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Follow in the footsteps of the Vikings and experience the fascinating Celtic culture before you embark for an adventurous expedition crossing the dynamic North Sea and navigating along magnificent Denmark’s coastline into the magnificent Faroe Islands. The trip will continue to Spitsbergen where you will not only admire majestic landscapes but also encounter unspoilt wildlife such as walruses, reindeer, and a plethora of birdlife as well as iconic polar bears.
Days 1 & 2: Aberdeen - embarkation
Day 3: Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
Days 4 - 6: The Faroe Islands
Days 7 & 8: At sea
Day 9: Jan Mayen
Days 10 & 11: At sea
Days 12 - 15: Svalbard
Day 16: Longyearbyen - disembarkation
Arrive in Aberdeen and spend the night at a hotel, get yourself acquainted with the city and enjoy a welcome briefing in the evening. The next day, you'll transfer to the pier where your expedition team welcome you aboard the Greg Mortimer at approximately 4.00 pm. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before important briefings. The ship will set sail for the Orkney Islands in the evening and you'll get to meet your expedition team and crew at Captain's Welcome Dinner.
Discover the rich history in Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands. Initial impressions are misleading, as the harbour area looks modern, but the narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, which have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries are appealing. Explore magnificent St Magnus Cathedral built from red and white sandstone and considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland before popping across the road to Tankerness House and Gardens, a restored 16th-century former manse, now housing the Orkney Museum featuring archaeological artefacts from Neolithic times to the Vikings. The exhibition is a great way to whet your appetite for the archaeological gems you will find on the mainland including the unique and well-preserved 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village of Skara Brae.
In the middle of the North Atlantic, barely visible on most world maps, you will find the Faroe Islands, an archipelago consisting of 18 islands with a population of only 50,000. The Faroe Islands are built up of layers of volcanic basalt and are tilted with the eastern shores sloping into the sea and the western coasts rising up in soaring and spectacular cliffs. With their breathtaking beauty, steep mountains covered in soft green grass, deep fjords, long summer nights, unique culture, and humble, friendly and welcoming people, the islands are the perfect destination for travellers wanting something dramatically different from the mainstream.
Discover a few of the gems of the Faroe Islands including Tórshavn, Kirkjubour, Mykines and Vestmanner. In Torshavn, possibly the smallest capital in the world, wander the narrow streets of this windswept town, built on a hillside with colourful contemporary houses and old traditional timber dwellings all painted red and with characteristic grass roofs, white-framed windows and black wood. You may see the oddest array of sheep lining the steep hillsides - black ones, brown ones and even piebald ones! Perhaps catch a glimpse of Faroese ponies with their spectacular flaxen manes and coats varying from a palomino colour to rich chestnut. The town’s history can be traced back to around 900 AD when the first Viking settlers arrived here by longboat from Norway.
Enjoy sailing to Jan Mayen Island accompanied by sea birds while keeping a lookout for whales. Enjoy a presentation from your team of experts, get to know your fellow expeditioners, stay fit at the gym or treat yourself to a massage in the wellness centre
The approach to Jan Mayen is spectacular. The huge Beerenberg volcano (2,277 m/ 7,470 ft altitude) is the world’s northernmost active volcano and last erupted in 1985. The northern part of the island is a great place to look for whales and dolphins and contains impressive glaciers, some of which reach the sea. If the weather is friendly, we will try to land at Kvalrossbukta, a relatively sheltered bay on the island’s west coast. This is one of the landings used to supply the weather station Olonkinbyen, situated on the eastern side of the island. You will land in front of the Norwegian station at Olonkinbyen, (weather permitting) and stop to visit the weather station before embarking on a three-hour hike (weather permitting) to the other side of the Island where the Greg Mortimer will be waiting for us in Kvalrossbukta, and our trusty Zodiacs will transport us back to the ship.
The sea around Jan Mayen offers excellent whale-watching opportunities (bottlenose, fin, and perhaps bowhead whales in the pack ice). Sail towards Svalbard, searching for the ice edge as your ship continues north, retracing the route of Dutch explorer Willem Barents who discovered Spitsbergen and the Barents Sea, named after him. You may see harp seal pups on the pack ice growing quickly, while their mothers hunt for food. As we approach Svalbard, all eyes will be focused on spotting polar bears in the pack ice.
Svalbard offers unspoiled, raw arctic wilderness at its best. With majestic mountains of jagged peaks, iridescent sea ice, countless glaciers and superb wildlife-viewing opportunities. Your experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design your voyage from day to day, choosing the best options based on the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.
Cruise along phenomenal fjords stretching towards magnificent mountain ranges discover a polar desert with creamy coloured slabs of rock, rich in fossils, hear heroic tales of early explorers contrasted with visits to cultural remains from the time of European whaling mainly Russian and Norwegian, witness walrus colonies hauled-out on sea ice or on beaches. While ashore you'll aim to stretch your legs, hiking on lush tundra where brightly-coloured summer wildflowers and lichen grow, and where reindeer graze, observe the towering cliffs alive with nesting sea birds, including Svalbard’s largest little auk colony. Without a doubt, you will want to encounter the majestic polar bear on pack ice, and the expedition team are just as keen as you to find them— they are on constant watch to spot these dazzling creatures.
During the early morning, your ship will cruise back into Longyearbyen. Bid farewell to your expedition team and enjoy a town tour before transferring to the airport in the afternoon for your onward journey
The Greg Mortimer is named after the Australian polar explorer, mountaineer and Aurora founder, Greg Mortimer. Its the first ship in a series of landmark, purpose-built Polar Expedition ships for Aurora and features a state-of-the-art 'x-bow design', which has a piercing effect on smaller waves, making for a much smoother voyage.
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