Depart home cities for
Anchorage. Transfer to our deluxe hotel, where we will overnight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.