Introducing Scenic Eclipse - The World's First Discovery Yachts

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Arctic

Spitzbergen-Svalbard

First things first. Spitsbergen is the name of the main island, whereas, Svalbard is the official name of the whole archipelago which is roughly the size of Ireland.

The Svalbard archipelago is currently under Norwegian administration and sovereignty, but citizens of all signatory nations have full access as per the Spitzbergen Treaty, whose intention is to protect the environment and the cultural heritage.

Situated some 600 miles south of the North Pole, and considering its latitude of 78°N, the Svalbard archipelago has a surprisingly mild climate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream.

The climate is accordingly high arctic with a strong maritime component. Temperature fluctuations in summer are moderate. Temperatures below freezing are rare between late June and early August, normally ranging from 4°C to 6°C. You will need a windproof jacket (provided on board) and woollen underwear, as well as mittens and a hat. In the summer, snow and ice melting leads to increased levels in rivers and streams. You will need rubber boots or mountain boots and gaiters for crossings.

In a Polar Summer, day and night becomes one in the High Arctic, and the light is the same around the clock. The four months of the Midnight Sun affects the circadian or biological clock of humans and animals alike, and it's easy for both two and four-legged to lose track of time during this magical time of year.

Within this dramatic land of rugged mountains, awe-inspiring glaciers, vast icecaps and endless open tundra studded with wildflowers, Spitsbergen is, quite simply, spectacular.

Summer heralds a virtual miracle of nature. The archipelago is invaded by birds which migrate there in vast numbers to nest. The waters surrounding the archipelago are very nutritious and offer a plentiful supply of food. An abundance of walruses, seals and whales enter the fjords of Svalbard, attracted by the feast on offer in the cold waters by the ice edge.

There are only three species of large mammal on Spitsbergen - polar bear, reindeer and Arctic fox. The chance of a sighting of any of these species is good but can never be guaranteed. However, marine species are more plentiful and include walrus, ring, harp and bearded seal, white-nose dolphin, narwhal and orca. Belugas, fin and other whale species are also commonly sighted in the waters around Svalbard. In addition, over 100 types of birds, such as guillemots, kittiwakes and Little Auks thrive here, despite the high latitude.

Russian White Sea

For those with a desire to explore, a journey to the once forbidden area of the Russian White Sea would seem to be a must.

Located in the far northwest of Russia, the rarely visited White Sea is an inlet of the Barents Sea and contains a number of important ports as well as the Solovetsky Islands, where the famous Solevetsky Monastry is situated.

The waters surrounding these islands are home to the Beluga Whale, where there are an estimated population of up to 1500.

Harp, Ringed and Bearded seals are also found in the area as well as numerous bird species.

The natural diversity of the Sea is high. It is inhabited by about 60 species of fish, including Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon (introduced by humans), cod, herring, plaice, etc. In summer, Atlantic and Pacific Salmon swim up the rivers of the Kola Peninsula and Karelia to spawn. The birds are represented by various species of terns, gulls, eider, greenshank and oyster catchers as well as birds of prey such as White-tailed Eagle, migrating geese and ducks.

In the 17th century, the city of Arkhangelsk was immensely important as Russia's only seaport, the home of Russia's first Navy and the centre of the country's maritime trade. Although the founding of St.Petersburg in 1703 lessened Arkhangelsk's importance, it later became a centre for Arctic exploration and a core of the northern lumber industry as well as a crucial supply point during the 20th century world wars. More recently, it became an important Soviet naval and submarine base.

Revolution, war and communism have all left their mark on Archangel and the fascinating history is reflected in its monuments, museums and churches. One such interesting monument is a captured British tank used in an unsuccessful invasion by Allied troops in September 1918, a year after the Russian revolution.

Having been occupied by allied troops during the Russian revolution, Murmansk would go on to play a crucial role working jointly with those same countries that invaded in 1918.

During World War II, Murmansk was the key link with the Western world for Russia, since the harbour did not freeze in the winter. War supplies could be landed there and then shipped via the Karelian railway into Russia It took a dedicated effort on the part of the British and US navy's and merchant marines to keep the convoys of war supplies going to Russia as the Germans used submarines, surface warships such as the Tirpitz, airplanes and short batteries based in Norway to try and stop the Murmansk convoys.There was also the fierce Arctic weather to contend with. This made the Murmansk convoys, especially in the early years of the war, extremely hazardous duty.

In 1941, the German army, with some Finnish help, launched an offensive against Murmansk in attempt to capture the city. The intent was to secure the German left flank during the invasion of Russia and also to cut off the flow of war supplies to Russia (see below the Murmansk convoys). However, fierce Soviet resistance in brutal weather conditions prevented the Germans from capturing the city and from cutting off the vital railway line. The city of Murmansk was almost entirely destroyed in the process.

After the war, Murmansk became the Soviet Union's most important submarine base.

The impressive Alyosha Statue commemorating Soviet casualties during World War 2

Scenic Eclipse Arctic departures

title departs returns days route notes
Baltic Tradewinds Route 9 June 2020 20 June 2020 12 Amsterdam to Copenhagen Hotel on arrival included details
The Arctic in Depth 2 July 2020 14 July 2020 13 Oslo to Oslo Hotel on arrival and departure included details

Iceland

With its spectacular landscape of waterfalls, glaciers, spurting geysers and mud pools, together with its warm and welcoming people and lively cultural scene, Iceland manages to offer something for everyone.

