Life in the Arctic & when’s best to go

Antarctica is a continent surrounded by ocean, the Arctic an ocean surrounded by continents – and you can explore them all on our ultra-luxury Discovery Yacht Scenic Eclipse.
On the European continent, enjoy Norwegian fjords and photogenic fishing villages; Svalbard’s colourful tundra, reindeer, polar bears and walrus; Greenland’s spectacular icebergs and glacier-carved valleys, musk ox and paleo-Eskimo camps. Discover Iceland’s awe-inspiring waterfalls, Viking heritage, evocative volcanic landscapes and rejuvenating thermal pools.

The North American continent includes Canada’s historic Northwest Passage, first navigated successfully by Roald Amundsen, with towering seabird cliffs, pods of ghostly beluga whales and the rare chance to see narwhals. Transit through Bering Strait to Alaska’s mountainous coast and share British Columbia’s Inside Passage with breaching humpbacks.

Explore the Asian continent and discover the Russian Far East, including the Kurils, an island chain of volcanoes, incredible sea stacks, millions of seabirds and pods of orcas, that stretches from Japan to Kamchatka Peninsula. The Pacific Rim of Fire continues north along Kamchatka’s magnificent coastline, where brown bears and Steller’s sea eagles feed on salmon and beaches echo with the roar of sea lions. Chukotka forms the northwest corner of Asia, a wilderness of captivating beauty, where Chukchi reindeer herders bring their herds to the coast to sip seawater, bears climb cliffs to steal seabird eggs, and protected bays resound with the blows of bowhead, grey, humpback and orca whales.
Across the top of the Asian continent is the legendary Northeast Passage, until recently the domain of nuclear-powered icebreakers for most of the year, but thanks to climate change, can be ice-free in summer. From Wrangel Island, with the world’s highest density of polar bear dens, traverse the Arctic Ocean, setting foot in places few people have ever visited including the Medvedie and Novosibirskie Islands, Severnaya and Novaya Zemlyas and Franz Joseph Land. These are wild places, inhabited by polar bears, walrus, seabirds like tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets, and Russian scientists who live in weather-worn stations left over from the Cold War.

No matter which continent you choose, one other significant difference between the Antarctic and the Arctic are the polar bears. Marine mammals that spend most of their lives on Arctic Ocean sea ice, they hunt seals, walrus, even whales in the frigid waters and come ashore to give birth to their cubs.

Whenever we enter of Ice Bear’s domain, your specialist Discovery Team expedition leader and members carry bear deterrents ranging from rifles and flare pistols to pepper spray (depending on local regulations). Landing areas will be carefully marked with flags showing the limits of where you can go. Whether on land or on the ship, your safety is our priority.

As well as Arctic destinations, here are some seasonal highlights to help you decide which voyage to choose:

Early summer (June to Early July)

On seabird cliffs of Norway, Kuril Islands and Kamchatka, puffins, gannets and guillemots feed chicks. Humpback whales follow the Gulf Stream north along the Norwegian coast, while fast ice breaks out of the
deeper fjords. Snow free areas across the Arctic attract migratory birds, and polar bears and cubs emerge from dens.

Midsummer (Mid July to Early August)

Millions of migratory birds fill flyways in Europe, North America and Asia. Seabird cliffs are noisy with growing chicks. Algal blooms attract ringed, bearded and harp seals. On Wrangel Island and across Canada, polar bears teach cubs to hunt. Spectacular Arctic wildflowers bloom and walrus crowd ice floes as polar bears stalk seals in pack ice around Svalbard. Long days make Iceland an ideal to destination for photographers.

Late summer (Mid August to Early September)

Open waters unlock the Northwest and Northeast Passages, giving access to polar bears hunting seals and walrus in pack ice. Narwhals begin to gather for winter off Baffin Island. Humpback, bowhead, grey and beluga whales feed off continental coasts before migrating south. Shorebirds and seabirds complete their moult and prepare to head south as well. Arctic foxes scour the base of seabird cliffs in search for late-season chicks. Warm daytime temperatures encourage spectacular calving of glacier fronts, tundra walks turn up ripe berries and sunsets begin to light up the evening sky.