With Michael Snedic
22nd of July to 5th of August 2019
Join us on this 14-day Photographic Expedition to the 'Top of the World". This unique expedition crosses the Arctic Circle and includes the isolated and pristine Wrangel and Herald Islands and a significant section of the wild North Eastern Siberian coastline. It is a journey only made possible in recent years by the thawing in the politics of the region and the retreat of summer pack ice in the Chukchi Sea. The very small distance between Russia and the USA along this border area was known as the Ice Curtain, behind which then and now lies one of the last great undiscovered wilderness areas in the world.
The voyage journeys through the narrow Bering Strait, which separates Russia from the United States of America, and then travels west along the Chukotka coastline before crossing the De Long Strait to Wrangel Island. There we will spend four to five days under the guidance of local rangers on the nature reserve. Untouched by glaciers during the last ice age,
this island is a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity and is perhaps best known for the multitude of Polar Bears that breed here. We hope to catch many glimpses of this beautiful animal. The island
also boasts the world’s largest population of Pacific Walrus and lies near major feeding grounds
for the Gray Whales that migrate thousands of kilometres north from their breeding grounds in Baja, Mexico. Reindeer, Musk Ox and Snow Geese can normally be seen further inland. A visit to massive bird cliffs on nearby Herald Island is also planned. The ‘mammoth steppe’ vegetation complex, a rich and diverse relic from the Pleistocene epoch nurtures over 400 plant species and never fails to astound visitors with its sublime beauty.
We will have a maximum of 10 photographers on this expedition, being led by professional nature photographer and tutor, Michael Snedic. As we travel around the sea, we will be photographing from our ship, from Zodiacs, and from land.
Photographers of all experience levels are welcome. Michael will be guiding you and supporting your photography during the expedition. Not just in taking photographs, but also in reviewing images and image critique sessions.
Your Photography Leader
On this expedition you will have access every day to Michael Snedic, a professional nature photographer and experienced instructor. Michael is there to help you photograph the stunning scenery and wildlife we will encounter.He will be conducting a series of classes throughout the voyage, as well as being on-hand throughout the outings.
Michael is an experienced (22 years) and widely-published photographer, writer and Photo Expedition Leader (16 years). His photography articles and images have featured in numerous publications in Australia and across the world.
Michael is owner of WildNature Photo Expeditions and presents exciting photography workshops and tours to many wonderful photographic and travel destinations. He is also an Australian Ambassador for both The Nature Conservancy Photo Competition and LensCoat. Michael is also a Nikon School Tutor for Australia. Michael loves sharing his photographic knowledge and passion with workshop participants, helping them improve their photographic skills. No matter what brand or model of camera you own (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Fuji or Panasonic) Michael can help, having been experienced in these brands for the many years.
Day 0 – Nome
Those departing from Nome, Alaska, should arrive in Nome before midday and preferably the previous night.
On arrival, you should check in with Bering Air at the Nome Airport who will have details of our charter flight. During this flight you will cross the International Date Line, arriving into Anadyr on Day 1 of the expedition. You will clear Russian Customs and Immigration.
Day 1 -Anadyr
ll expedition members will arrive in Anadyr; depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka region, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and crew on board the Akademik Shokalskiy. If flights have been on time we plan to depart Anadyr this evening. As we depart you are invited to join the captain, officers and the expedition team on the bridge. The Anadyr estuary is renowned for its Beluga Whales.
Day 2 – Anadyrskiy Bay and at Sea
As we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards the Bering Strait there will be introductory lectures, an introduction to the staff and ship and a series of compulsory briefings and drills. There will also be a chance to relax or enjoy some ‘birding’ with our naturalists and/or settle into ship life and for many of you adjust to the time changes.
Day 3 – Lavrentiya and Cape Dezhnev
We arrive in Lavrentiya Bay this morning to visit the Chukchi Region’s administrative centre of Lavrentiya. The place takes its name from James Cook, who landed here on St. Lawrence’s Day in 1778. We will explore the township and have the opportunity to view the mythical figure ‘Pelikan’, a Chukotkan sculpture which is said to have special powers, we will also visit the local museum which displays an interesting insight into Yupik and Chukchi cultures. There may be an opportunity to view Chukchi song and dance and to interact with the locals.
Sea conditions permitting, we will land at Cape Dezhnev this afternoon. The north-eastern most point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of America from this remote and lonely outpost. It is also an historic landmark named after the Siberian Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific.
A steep scramble from the beach brings you to an abandoned Border Guard base, a monument to Dezhnev and another to all the sailors who have sailed these seas. Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska lies 89km across Bering Strait.
Days 4 – Kolyuchin Inlet and Kolyuchin Island Island
This tiny rock in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk is covered in birds, with sea-lions thrown in for good measure to fill the gaps. There’s no room for us to land, but we expect to photograph guillemots, kittiwakes, and various species of auklet (and sea-lions of course).
Day 5 – At Sea
This group of islands is in the western corner of the Sea of Okhotsk, and is the last place to thaw out in summer. While the ice can restrict where we go, it does increase our chances of seeing seals, especially the iconic Ribbon Seal.
Days 6 -10 – Wrangel and Herald Islands
Another birding hot-spot, this is a breeding location for many species. Spectacled, Common and Brünnich’s Guillemot, Ancient Murrelet, Rhinoceros, Crested and Parakeet Auklet, Horned and Tufted Puffin: the list goes on. Of course this also supports a population of Steller’s Sea-eagles. As well as exploring the islands from the water and landing in the one permitted location, we also get to explore the taiga forest on the mainland.
