Society Expeditions Cruises
Bridging the Bering Strait
On this exceptional voyage, you'll discover the remote islands of the Bering Sea which lead like stepping-stones to the coastline of the Russian Far East. Journey to the outermost islands of Alaska: the Aleutians, St. Lawrence and the Pribilofs.

This voyage promises to be a true expedition – an exciting journey of discovery filled with wildlife ranging from colonies of seabirds nesting on rugged cliff sides, to the haul-outs of hundreds of walruses, to whales playing in the narrow straits you’ll explore. You’ll also trace the former inhabitants’ roots through archeological and historical sights – from the Russian Orthodox churches of the Pribilof Islands to whaling villages and fur-trading settlements scattered throughout the archipelago. And always at your side will be our hand-chosen lecturers, including historians and ornithologists, who are happy to assist you in identifying a species or offer a more thorough explanation to satisfy your curiosity.

Become immersed in the adventurous history of Arctic exploration in a land where the traditional culture of the Yup’ik Eskimos continues to flourish.

Departures:

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  • June 13 - June 30, 2001
  • July 23 - August 9, 2001*
  • June 20 - July 7, 2002
  • July 7 - August 24, 2002*

Trip Length:

  • 18 Days

Prices:

  • From $7,569 depending upon cabin accomodations. Please send us an email for detailed pricing.
PRICE INCLUDES: Pre- and post-cruise land programs as described in brochures, shipboard gratuities, select alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, shore excursions and port charges.

NOTE: Flights are not included in the cruise / land rates. Society Expeditions offers group flight schedules and special group rates. Single travelers may occupy categories B,C,D and E at 150% of published rate. Other categories are available upon request. The rate for a third person, occupying at stateroom with two full fare guests is available at 50% of published rate. Share accomodations can be arranged on request. Please send us an email for rates for the 2002-2003 season. All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Day by Day Itinerary:

