An expedition to this remote and rarely visited archipelago in the Russian high Arctic requires special permission. Just one ship operator can take you there – Poseidon Expeditions
Strictly off-limits for visitors since before the Cold War – even for Russian citizens – Franz Josef Land has been seen by only a small number of travellers. The scenic, geographic and wildlife treasures that abound on this formerly secretive archipelago of more than 190 islands lay undiscovered and unappreciated for many years. Even today, travelling to the isolated archipelago requires
a special permit.
So, what is so special about a voyage to Franz Josef Land?
Unique polar ecosystem
In recent years, this remote archipelago has been designated a nature sanctuary, and is included in the Russian Arctic National Park system. Boasting primeval landscapes of incomparable beauty, isolation and tranquility, this pristine polar environment supports a fragile but vibrant Arctic ecosystem. Polar bears, walrus, endangered bowhead whales and other Arctic wildlife can be spotted around the archipelago. Collectors of geographical extremes may note that Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island is the northernmost point of land in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Most historically significant places in the High Arctic
Travelling to Franz Josef Land is like stepping onto the pages of an explorer’s journal. Since its discovery in 1873 by the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition, Franz Josef Land has been the setting of some of the most remarkable tales of exploration and survival of the late 19th and early 20th century. Historical relics and the remains of makeshift dwellings offer striking testimony to the incredible struggles of early explorers such as Fridtjof Nansen, Frederick George Jackson, Julius von Payer and other polar explorers.
Unrivalled location for kayaking and photography
If visitors to these islands are few, then kayakers who have taken advantage of these waters are far fewer still. This is a shame, as Franz Josef Land offers some amazing opportunities.
A variety of ice features and the possibility of encountering seals and walrus make this an exciting place to be a kayaker. Paddling adventures here are real and unscripted as guests explore rugged coastlines and hidden coves in this remote Arctic wilderness.
Franz Josef Land also offers an abundance of unique photo opportunities. A land of contrasts, it boasts lush tundra oases amid vast polar deserts, bird cliffs in sight of glaciers, and sea ice any time of year.
This enchanting place also has geological features such as the stone spheres of Champ Island, above.
Convenient sailing to the wildest region of the Arctic
Though the landscapes are as wild, raw and unforgiving as the first explorers found them, times have changed, and Franz Josef Land visitors need not fear such misadventures today. The guests are travelling aboard the small luxury expedition ship Sea Spirit, where comfort, gracious hospitality and sophisticated ambience are the perfect complements to the Polar wilderness outside. Guests aboard
the 114-passenger, ice-class vessel are led by an experienced team of naturalists and polar specialists.
Making the voyage even more convenient for travellers is Poseidon’s unique ability to offer a direct maritime routing to Franz Josef Land from Longyearbyen in the Norwegian territory of Svalbard. No other company offers this time- and distance-saving feature. Just three years ago, the Sea Spirit made history as the first non-Russian, foreign-flag vessel to enter Franz Josef Land territorial waters without first stopping in a Russian port. Through this unprecedented cooperation with the Russian authorities, Poseidon Expeditions is able to provide its guests with a unique polar experience that was previously unattainable. Cruises are for 14 or 15 days and prices start at £6,836 per person.
POSEIDON IN FIGURES
1999 date of foundation
6 offices worldwide: USA, Germany, Russia, China, Cyprus, Argentina
1:8 staff to passenger ratio – one of the best in the industry
2 polar travel associations (IAATO and AECO) that it’s a member of
1 attempt at landing, compared to the several that larger ships need