The Northern Sea Route | 30 days
Russia controls one of the greatest seaways in the world, the Northern Sea Route, known to us as the Northeast Passage. Only a handful of expedition vessels have ever transited this route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The indigenous people of the north coast of Siberia would have been familiar with sections of the passage, but it wasn't until 1878-1880 that Swedish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiold completed the first ever full transit. In 1914-15 Imperial Russian Navy icebreakers made the second transit to render the seaway navigable for strategic purposes. From the 1930s a number of polar research and weather stations were established along the route, and large convoys of Soviet ships (assisted by powerful icebreakers) used it to carry much-needed supplies to Eastern Russia.
This all ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. However, recent changes in the sea ice conditions have made the route accessible and sparked renewed interest from commercial shipping companies. Be among the first of the new generation to make this historic and fascinating voyage.
Ship: Akademik Shokalskiy
28 August – 26 Sept 2017 eastbound
Guide price: £18,755 per person based on twin cabin (shared facilities)
“Generally, I think our memories are of experiences rather than particular places – walking or running the Solovetski trails and paths, seeing a beaver while on the rowing boat trip, the long daylight hours and strolls after dinner, the friendly hotel in the Solovetskis (Irina, who seemed to cook, clean and do everything basically was wonderful); the banyas and soups in the Solovetskis; drinks in the courtyard in the Helvetia hotel; the amazingly sunny weather in St Petersburg and appreciating just how much restoration has been done at the palaces; the superb picnic we had on the train on the way up to the islands; The Marriage of Figaro as part of the White Nights Festival; a really great restaurant on the last night called Mechta Molokhovets. We really do love Russia, and the Solovetskis, Kizhi and St Petersburg were all wonderful”
Kenneth Donaldson and Cathy Dean, Solovetski Islands, June 2013
“This was a wonderful trip. Getting there and back was slightly trying, not because of the airlines (both Transaero and Yakutia were good) but because of the length of the flights, the hassle of boarding, stopping over in Irkutsk on the way back, and of course the time changes (3 hours London/Moscow, nearly 9 hours Moscow/Petropavlovsk, and the reverse on the way back. The voyage itself was splendid. There were some early starts and late finishes, a few rather optimistic ‘dry landings’ from zodiacs (I always wore rubber wellingtons and always needed them) and one optimistic ‘walk’ through a pass between bays which involved ploughing through deep/very deep snow for about a mile while on a slope most of the way. But we took these in our stride. We saw tons of wildlife – literally; at least two dozen whales, more than 5,000 hauled-out walruses, about 50 sea-lions, dozens of seals, and at least 15 brown bears. We were successful in finding the spoon-billed sandpiper, and the scientific element of the trip was both enlightening and exciting.”
Chris Meader, In Bering’s wake, in search of the spoon-billed sandpiper, June/July 2011