paying the deposit in Pounds Sterling or Euros rather than in US Dollars, please contact us before sending payment so that we can provide you with the appropriate figure based on the current exchange rate.

Kindly note that the balance due will be invoiced around 5 months before departure for payment not later than 120 days before departure.

Cancellation Charges: For cancellations made 121 days or more before departure, the cancellation charge is 80% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 91-120 days before departure, the cancellation charge is 100% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 1-90 days before departure, or on the day of departure or later, the cancellation charge is 100% of the tour price.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

Wrangel Island in late summer and autumn hosts one of the highest concentrations of Polar Bears in the Arctic. (Mark Beaman)

Wrangel Island in late summer and autumn hosts one of the highest concentrations of Polar Bears in the Arctic. (Mark Beaman)

The prehistoric-looking Musk Ox is a Pleistocene survivor that thrives on Wrangel. This bull was so curious he followed us for 20 minutes. (Mark Beaman)

The prehistoric-looking Musk Ox is a Pleistocene survivor that thrives on Wrangel. This bull was so curious he followed us for 20 minutes. (Mark Beaman)

A Musk Ox at home amidst the wonderful colours of the Wrangel tundra. (Mark Beaman)

A Musk Ox at home amidst the wonderful colours of the Wrangel tundra. (Mark Beaman)

Is there any other polar critter with as much 'joie de vivre' as the Arctic Fox? (Mark Beaman)

Is there any other polar critter with as much 'joie de vivre' as the Arctic Fox? (Mark Beaman)

Thousands of Walruses haul out on the beaches of Kolyuchin and Wrangel Islands. (Mark Beaman)

Thousands of Walruses haul out on the beaches of Kolyuchin and Wrangel Islands. (Mark Beaman)

A Short-tailed Shearwater, heavily burdened with fat before its migration south to the Antipodes, struggles to take wing. (Mark Beaman)

A Short-tailed Shearwater, heavily burdened with fat before its migration south to the Antipodes, struggles to take wing. (Mark Beaman)

Sometimes the shearwaters glide over a glassy sea. (Mark Beaman)

Sometimes the shearwaters glide over a glassy sea. (Mark Beaman)

A Glaucous Gull takes to the air. (Mark Beaman)

A Glaucous Gull takes to the air. (Mark Beaman)

Tufted Puffins have the raucous, braying calls so typical of seabirds. (Mark Beaman)

Tufted Puffins have the raucous, braying calls so typical of seabirds. (Mark Beaman)

Horned Puffins may look sweet, but... (Mark Beaman)

Horned Puffins may look sweet, but... (Mark Beaman)

The Sandhill Cranes of Northeastern Siberia migrate across the Bering Strait to winter in western North America. (Mark Beaman)

The Sandhill Cranes of Northeastern Siberia migrate across the Bering Strait to winter in western North America. (Mark Beaman)

The wild tundra landscape of Wrangel is a draw in itself. (Mark Beaman)

The wild tundra landscape of Wrangel is a draw in itself. (Mark Beaman)

The little settlement at Doubtful on the south coast of Wrangel hosts the headquarters of the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve. (Mark Beaman)

The little settlement at Doubtful on the south coast of Wrangel hosts the headquarters of the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve. (Mark Beaman)

Unusual and spectacular lenticular clouds tower high over Wrangel. (Mark Beaman)

Unusual and spectacular lenticular clouds tower high over Wrangel. (Mark Beaman)

An Arctic sunset at the Bering Strait. (Mark Beaman)

An Arctic sunset at the Bering Strait. (Mark Beaman)

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