Days 11 – At Sea, Bering Strait and North Siberian Coast
As we sail south there will be opportunities to download memory cards, share conversations and recap on our time at Wrangel Island.
We will pass the Diomede Islands, sometimes called Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle because they straddle the International Date
Line. Here Russia and America are separated by only 2.3 nautical miles of ocean. We will remain in Russian territory as we cruise south past the islands.
In 1867 when the USA purchased Alaska from Russia the new boundary was drawn between Big (Russian) and Little (USA) Diomede Islands. This makes Big Diomede Island Russia’s eastern-most possession. The island was originally inhabited by Yupik Eskimos but after World War II the native population were relocated to the mainland. Today there are no permanent residents but the Russians maintain a Border Guard station there. It is an important island for birdlife with good numbers of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot and Horned and Tufted Puffin. If the Border Guards grant permission (we have applied for it) we will Zodiac cruise the coast near the station,
the bird numbers in this region are spectacular, especially puffins.
We continue along the North Siberian Coast, although well mapped and charted, there have been very few Expedition Cruises and consequently there is a lot of scope for expedition landings. Depending on weather and sea conditions we will attempt an expedition landing today.
There are several choices, at Cape Vankarem there is a seasonal large walrus haul out, the animals may or may not be present. The area around the Cape is bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous coastal lagoons and inlets; nearby there is a small Chukchi village whose residents still make their living hunting walrus, seals and whales. There is another smaller Chukchi village called Nutepelmen which is situated on a spit at the entrance to Pyngopikhin Lagoon, further west of Cape Vankarem.
Day 12 – At Sea and Masik Village
This afternoon we plan to visit Masik Village, an archaeological site at Mechigmen Bay which is part of Beringia National Park.
This site consists of subterranean dwellings, food caches and possible ceremonial structures where materials used in construction were whale skulls, ribs and jawbones.
Days 13 – Yttygran, Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands
Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley. Whalebones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. There are many meat pits used for storage and other remains of a busy whaling camp that united several aboriginal villages at a time. In one location, immense Bowhead Whale jawbones and ribs are placed together in a stunning arch formation.
Gray Whales are frequently seen around the island. After landing at Whale Bone Alley we will take the Zodiacs on a whale-watching excursion. We will also cruise close inshore of neighbouring Nuneangan Island (Bird Island) where a large number of seabirds nest.
On nearby Arakamchechen Island there is a prominent walrus haul out; if the animals are present we will land and walk across the tundra to view them from the cliffs.
Days 14 – Preobrazheniya Bay
Today we will be in the vicinity of Preobrazheniya Bay where there are some outstanding ‘Bird Cliffs’ which we will Zodiac cruise, the rock faces, ridgelines and soaring granite spires are home to an abundance of bird life. Species that can be seen include Common and Thick-billed Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Least and Crested Auklets, Vega Gulls and Arctic Tern. Both Horned and Tufted Puffins are normally in vast numbers stretched along cliffside grasses.
This evening join the staff for an expedition recap and a disembarkation briefing, and then simply relax as we sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey.
Day 15 – Anadyr
After breakfast it will be time tosay our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a hotel of your choice.
Those returning to Nome will join a charter flight that will depart Anadyr around midday and, because of the International Date Line will arrive back in Nome on the evening of the previous day. However, we strongly advise that you do not book any onward travel from Nome until the following day to allow for possible delays in the charter flight. Those returning to Moscow can either be transferred to the airport or hotel in Anadyr, depending on their flight times.
Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and/or opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.
Health and Fitness
Anyone in normal good health can join us on this adventure. There are no special fitness requirements, although we will be often climbing into and out of the in atable Zodiac boats, and walking on shore.
The ship has a doctor and basic medical facilities on board. If you have specic health concerns or dietary requirements the staff at Heritage will be able to help.
Heritage Expeditions’ 'Shokalskiy' is a great small expedition ship. The ship regularly visits both polar regions and is a very capable vessel. She also has plenty of vantage points for scenic and wildlife photography from all around the ship.
The ship will also have non-photographer passengers (she takes up to 50 in total) and while we will be mingling with them and sharing the ship and the general expedition experience, the photographic advice/instruction will be for our group. On outings we usually operate as a group with dedicated Zodiacs. WildNaturePhotoExpeditions works closely with the Heritage expedition team throughout (and before) the voyage to optimise operations on both sides to help everyone.
- Photography tuition throughout the expedition
- Shipboard accommodation.
- Pre/post cruise transfers
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners onboard. Coffee, tea, cocoa available around the clock.
- All expedition zodiac and shore excursions.
- Pre and post-departure materials.
- International/domestic flights
- Passport/visa expenses. We provide assistance with Russian visa paperwork, but you’re responsible for the actual visa.
- Personal/travel insurance coverage. Heritage will discuss with you the required insurance coverage (due to the remoteness of our destination).
- Onboard bar, laundry, gratuities and telecommunications charges. Internet access is not available onboard.
- All items of a personal nature
The trip is being put together with our partners at Heritage Expeditions in Christchurch, and they take care of the bookings and travel arrangements for us, while I run the photography program.
There are a variety of cabin classes, mostly twin- share cabins. Your choice of berth/cabin type directly impacts the price of your ticket.
The twin-berth cabins can be reserved as single cabins for 1.8x the standard price. There’s also a mandatory charge of US$500 per person to cover local fee payments.
These prices are in US dollars per berth. A 25% deposit is required to secure your place.
How to book
To reserve your place or just to ask more questions about the workshop, contact Michael via the Contact Form to the right: