Join Back Track Adventures trek leader and award winning photographer Damian Caniglia on this unique photographic tour and voyage of a lifetime “Across the top of the World”. You will also be accompanied by our adventure travel consultant Karen O’Dwyer on this epic 15 day voyage departing Nome in Alaska on 31 July 2016.
We are offering this experience either as an expedition voyage only or as a photographic tour from Australia.
Damian will be hosting photo workshops both prior to departure and also throughout the trip to help you develop and master the theoretical aspects of photography.
He will also be on hand to give individual mentoring in all aspects of your photography, with many opportunities in Alaska prior to the expedition and throughout the voyage to put your skills to the test in the hunt for the ultimate photograph.
This is a special itinerary for all keen photographers and lovers of vast landscapes and wildlife, particularly Polar Bear and birds.
You will travel to the most remote corner of the world visited by less than 300 people a year, see Polar, Grizzly and Black bears, amazing landscapes, unique bird and Arctic wildlife and experience the cultural life of the local communities.
This unique expedition journeys through the Bering Strait, travels along the Chukotka coastline, crosses the Arctic Circle and includes the isolated and pristine Wrangel and Herald Islands and a significant section of the wild North Eastern Siberian coastline. This is one of the last great undiscovered wilderness areas in the world and supports the greatest biodiversity of any location in the Arctic.
Day 1: Nome/Anadyr
Arrive in Nome before midday and preferably the previous night. On arrival, you should check in with Bering Air at the Nome Airport who will have details of our charter flight. During this flight you will cross the International Date Line before arriving into Anadyr.
Explore Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka region, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and crew on board the Spirit of Enderby. As we depart you are invited to join the captain, officers and the expedition team on the bridge. The Anadyr estuary is renowned for its Beluga Whales.
Day 2: Anadyrskiy Bay
As we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards the Bering Strait there will be introductory lectures, an introduction to the staff and ship and a series of compulsory briefings and drills. There will also be a chance to relax or enjoy some ‘birding’ with our naturalists and/or settle into ship life and for many of you adjust to the time changes. Late this afternoon we will be in the vicinity of Preobrazheniya Bay where there are some outstanding ‘Bird Cliffs’ which we will Zodiac cruise before dinner.
Day 3: Yttygran, Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands
Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley. Whalebones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. There are many meat pits used for storage and other remains of a busy whaling camp that united several aboriginal villages at a time. In one location, immense Bowhead Whale jawbones and ribs are placed together in a stunning arch formation.
Gray Whales are frequently seen around the island. After landing at Whale Bone Alley we will take the Zodiacs on a whale-watching excursion. We will also cruise close inshore of neighbouring Nuneangan Island (Bird Island) where a large number of seabirds nest.
On nearby Arakamchechen Island there is a prominent walrus haul out; if the animals are present we will land and walk across the tundra to view them from the cliffs.
Day 4: Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village
Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev early this morning. The north-eastern most point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of America from this remote and lonely outpost. It is also an historic landmark named after the Siberian Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific.
A steep scramble from the beach brings you to an abandoned Border Guard base, a monument to Dezhnev and another to all the sailors who have sailed these seas.
Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska lies 89km across Bering Strait. A few nautical miles to the west of Cape Dezhnev we visit Uelen Village; the most north-eastern village in Russia. Archaeological work has revealed that walrus, seal and whale hunters have lived here for over 2,000 years. Today the population is predominantly Chukchi, with some Russians and Inuit. Hunting is still very important but the village is also one of the largest centres for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world.
We will be entertained by villagers and visit the bone-carving workshop during our visit. Sculptures from the bone-carving workshop in Uelen can be found in most of the major museums in Russia.
Day 5: Kolyuchin Island
This small island was once an important Russian Polar Research Station and one of a number dotted across the Arctic. Sadly with the collapse of the USSR there was no money to maintain them and they were abandoned; the buildings are derelict but the wildlife the men studied are still there. Near the abandoned station at the north-western end of the island are some of the most amazing bird cliffs in the Arctic; puffins, guillemots, gulls and cormorants can be observed and photographed from just metres away.
At the south-eastern end of the island there is a prominent walrus haul out, if the animals are present it is one of the easiest places to observe them and get some good photographs.
Days 6 to 10: Wrangel and Herald Islands
Ice and weather conditions permitting, we will spend the next few days on Wrangel Island and if possible we will also include a visit to nearby Herald Island.
Wrangel Island is one of those islands that you have to visit to appreciate. The earliest human occupation is dated 3,200 years BC and it has been established that they were seasonal hunters from Siberia. The island’s presence was speculated about and marked on maps by early Russian explorers but it wasn’t until 1849 that it was ‘rediscovered’ by the British. A Canadian expedition attempted to establish a permanent settlement and claim the island for Canada; they were evicted by the Russians who claimed the island.
Today it is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance. A lot of its significance lies in the fact that it is a major Polar Bear denning area. In fact it is sometimes referred to as a Polar Bear maternity ward on account of the large numbers of pups born there. It is also the last landfall for migratory species flying north. Each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, skuas, Arctic Terns, Ross’s, Sabine and Ivory Gulls.
There are many landings that we can make to search out wildlife, wild flowers and Arctic landscapes. Polar Bears will be high on our list of animals to see and with a little patience we should be rewarded with a number of encounters. Musk Oxen and reindeer were introduced to the island in 1975 and 1948 respectively, though reindeer numbers are low. We also have a chance to visit Dragi Harbour where the survivors of the Karluk which was crushed by ice in 1914 scrambled ashore and lived until they were rescued. If ice conditions permit, we will explore Herald Island to the east of Wrangel Island.
Day 11: North Siberian Coast
Although well mapped and charted, there have been very few Expedition Cruises and consequently there is a lot of scope for expedition landings. Depending on weather and sea conditions we will attempt an expedition landing today. There are several choices, at Cape Vankarem there is a seasonal large walrus haul out, the animals may or may not be present. The area around the Cape is bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous coastal lagoons and inlets; nearby there is a small Chukchi village whose residents still make their living hunting walrus, seals and whales. There is another smaller Chukchi village called Nutepelmen which is situated on a spit at the entrance to Pyngopikhin Lagoon, further west of Cape Vankarem.
Day 12: Kolyuchin Inlet
So huge that it is visible from satellite photos, this inlet contains vast numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders. We concentrate our visit on Belaka spit near the mouth of the inlet.
It is a wild, desolate landscape that is strangely beautiful. We search the dunes and tidal areas for birdlife including Emperor Geese and Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Gray Whales frequent the area and are sometimes spotted feeding only metres offshore.
Day 13: Bering Strait and Chukotka Coast
Early morning we will pass the Diomede Islands, sometimes called Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle because they straddle the International Date Line. Here Russia and America are separated by only 2.3 nautical miles of ocean. We will remain in Russian territory as we cruise south past the islands.
In 1867 when the USA purchased Alaska from Russia the new boundary was drawn between Big (Russian) and Little (USA) Diomede Islands. This makes Big Diomede Island Russia’s eastern-most possession. The island was originally inhabited by Yupik Eskimos but after World War II the native population were relocated to the mainland. Today there are no permanent residents but the Russians maintain a Border Guard station there. It is an important island for birdlife with good numbers of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot and Horned and Tufted Puffin. If the Border Guards grant permission (we have applied for it) we will Zodiac cruise the coast near the station, the bird numbers in this region are spectacular, especially puffins.
Later this afternoon we make an expedition landing on the Chukotka coast our last chance to enjoy the wildlife and tundra landscape.
Day 14: At Sea
Join the staff for an expedition recap and a disembarkation briefing, and then simply relax as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey.
Day 15: Anadyr
After breakfast it will be time to say our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport where we will join our charter flight that will depart Anadyr around midday and, because of the International Date Line will arrive back in Nome on the evening of the previous day. We strongly advise that you do not book any onward travel from Nome until the following day to allow for possible delays in the charter flight.
Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and/or opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.
Back Track Travel has secured special pricing for this voyage:
2016 at 2015 prices!
AUD $13200 – $15800
Please note that there are a limited number of berths available at this price.
Trip Duration: 13 days from Nome
31 July – 14 August 2016
CABIN COSTS* (USD)
Heritage Suite $15800 per person
Mini Suite $15000 per person
Superior Plus $14500 per person
Superior $13700 per person
Main Deck $13200 per person
Local Payment USD $500 per person
Pre/Post cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation, meals and all expedition shore excursions, return charter flight from Nome, Alaska to Anadyr.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights to Nome, visas and travel insurance.
Please contact us to discuss availability.
ADD ON COST
Final details and costs to be confirmed.
Price guide AUD$6500 per person
- Pre-departure weekend photographic workshops, Brisbane
- Workshops and Wildlife photography opportunities in Alaska prior to the voyage
- On-board photographic workshops, tuition and individual mentoring throughout the voyage
- Group flights ex Australia on Qantas, Brisbane to Nome return
- 7 nights accommodation in Alaska, including Anchorage and Nome
- Brown bear, wildlife, fjords and glacier touring whilst in Alaska
Introducing Damian Caniglia,
Damian is a qualified trainer and passionate about helping others get the most from their cameras and their photography while travelling.
Damian has worked with Back Track as a guide and trek leader on the Kokoda Track for 10 years; and has lead and travelled with Back Track in Nepal and Africa.
Having photographed from the jungles of Papua New Guinea, the landscapes and wildlife of Africa to the highest peaks of the Himalaya, Damian continues to build his library of photographs and footage as he travels taking small groups to such exotic locations.