Day 1. Flights to Anchorage, Alaska
Depart home cities for Anchorage. Transfer to our deluxe hotel, where we will overnight.
Day 2. Anchorage to Nome, Alaska
Fly from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. On arrival in Nome, we will take a tour of this former boomtown of the 1899 gold rush. Our tour of this frontier town will conclude at the Nome Mini-Convention Center, where we will have a chance to freshen up or further explore the town independently. In the late afternoon we will transfer to the "New" World Discoverer, where we will board and settle in before enjoying the first of many gourmet dinners onboard.
Day 3. King Island, Bering Sea
Today the "New" World Discoverer will cruise by the remnants of a deserted village on stilts, used for centuries by a small community of native hunters. Grey whales, murres, and kittiwakes are now common residents around this spectacular pinnacled island.
Day 4. Point Hope, Arctic Alaska
Today we head north – very far north – for a visit to the tiny Inuit whaling village of Point Hope, located above the Arctic Circle. Throughout the community, drying racks laden with polar bear and caribou skins may be seen, presenting evidence of the village’s subsistence economy. Local crafts, including baleen baskets and whalebone masks, may be on display. Bird enthusiasts, accompanied by Society Expeditions ornithologists, will search for kittiwakes, Glaucous Gulls, and King Eiders near the surrounding tundra of lyme grass, forget-me-nots, and saxfridges.
Day 5. Ice Cruising, Arctic Alaska
As we reach the edge of the pack ice, we will be searching for walruses and ringed seals, as well as the world’s largest land carnivore, the polar bear. Polar bears are superbly adapted to life on the ice flows and in the water, which has led many scientists to reclassify the species as a marine mammal. With this in mind, scan the surrounding ocean for polar bears – they can swim as much as 60 miles at a stretch! If conditions permit, we will board Zodiacs for tours through the Chuckchi Sea led by your Society Expeditions lecture staff.
Day 6. At Sea
Join Society Expeditions’ natural history staff on deck today to watch for the numerous seabirds that live and feed in the area. These waters are also prime territory for whale watching, which may include humpback, gray, and orca whales exhibiting a variety of behaviors. Several seal species may also be spotted. A full program of lectures will be offered throughout the day.
Day 7. Little Diomede Island, Bering Strait
Little Diomede sits on the edge of the U.S.-Russia border. This steep-sided island is home to hundreds of seabirds, including auklets, murres, and Black-legged Kittiwakes. The "New" World Discoverer will visit Ignaluk, the island’s sole village, and meet some of its residents, who are primarily Inupiak Eskimos. After a tour of the tiny village, we will witness authentic Inupiak dances performed under the direction of village elders.
Day 8. Lorino, Chuckchi Peninsula
Today the "New" World Discoverer will call on the tiny village of Lorino. Our approach to Lorino should provide excellent birding, as the region is dappled with nesting cliffs. The area is also known for its concentration of grey whales. These and other marine mammals are essential to the survival of the villagers of Lorino, who continue an age-old marine subsistence lifestyle. The villagers will welcome us to their home with a cultural performance and village tour.
Day 9. Saint Lawrence Island, Bering Sea, Alaska
In Gambell, we will investigate ancient traditional hunting sites established by the early Yup’ik settlers. Today, Yup’ik culture remains distinct from that of the Aleuts. Islanders here have retained their native tongue, similar to the dialect found in Provideniya, across the Bering Strait. Whalebones, fish-drying racks and umiaks (traditional walrus skin boats) are a regular part of the landscape. We will view traditional local dances, which also bear similarities to those of their Siberian cousins. The fine art of carving walrus ivory has been a part of the Siberian-Yup’ik culture for generations. We may have the unique opportunity to see some of the exquisitely carved pieces and perhaps even witness a carving demonstration.
Day 10. Saint Matthew Island, Alaska
Isolated in the middle of the Bering Sea, this uninhabited island presents a spectacular thousand-foot cliff along gushing grottos filled with hundreds of thousands of seabirds, including puffins, cormorants, Northern Fulmars and Glaucous Gulls. Conditions permitting, we may visit Bull Seal Point for a nature walk. Here the tundra is a mass of wildflowers. Beach walkers may find agates and seashells, while those hiking into the nearby hills may spot the endemic McKay’s Bunting, or the remains of a 6,000-head reindeer herd, which was introduced to the island during World War II, but died out in the 1960s.
Day 11. Saint Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska
Though discovered in 1786, the Pribilofs did not have permanent settlers until 1820, when the Russians relocated Aleuts to the island. We will search the cliffs of Saint Paul for the estimated two million nesting seabirds that inhabit these precipitous environs each year. Guided by our Society Expeditions ornithologist, we should find Horned Puffins, Thick-billed Murres and Crested Auklets in some of the largest seabird colonies in the Western Hemisphere. The Pribilofs also are the site of the world’s largest breeding colonies of northern fur seals. An ecologically controlled visit to their rookery should afford unsurpassed photo opportunities, including large bulls with their harems and newborn pups.
A fascinating visit to the tiny Aleut community reveals the Russian influence still found here, as reflected in the elaborate Orthodox church of Saints Peter and Paul.
Day 12. Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands
As the "New" World Discoverer leaves the Bering Sea, scan the horizon for whales and seabirds, which feed in abundance in these rich, photogenic waters. We will visit Dutch Harbor, the center of Alaska’s offshore crab and halibut industries. We may call on the local school, which houses an incredible array of Aleut artifacts. We will explore World War II bunkers and visit the town’s galleries, which offer fine quality crafts that reflect the town’s ties with the native peoples of the Russian Far East.
Day 13. Unga Island, Shumagin Islands, Aleutian Islands
Today Society Expeditions will explore Unga Spit, located on the northern shore of Unga Island. After landing on a sandy beach, we will have the opportunity to walk along the shore to see the petrified remains of an ancient forest embedded in an exposed bluff. Eagles nest high up on the ridge, while the rolling tundra invites further exploration. After viewing the "forest frozen in stone," we will break into small groups to join our lecture staff on guided walks and hikes throughout the area. Later in the afternoon, we will have an expedition stop on the Kupreanof Peninsula.
Day 14. Chignik Bay, Alaska Peninsula
Today’s explorations will include a landing on the Alaska Peninsula at Chignik Bay, where we will have the opportunity to visit the quaint Alaskan fishing village of Chignik, and embark on a Zodiac tour throughout the surrounding bay with Society Expeditions lecturers. Additional landings and hikes will be offered depending on conditions.
Day 15. Kodiak Island, Uyak Bay, Alaska
We will spend the day exploring the winding waterways and pristine wilderness on and around Kodiak Island, which is renowned for its exceptionally large brown bears. Depending on local conditions, Society Expeditions naturalists will offer a variety of nature walks and/or Zodiac excursions.
Day 16. Kinak Bay and Kukak Bay, Katmai Peninsula, Alaska
The Katmai Peninsula is best known for the 1912 eruption of Novarupta Volcano, which exploded with ten times the force of Mount Saint Helens. The eruption was so powerful that the island of Kodiak, 100 miles distant, was buried under a foot of ash. As the "New" World Discoverer enters Kukak Bay, look for thick layers of ash deposited on the surrounding mountains. Via Zodiac, we will tour under dramatic basalt cliffs covered with alder, lupines, and wild beach peas. Harlequin Ducks, playful river otters, and Bald Eagles are just a few of the species we may see. In addition, Katmai’s secluded bays and calm beaches offer excellent opportunities to search for foraging brown bears and their young cubs during our Zodiac excursions.
Day 17. Chiswell Islands, Kenai Fjords, Alaska
The 650,000-acre Kenai Fjords National Park is dominated by a 700-square mile ice field that spawns hundreds of glaciers. Watch for some of the wildlife for which the Kenai Fjords are famed: brown bears fishing in the streams for salmon; kittiwakes and puffins nesting in the cliff sides; and seals patrolling the shoreline. Expeditionary cruising is the plan of the day as we skirt these verdant shores by both ship and Zodiac. In the afternoon, the "New" World Discoverer will cruise by the remote Chiswell Islands to watch seabirds returning to their nesting grounds. More than 50,000 seabirds, representing eighteen species, nest on the rocky islands. As always, Society Expeditions’ ornithologists will be on hand.
Day 18. Seward, Alaska
We will disembark after breakfast and take a brief tour of the gulf town of Seward. Our tour will include a stop at the fascinating Alaska Sea Life Center. This research, rehabilitation, and education center was built with settlement money from the Valdez oil spill disaster and features a variety of live displays of Alaskan sea life, including puffins, sea lions, and a variety of fish. The tour, which will follow the scenic Seward Highway, will conclude at Anchorage airport, where we will catch homeward bound flights.
Voyage Log Excerpts:
Bridging the Bering Strait Expedition
Date: Thursday, August 5, 1999
Location: Kukak Bay and Kinak Bay

