The Chukotka region is one of 83 regions which make up the Russian Federation, officially known as the Chukotka Autonomous Region, it was the last part of Siberia to be ‘conquered' or ‘subdued' by the Cossack invaders from the west. The indigenous people of this region include Chukchi, Inuit, Even, Koryak, Chuvan and Yukaghir, the non native inhabitants are predominately Russian. The Soviet regime initially treated these indigenous people well, but the collapse of the Communist regime in the early 1990s spelt disaster for the people as they had become dependent upon the state. The election of Roman Abramovich as Governor of Chukotka in December 2000 changed the course of its history. His vision, generosity and leadership gave the people hope, and today Chukotka is taking its rightful place in the Russian Federation. It is rich in natural resources and wildlife is abundant, but like all Arctic fauna, it is under pressure because of significant climate change.
North of Chukotka where the Chukchi Sea meets the Arctic Ocean lies the nature reserve and World Heritage site, Wrangel Island, which has outstanding wildlife values. Sometimes referred to as a Polar Bear Maternity Ward, because of the high density of denning Polar Bears, it is one of those islands that never disappointments those who are keen on natural history or enthusiasts of Arctic history. As the ice retreats each summer (further and faster than ever before) Polar Bears come ashore and we see good numbers of these, likewise walrus find refuge here each summer normally in large numbers. Birds like Snow Geese and Snowy Owls also breed here. And of course Wrangel Island is central to the story of the wreck of the Karluk and other Arctic exploration stories.
On this special Chukotka expedition we will meet the people; see and listen to their stories and learn of their love for and strong connection with the land and the sea. We will celebrate with them at their annual Regatta and Festival. We will explore the vast expansive tundra with its wild flowers and dwarf tree species and we will watch for brown bears, reindeer, Arctic Foxes, ground squirrels, if we are lucky we may also see a Wolverine. We will explore Wrangel Island with its Polar Bears, walrus and rich Arctic history and at sea we will keep a look out for whales.
All expedition members will arrive in Anadyr, the administrative capital of Chukotka. Depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr before boarding the vessel. We will sail in the late afternoon for Egvekinot.
This small town was built by Gulag prisoners as a port to supply the rich Lul’tin mining complex some 200km inland, they were then forced to construct a road to the mine. We explore the town which has an excellent museum and plan to travel by Ural to explore along the road towards Lul’tin and into the tundra to gain an appreciation of this unique Arctic landscape close to the Arctic Circle.
Across Kresta Bay from Egvekinot is the small reindeer herding village of Konergino. Reindeer herding is still an important part of the indigenous people’s culture and economy, the practice has remained largely unchanged over the centuries and revolves around ‘brigades’ looking after large herds of reindeer out on the tundra. Today is an introduction to and an opportunity to understand this industry/practice.
We will be cruising along the south coast of Chukotka today and we will take the opportunity to stop at Presbrazhenya Bay. We Zodiac cruise the spectacular bird cliffs which could provide great photographic opportunities. There will also be a chance to land at a hunting camp at the nearby village of Nunligren.
The significant and intriguing archaeological site of ‘Whale Bone Alley’ on Yttygran Island dates to the 14th century, its origins and purpose have been the cause of much debate. Whalebones stretch along the beach in the form of a pathway for nearly half a kilometre and Gray Whales are frequently seen in the vicinity. This afternoon we intend to make a landing at the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs.
We plan to be here for Day One of the annual Beringia Regatta and Festival which includes whaleboat and Baidara (traditional walrus skin covered boats) races as well as cultural group performances. It is one of the most colourful festivals in the Chukotka calendar and attracts people from all around the region. There will be a range of activities at the Regatta and Festival and local foods for you to sample. This is a festival that gets to the very heart and soul of the people, their culture and their land.
Sea conditions permitting, we plan to will land at Cape Dezhnev early this morning, the north-eastern most point of the Eurasian continent. This cape commemorates the accomplishment of the Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who was the first European to sail through this strait in 1648 (80 years before Bering did). A short distance south of the cape is the former Inuit settlement of Naukan, as the relocation was fairly recent there is a wealth of historic data and photographs that make a visit to this site even more poignant.
Relax as we navigate towards Wrangel Island.
Due to climate change in recent years Wrangel Island is becoming ice free earlier and earlier with huge ramifications for the wildlife (especially the Polar Bears) that rely on the ice. Weather conditions permitting there should still be some ice around the island where wildlife will be concentrated. There should also be opportunities to land and to explore the tundra to look for species which breed here. We have allowed three days on and around the island to take advantage of whatever conditions we encounter. We will be utilising the local knowledge of the Park Rangers to make multiple landings as well as spending some time ice cruising looking for Polar Bears.
This morning we will come to anchor at tiny Kolyuchin Island, at certain times of the year when the ice recedes large numbers of walrus haul out on the island. At the western end of the island is the remains of a Polar Research Station which was only abandoned in the 1990s. Nearby are some amazing bird cliffs, it is possible to get magnificent views (and photographs) of puffins and guillemots as they come and go from their nests. The only thing that will stop us from landing here are Polar Bears, if they are ashore we will Zodiac cruise the bird cliffs for equally good views of the birds. This afternoon we will cruise to nearby Kolyuchin Inlet, a massive tidal estuary and ideal habitat for many bird species, it is early enough in the season for the majority of them to either be on nests or have young. It is an easy landing with lots of opportunity for hiking, exploring and photography.
As we make our way back to Anadyr we will recap the many experiences we have enjoyed on this special Chukotka expedition.
After breakfast passengers will be taken ashore, a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel will conclude the expedition.
Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private washbasin. Shared shower and toilet facilities nearby with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole.
One bunk (one upper and one lower berth), writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
Separate bedroom with a double bed and a single bed or sofa in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Mini Suites have windows.
Large lounge area, separate bedroom with double bed, single bed in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe, drawers, and fridge. There is a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Large forward and side facing windows with great views.
Local Payment: 500 USD pp
Spirit of Enderby/Shokalskiy
Vessel Type: Expedition
Length: 72 metres
Passenger Capacity: 50
Built / refurbished: 1984 / 2004
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in November 2004 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800’s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
a) our fleet of RIB’s, (rigid inflatable boats) sometimes referred to as zodiacs. These extremely safe and stable craft will land you at some of the most amazing places.
Some departures are on the SHOKALSKIY - the sister ship to the SPIRIT OF ENDERBY