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Russia Allows First Ever Direct Visit To Franz Josef Land

The Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land belongs to Russia and, until recently, the country has been more than a little protective about who gets to sail in the waters around these islands and how they go about doing so. Historically, shipping vessels and tourist cruise ships have always had to make port in one of the main Russian towns nearby before heading on to explore or traverse Franz Josef Land’s waters. This usually involves a stop off in Murmansk or Arkhangelsk and is imperative for all non-Russian vessels.

Franz Josef Land

However, Poseidon Expeditions recently made history by staging the first ever Arctic cruise to go directly from Spitsbergen to the islands, without having to undergo this formality. By working closely with the Russian authorities and taking part in lengthy talks, the operator was able to give guests aboard Sea Spirit the chance to experience something unique, as well as more time to explore the terrain of Franz Josef Land. The cruise stopped off at a number of different points in the archipelago, including Alexandra Land, Northbrook Island, Hooker Island, Rudolf Island and Champ Island.

The islands of Franz Josef Land are largely glaciated and volcanic, but some are still known for their rich wildlife, providing fantastic scenery for all who visit. In particular, sea birds flock to these lands in large numbers, such as the thousands of nesting kittiwakes that make their home on Hooker Island. There’s also a chance to you could spot some whales in the surrounding waters too. In addition, the islands were frequently used as a starting point for explorers making attempts to reach the North Pole in the past.

Sea Spirit

This historic occasion may just be a one off for now, but there is hope that similar direct cruises could happen in the future. Whilst there is no mention of the Russians allowing other vessels to do this just yet, there are signs that the fantastic landscapes of Franz Josef Land may become more accessible to tourists in the future.

If you would like to see the islands for yourself, we can offer a range of Franz Josef Land cruises. Call us today for more information or submit an online enquiry.

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