We awoke this morning to calm seas swirled with an elegant fog that quickly burned off to reveal a marvelous sight. Old growth forest slowly released the last of the mist as two immature Bald Eagles soared over the treetops. Many of us lingered on deck while enjoying a light breakfast. Others gazed at the scenery from the windows of the elegant dining room where a hearty breakfast was being served. And then the news came from the bridge: brown bears approximately two miles (three kilometers) to the aft of the World Discoverer. We quickly donned our outdoor gear and headed for the Zodiac bay. In no time at all, seven Zodiacs raced toward the spot that Captain Lampe indicated and we were rewarded by fantastic bear sightings.

After a wonderful morning of wildlife watching, we headed back to the ship for a wonderful lunch followed by a fascinating lecture by Kay Kepler on the ecology of old growth forests.

The World Discoverer arrived in Kinak Bay in the afternoon and we were as ready as ever to jump into the Zodiacs to explore ever further. Enjoying great weather, we had a splendid view of the mountains surrounding Kinak Bay and the volcanic ash deposited on their slopes from the 1912 volcanic eruption. It was truly an amazing sight!

Exploring the inner bay area, we encountered several species of birds, including a flock of Harlequin Ducks. During the Zodiac tour, a mother bear and her two cubs were spotted. This was a great sighting of the teddy bear-like youngsters, who were approximately six months old. They would stay with their mother for two years, at which time their mother will give birth again.

At recap Dick talked about the ash covered hills we’d seen, explaining that this was from the massive 1912 eruption of Mount Katmai. The true culprit was actually a subsidiary volcano deep below Katmai named Nova Rupta. This eruption held ten times the power of Mount Saint Helen’s and sent ash a thousand miles (1,610 kilometers) to the west. We were also amazed to learn from Dick that there are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska –more than the rest of the world combined.

Mark’s bird of the day was actually the bears –what a show! The real birds of the day were Harlequin Ducks, a type of sea duck. Mark informed us of the interesting biology and breeding habits of these impressive birds.

Kay talked about fireweed, one of the most useful plants in the Arctic region. Some parts are edible, some good for waterproofing, some for cordage, caulking and candlewick.

Just before dinner, the World Discoverer reached her anchorage point in Amalik Bay. We had yet another elegant gourmet dinner this evening with fantastic cuisine and impeccable service. During dinner a mother bear and her cub made an appearance very close to the shore. Of course the World Discoverer staff could not resist taking us out to see them up close, so after dinner we hopped into the Zodiacs for a very quick fifteen-minute tour to see the bears that seemed to be unfazed by our presence.

Dreaming of bears, we crept into bed and quickly drifted away for a peaceful night’s sleep in anticipation of an early start in the morning.