THE HIDDEN ARCTIC

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on May 21, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

THE HIDDEN ARCTICHumpback Whales – Disko Bay Greenland

For a few short months, the Arctic explodes with life during the summer. It’s an extraordinary experience to witness.

The profusion of bird life is almost beyond belief. Then there are iconic animals that live nowhere else, like polar bears, walruses, and musk-ox. And all this against a backdrop of massive icebergs in uncountable numbers, calving off gigantic glaciers pouring into the sea.

But where do you go to experience this? To a trio of little-known places I call The Hidden Arctic This summer, I’ve organized a private expedition for a small group of friends exclusively to take them to The Hidden Arctic.

I decided to tell you about it, firstly, because I thought you’d enjoy learning about a fascinating part of the world that few people ever go to – and, secondly, because I’ll offer it as a Wheeler Expeditions adventure open to Escape Artists next summer, in 2019. So, if you’re one of those folks who plan their travel a year or so away – well, start planning.

Let’s start with where The Hidden Arctic is for me – three uniquely different places that collectively will make the Arctic a memorable and mesmerizing part of your life: Svalbard, the Faroe Islandsand West Greenland (Avannaata).

Svalbard

Dotted Line is the Arctic Circle, 66°33′47 North Latitude

We meet in Oslo, Norway, and fly on to Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, capital of the Norwegian Arctic Territory of Svalbard. We are over 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the land of the Midnight Sun, 24-hour sunshine in July.

(Two notes: There are no northern lights in the Arctic summer, only winter. The Arctic Circle is that circle of latitude, currently 66ᵒ33’N, at and above which the sun never sets, but shines 24 hours for at least one day, June 21st. At the North Pole, 90ᵒN, there is one day all year long – from March 21 to September 20 – with the sun shining continuously, and one night all year long – from September 21 to March 19 – with the sun never rising above the horizon at all.)

We charter inflatables and RIBs (hi-speed enclosed rigid inflatables) to visit walrus colonies, spot whales, and hopefully polar bears.

Then there’s an incredible spectacle – the bird-jumping off the towering cliffs of Alkhonet. Tens of thousands of guillemot seabirds nest on the vertical cliffs, and when the chicks are old enough to fly, out they go. For the ones that can’t make it to the water, they make a feast for the foxes below.

We also explore the island by fat-tire bike or hiking for stunning scenery and wildlife spotting, such as polar foxes and reindeer. At night, Longyearbyen comes alive with a plethora of fun bars and good restaurants.

Karlsberger Pub, Longyearbyen

Faroe Islands

After a return flight to Oslo and a quick connection to Copenhagen, we fly on to the Faroes and the self-governing Danish territory’s capital of Torshavn. And here, I must confess – I love the Faroes. Here’s an example why:

That’s the Gasadalur village waterfall. Then there’s the Sørvágsvatn infinity pool lake, and the Tindhólmur shark fin island…

The Vestmanna Birdcliffs and Mykines Bird Paradise are where puffins, guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, gannets, and storm petrels roost in uncountable numbers – especially puffins… everybody loves puffins…

The Faroes are among the cleanest, purest places on the planet. The Faroese are among the friendliest of people in their picturesque fishing villages tucked into small fiords. Then there’s exploring the Hestur Island Cave Grottos.

It goes on and on. We travel by jeep, bike, foot, boat, and helicopter. You won’t want to leave.

West Greenland

Returning to Copenhagen, we hop onto an Air Greenland flight to Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland, and connect to Ilulissat on Disko Bay.

The town has more sled dogs than people, the majority of whom are native Greenlandic Inuit.  Nearby, we find the World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord, sea mouth of the gigantic Jakobshavn or Sermeq Kujalleq glacier coming off the Greenland ice cap. Researchers believe the iceberg that sunk the Titanic in 1912 came from here. We’ll see icebergs in uncountable numbers.

First, we’ll see all this from above, flying low and slow at different times of the day to get the right light. From huge icebergs in the fiord to the limitless ice cap itself, from spotting blue jewel lakes of icemelt in the glacier to giant whales in Disko Bay…

Next, we’ll spend a day at the remote Inuit fishing village of Oqaatsut – you can only get there by small boat. Only 35 Inuit live here, and they are happy to show us their daily activities, how they fish and hunt, and explain their ancient traditions, folklore, and handicrafts. It’s a day of cultural immersion.

Then, early every morning and in the evening, you’ll take the sea kayak ride of your life – right up to shimmering icebergs and glacier fronts towering above you. The quiet (save for the groaning of the glaciers), the peacefulness, the beauty is overwhelming. It will never leave you.

We’ll end the day with a glass of wine from our hotel room balcony with this view:

All too quickly, we’re back in Copenhagen and on our way back home – having left a magical world that most Consumer Resource Guidepeople find hard to imagine exists, much less have actually experienced. Now you have, and it will be with you forever.

If you’d like to come with me to The Hidden Arctic next year – July 2019 – let me know!

Click here to get advance notice of expeditions you can join & stunning photos of Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventures

Jack Wheeler is the founder of Wheeler Expeditions

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on May 21, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.