The Arctic is a vast ocean ringed with islands and the icy frontiers of Scandinavia’s North Cap, Russia, Canada and Alaska. In winter. the ice sea reaches out and connects with islands like Greenland, Jan Meyen, the Svalbard Archipelago and is not far from the Northern shores of Iceland. In summer, everything changes and the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic Islands become a wildlife haven and an outdoor enthusiast and photographers dream.
Mention the Arctic Regions and many think of heroic expeditions to reach the poles on foot or the historic attempts of sailing ships to find a route through the North West Passage. As Global warning accelerates, the Arctic is beginning to look very different. In summer new sailing grounds are opening up, and routes that were once perilous for non-ice breaking ships are starting to look more possible.
When the sun is out and the tundra flowers and mosses are soft underfoot it feels like a magical holiday but this is remote wilderness where crews need to be vigilant and self-sufficient at sea and ashore.
The whole East Greenland coast is cut off by sea ice for much or the year, but in the Arctic summer the ice breaks up and there are a vast number of glacier carved fjords that can be explored. The Inuit settlements are sparse so you need a self-sufficient expedition ship to navigate the wilderness. At latitude 70 degrees North lies an extensive fjord system known as Scoresby Sound, with the tiny village of Ittoqqortoormiit at the head of 350km of spectacular cruising ground. Mountain ranges, tundra vegetation and flowers, distant views of the Greenland Icecap and huge glaciers carve the landscape.
Far up inside the Arctic Circle, is Longyearbyen on Svalbard, midnight can be like noon on a midsummer day, while in the Lofoten Islands at Nordkapp (North Cape) or Scoresby Sound the light is suggestive of early evening, with warm, golden tones over the sea. Further south, though, where the sun peeks between the mountain tops and is only just above the horizon at midnight, you get the wonderful pink sunsets.
Sailing like in the Arctic?
High pressure over Greenland in the summer creates still, stable conditions which is great for nature lovers and sun seekers. Further South Iceland receives its fair share of depressions tracking from the West so there is no shortage of sailing winds. In fjords of Svalbard or East Greenland there are fickle winds if you have time to play with the sails, but when there is a lot of ice to weave around then the ships motor may come into play (Opal has a silent electric engine.)
You steer our sailing ships and keep a lookout out on the open deck, but the professional crew will adapt the time on duty to match the conditions, and unlike the early 20th century explorers you have nice warm deckhouses or saloons to escape to.