It is home to a progressive and peaceful nation that has formed a modern society where freedom and equality are the most important qualities.

Iceland continuously ranks near the top of measurements for quality of life, gender equality, and democracy, and is one of the highest ranked countries in the world regarding health care, education and life expectancy.

Forged by volcanic eruptions around 18 million years ago, Iceland is the youngest landmass in Europe. About one-third larger than Scotland or Ireland, it is the continent's least densely-populated country with about 330,000 inhabitants, half of whom live in Reykjavík - the world's most northerly capital - and the immediate surrounding area.

A land of extreme geological contrasts and known as "The Land of Fire and Ice," Iceland is home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world's most active volcanoes, which constantly pump out 75-degree water through one of 800 hot springs. From an energy point of view, this is great - some 85 per cent of the country's homes are heated naturally by geothermal water - and from a visitor's point of view, there are a plethora of "hot pots" in which to take a dip.

Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with near 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only a few hours of daylight. Although the average July temperature is 13°C, Iceland's summers can be surprisingly warm, with endless daylight hours in which to explore the country and experience the many activities on offer.

During the summer months in particular, Icelandic shores become a veritable feeding ground for multiple species of large marine mammals, giving visitors a chance to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Over 20 species of Cetacea - including the Orca, Minke, Humpback, and Blue Whale - can be seen in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans on either side of the island.

Scenic Eclipse Icelandic departures

title departs returns days route notes
Iceland and Canada 15 August 2019 28 August 2019 14 Reykjavik to Quebec City details
Iceland Explorer 25 July 2020 4 August 2020 11 Reykjavik to Reykjavik Hotel on arrival included details

Greenland

Greenland is the world's largest island extending way into the Arctic Circle and spanning the equivalent distance of Scotland to the Sahara.

Although it is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it was granted limited self-government effective in 1979, with its own parliament. Recently, it voted for more autonomy, in effect making it a separate country with only formal ties to Denmark. Some inhabitants are now projecting the eventual road to full independence, however Copenhagen remains responsible for all its foreign affairs and, of course, is the main source of investment.

Denmark contributes two thirds of Greenland's budget revenue, the rest coming mainly from fishing. Potential oil, gas and rare earth mineral reserves have recently attracted prospecting firms.

The world's biggest non-continental island has the world's sparsest population with around 57,000 resilient inhabitants living at the edge of the habitable world, spread over 836,000 square miles, about a third of the population living in the capital Nuuk.

A mix of native Inuit (Eskimo) and Europeans, principally of Danish descent. 90% of the population live in scattered settlements along the west coast, stretching from the stunning Disko Bay area to more rural Narsarsuaq, in the south.

In the north, Greenland has some of the fastest-moving glaciers in the world, including the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica, the Sermeq Kujalleq. At 10km wide and 1,000m thick, it's enormous. Reaching the sea in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ilulissat Icefjord, on the west coast, the glacier produces more than 10% of the icebergs in Greenland, corresponding to 20 million tonnes of ice per day.

Eastern Greenland is the island's most isolated region, with its remote coastal communities demonstrating traditional ways of life that are now long past in other areas of the country. Here, you'll find the remains of Thule winter houses, once inhabited by the ancestors of Greenland's indigenous people. The region is also home to the world's largest fjord complex, Ittoqqortoormiit (formerly known as Scoresbysund), and Iceberg Alley, where majestic 'bergs tower above sea level.

Scattered along Greenland's west coast are dozens of photogenic little villages of colourfully painted wooden cottages, plus a few small towns as well as the capital, Nuuk.

In the south, there's an appealing sprinkling of emerald-lawned sheep farms.

Culturally, the unique blend of Inuit and Danish blood has produced a Greenlandic society all of its own.

Greenland in summer is glorious, the midnight sun bringing 24-hour daylight to the island. Once the snow melts, pack ice breaks up and giant icebergs drift through the fjords, migratory birds arrive to breed and miniature wildflowers dot the tundra with colour.

Humpback whales frequent the fjord, whilst polar bears emerge from their winter hibernation. Walruses, reindeer and sea eagles add to this magical period.

By summer's end, tiny lowbush blueberries and crowberries ripen as dwarf birch turns to gold and russet.

Scenic Eclipse Greenland departures

title departs returns days route notes
Across the Northwest Passage 14 August 2020 6 September 2020 24 Kangerlussuaq to Nome Hotel on arrival and departure included details

Norwegian Fjords

It isn't difficult to fall in love with the Norwegian fjords. The scenery is packed full of picture-postcard sights, carved out of glaciers and seawater, it's impossible to describe the magnitude of this spectacular part of the world.

Experiencing the presence of these magnificent fjords, with their cascading waterfalls and dramatic snow-capped mountains, from the deck of the world's first discovery yacht, will be a memory to cherish forever.

Itineraries on Scenic Eclipse Norwegian Fjord cruises include Geiranger, Sogne and Hardanger fjords as well as Tromso on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

The magnificent Norwegian Fjords

Scenic Eclipse Norwegian Fjord departures

title departs returns days route notes
Baltic Tradewinds Route 9 June 2020 20 June 2020 12 Amsterdam to Copenhagen Hotel on arrival included details