CHUKOTKA Russian Arctic Wrangel Island

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The Chukotka region of the Russian Far East was the last part of Siberia to be ‘conquered' by the Cossack invaders from the west. The indigenous peoples resisted fiercely, only succumbing in the late nineteenth century. The Soviet regime initially treated them well, but the collectivisation and de-nomadisation policies of the 1930s and ‘40s cut to the very heart of the nomadic lifestyle which they had practiced for centuries and they found it difficult to adjust.

Because of its strategic position, being so close to the USA, the region was very heavily militarised during the Cold War. At one stage military personnel even outnumbered indigenous people. The collapse of the Communist regime in the early 1990s spelt disaster for the people, as they had become dependent upon the state. The election of Roman Abramovich as Governor of Chukotka in December 2000 changed the course of its history. His vision, generosity and leadership gave the people hope and today Chukotka is taking its rightful place in the Russian Federation. It is rich in natural resources and wildlife is abundant.

The people are adjusting to their new world, but it is not easy for many of them, torn between the present realities and their traditional lifestyles which served their ancestors so well. On this special Chukotka expedition we will meet the people, we will see and hear their stories and learn of their love for and strong connection with the land and the sea. We will celebrate with them at the annual Beringia Regatta and Festival and go in search of the special wildlife which inhabits the region. One species we will be particularly interested to see is the Spoon-billed Sandpiper which is close to extinction. This voyage will incorporate an international effort to search for this bird in the areas we visit. We will explore the vast expansive tundra with its wild flowers and dwarf tree species and we will watch for brown bears, reindeer, arctic foxes, ground squirrels and if we are lucky we may also see a wolverine. At sea we will look out for whales and walrus and if ice conditions are suitable, search for polar bears. These are what make Chukotka so uniquely different and so deserving of this special Chukotka expedition.

Opportunities for Cooperation Following the Creation of National Park "Beringia" in Chukotka, Russia On January 17, 2013, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree creating the Russian National Park "Beringia," in the Russian North East region of Chukotka. See more

We look forward to travelling with you on this Chukotka experience and know that you will gain a greater understanding of the people and the place where Russia's day begins. Click map to enlarge

NOTE 1 : You can join this expedition either in Anadyr or in Nome, Alaska. Those starting in Nome will fly by a Heritage Expeditions charter flight to Anadyr and will join the ship and the expedition members who have travelled direct to Anadyr.

Day 0: Nome
For those departing Nome, Alaska your journey begins with a flight across the Bering Sea and International Date Line, to the remote port of Anadyr.

Day 1: Anadyr

We join the Spirit of Enderby in Anadyr this afternoon and will depart in the evening. After sailing there will be introductions and safety briefings.
Day 2: Egvekinot
This small town was built by Gulag prisoners as a port to supply the rich Lul’tin mining complex some 200km inland, they were then forced to construct a road to the mine. We explore the town which has an excellent museum and plan to travel by Ural to explore along the road towards Lul’tin and into the tundra to gain an appreciation of this unique Arctic landscape close to the Arctic Circle.

Day 3: Konergino
Across Kresta Bay from Egvekinot is the small reindeer herding village of Konergino. Reindeer herding is still an important part of the indigenous people’s culture and economy, the practice has remained largely unchanged over the centuries and revolves around ‘brigades’ looking after large herds of reindeer out on the tundra. Today is an introduction to and an opportunity to understand this industry/practice.

Day 4: Presbrazhenya Bay
We will be cruising along the south coast of Chukotka today and we will take the opportunity to stop at Presbrazhenya Bay. We Zodiac cruise the spectacular bird cliffs which could provide great photographic opportunities. There will also be a chance to land at a hunting camp at the nearby village of Nunligren.

Day 5: Whale Bone Alley and Gil’mimyl Hot Springs
The significant and intriguing archaeological site of ‘Whale Bone Alley’ on Yttygran Island dates to the 14th century, its origins and purpose have been the cause of much debate. Whalebones stretch along the beach in the form of a pathway for nearly half a kilometre and Gray Whales are frequently seen in the vicinity. This afternoon we intend to make a landing at the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs.

Days 6: Novoye Chaplino/Beringa Festival and Providenyia
Our visit is timed to coincide with the annual Beringia Regatta and Festival. It is one of the most colourful festivals in Chukotka and attracts people from all around the region. Lavrentiya bay was named by Captain James Cook who visited on St Laurence’s day in 1778.We stay at anchor overnight to enjoy all the action over two days of this multi day event. We will also visit the town of Provideniya, formerly an important military town and port in the Russian Far East. Today it is only a shadow of its former self but it has an excellent museum.

Visit a page of images related to this festival

Day 7: Cape Dezhnev

This morning we plan a landing at Cape Dezhnev. The name celebrates the Cossack Semyon Dezhnev who in 1648 is believed to be the first European to sail through Bering Strait. Nearby are the fascinating remains of the abandoned Inuit village of Naukan. The inhabitants were relocated in the 1950s because it was thought they posed a security risk.  Images Cape Dezhnev.

Day 8: At Sea
Relax as we navigate towards Wrangel Island.

Days 9 to 11: Wrangel Island
Due to climate change in recent years Wrangel Island is becoming ice free earlier and earlier with huge ramifications for the wildlife (especially the Polar Bears) that rely on the ice. Weather conditions permitting there should still be some ice around the island where wildlife will be concentrated. There should also be opportunities to land and to explore the tundra to look for species which breed here. We have allowed three days on and around the island to take advantage of whatever conditions we encounter. We will be utilising the local knowledge of the Park Rangers to make multiple landings as well as spending some time ice cruising looking for Polar Bears.

Day 12: Kolyuchin Island / Kolyuchin Inlet
This morning we will come to anchor at tiny Kolyuchin Island, at certain times of the year when the ice recedes large numbers of walrus haul out on the island. At the western end of the island is the remains of a Polar Research Station which was only abandoned in the 1990s. Nearby are some amazing bird cliffs, it is possible to get magnificent views (and photographs) of puffins and guillemots as they come and go from their nests. The only thing that will stop us from landing here are Polar Bears, if they are ashore we will Zodiac cruise the bird cliffs for equally good views of the birds. This afternoon we will cruise to nearby Kolyuchin Inlet, a massive tidal estuary and ideal habitat for many bird species, it is early enough in the season for the majority of them to either be on nests or have young. It is an easy landing with lots of opportunity for hiking, exploring and photography.

Amphitheatre seats for sea cliff bird views   Abandoned polar research station

Days 13 to 14: At Sea

We are at sea all day today. There will be lectures and presentations and it will also be a chance to catch up on notes, diaries and to download photographs.

Look down The Tundra carpet A pallet of colour and shapes

Day 15: Anadyr

You will wake this morning as we enter the Port of Anadyr. After breakfast you will be taken ashore either to the airport if you have a flight out today or to the town if you have chosen to stay on for a few extra days.  More images of Anadyr.

To allow time for disembarkation procedures we do not recommend booking flights before 13:00hrs.

Enquire for a full itinerary as space does not permit us to include a full list of species that maybe seen or describe activities in detail.


Notes About Chukotka

Notes about the land/ice bridge between Chukotka and Alaska

Mammoths and the Tundra

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