Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week three
Updated: Oct 28
The Northwest Passage - In the Wake of the Great Explorers - Alaska, Canada, Greenland
This week our friends who have been with us from Vancouver disembarked in Nome, and 400 new faces joined us for the Northwest Passage expedition.
Day 15 - Savoonga Island, Alaska
Last night we time travelled, we crossed over the international date line at 2.30 am, for only a short while and then back to the present, all whilst we were sleeping.
The first time we skipped the wine for lunch and decided to spend the day online as today was the last day before we embarked on the Northwest Passage leg of the cruise.
Unfortunately, we skipped the excursion to Savoonga (35 miles from Russia). Still, after hearing all the stories over dinner about the warm welcome from the locals and the rich history of the community, we reminded ourselves we wouldn't be doing this again!
The local economy consists mainly of subsistence hunting for walrus, seals, fish, and bowhead whales. The city calls itself the "Walrus Capital of the World". A dogsled mail service operated until 1963.
During the evening, the Captain's farewell took place and Shaun, the Hurtigruten photographer, shared with us all the magical memories from the first leg of the cruise. Thank you, Shaun, for producing this extraordinary collection of moments.
We enjoyed dinner in Lindstrom, and the talented team put on a little show for the departing guests. We said our goodbyes to all the wonderful new friends we made over the past few weeks, followed by drinks in the lounge.
Day 16 - Nome, Alaska
Today was a big changeover day, 340 passengers disembarked, and over 440 new passengers embarked for the Northwest Passage leg of the cruise.
We had the whole day in Nome, Alaska's most famous gold rush town. This little town was put on the map in 1899 due to the discovery of gold, of which $2m was discovered in that first year.
It was full of super friendly indigenous Alaskans, who would warmly greet and welcome you to Nome as you wandered around.
Very authentic Alaskan architecture, some buildings over 100 years old.
We had a little to-do list as this was one of our last ports before we crossed into the arctic circle and sailed for three weeks through the Northwest passage, so we busily ticked this off, apart from haircuts, so they will need to wait until Halifax. Including lunch and a Hawaiian pizza (Yes, apologies to all our Italian nearest and dearest).
We were back onboard during the afternoon and jumped online to complete any urgent tasks before our connection was weak.
It was a busy night on the ship as all the new passengers navigated how it operates, and the restaurants were buzzing!
Day 17 - Sea day, Chukchi Sea, Alaska (Arctic Circle)
Today at 4 pm, we crossed the Arctic Circle and were in for a surprise. As we travelled, we were all baptised with icy cold water by the Captain. In the Arctic Circle, they have a crossing ritual; fortunately, they skipped the Cod liver oil part of the ritual.
Wayne, of course, volunteered for us to go first! It was cold! But we were quickly offered a shot to warm ourselves up; it was lots of fun, especially watching all the reactions.
Fog obscured our views of the Diomede Islands islands today as we cruised past, but one thing we can't control is the weather, so it made for a relaxing day.
This evening was a pre-dinner drink whilst attending the Captain's welcome and introduction; many of the crew also changed over in Nome, so we have many new faces onboard.
All the new passengers have settled in, and the ship runs like a well-oiled machine.
Day 18 & 19 - Sea days, Bering Strait & Beaufort Sea, Alaska
Lazy days cruising, preparing for our re-entry into Canada, submitting forms and the like and receiving safety briefings on the Arctic and kayaking procedures.
On day 18, for dinner, we opted for Bison for the first time, which was delicious. Milder than beef and very tender and tasty.
The sun goes down around midnight here, so we enjoy very long days; fortunately, our suites have great block-out curtains, so you can easily sleep anytime, day or night.
On Day 19 - During our afternoon nap, we woke up to a view of sailing through sea ice, the largest we have experienced in Alaska. It was mindblowing, and the colours were magical!
This was followed by a special invitation with the officers for drinks with all transit guests, 56 of us; karaoke and dancing were the entertainment. Thirty-six passengers embarked in Vancouver for the Northwest Passage and will disembark in Boston. The remaining 20 will continue to Antarctica and disembark on 8th November.
Dinner this evening was Roast lamb in Aune Restaurant; we opted for our favourite table and enjoyed the beautiful evening scenery of sea ice scattered all around us.
At about 11 pm this evening, once we were tucked up in bed, we felt the ship come to a halt and stepped out onto the balcony. We were stopped due to ice blocking our path!
We couldn't miss the opportunity of seeing all the ice, so we were up and out of bed to get to the Observation deck on Level 11 to check it out! The Captain completed a 360 of the ship whilst we were up there and rerouted us for a clearer path forward.
Day 20 - Sea day, Beaufort Sea, Alaska
Another day at sea, relaxing and dining! So, let's talk about ice.
The distinction between 1st-year sea ice, 2nd-year, multiyear and old ice.
First-year sea ice is ice that is thicker than young ice but has no more than one year of growth. In other words, ice grows in the fall and winter (after it has gone through the new ice – nilas – young ice stages and grows further) but does not survive the spring and summer months (it melts away).
The thickness of this ice typically ranges from 0.3 m to 2 m; First-year ice may be further divided into thin (30 cm to 70 cm), medium (70 cm to 120 cm) and thick (>120 cm)
Old sea ice is sea ice that has survived at least one melting season (i.e. one summer). For this reason, this ice is generally thicker than first-year sea ice.
Old ice is commonly divided into two types: second-year ice, which has survived one melting season and multiyear ice, which has survived more than one. (In some sources, old ice is more than two years old.)
Multiyear ice is much more common in the Arctic than in the Antarctic because sea ice in the south drifts into warmer waters where it melts. In the Arctic, much of the sea ice is landlocked.
Day 21 - Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada
This morning we crossed the US border to arrive in Canada; we anchored just off Herschel Island in the Yukon Territory.
Canadian Customs arrived after lunch, and they needed to fly into the island via a 90-minute flight and be boated across to clear the ship and passengers for our landing.
Once we were cleared, we had a quick safety briefing from the local park rangers, who warned us there was a grizzly on the beach last night (footprints below) but had since left the island, and we should all be safe.
We all boated across in the Zodiacs and enjoyed the fresh air and a walk around the island after four days at sea. As we walked, we could follow the bear's footprints, which were also accompanied by red fox prints, for how long we don't know.
Herschel Island is located in the Beaufort Sea, on the edge of the Ivvavik National Park. The rangers reside on the island for six months; a few huts and outside toilets were scattered around, powered by solar, with regular supplies flown in. For those of you who are history lovers, here is some light reading.
There was a runway, which was how the customs officers arrived, we had a chat with the pilot, who told us the runway was only 250m in length, and we all enjoyed watching the plane take off.
After about one hour, we were delivered back to the ship; it was great to explore the little island and capture some memorable moments.