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Nordic Summer: Adventure and Exploration
Lisa King Wurzrainer, July 2000
In the summer of 2002, we are excited to offer two all-encompassing programs, which combine highlights from our past 'Round Britain and Spitsbergen expeditions linked by an exciting popular destination - Norway. Our Nordic Summer expeditions will embark on the Endeavour; the first leg traveling from the Scottish Isles to Norway and the second from the North Cape to the islands of Svalbard.
For most of us, Northern Europe does not conjure up the same isolated or primitive images as Papua New Guinea, Antarctica or the virtually inaccessible atolls of the South Pacific. However, even in the relatively civilized territories of Northern Europe, there is adventure and exploration awaiting the curious and inquisitive adventurer.
Our journey begins as we explore the secluded offshore islands of northern Scotland - the Orkneys and the Shetlands - ancient dominion of Norsemen, Vikings, kings, and queens. The burial chambers of Maes Howe, as well as the ruins at Skara Brae and Jarlshof, are just a few of the many well-preserved archeological testaments to the early inhabitants of these islands - some vestiges dating back more than 4,000 years.
Humans have not been the only inhabitants of these remote outposts. In fact, in terms of simple numbers, they have always been a rather pitiable minority. The sheer rock and sandstone cliffs of these weathered shores provide an exceptional nesting ground for a variety of seabirds including kittiwakes, murres, gannets, storm petrels, shags, and puffins who naturally segregate their nests from one another creating a sort of seabird layer cake.
In the more southerly Orkney Islands, the green and fertile countryside is carpeted with a variety of colorful wildflowers in the summer. While, along the more remote and barren shores of the Shetlands, seals, whales and myriad seabirds haunt the rocky coastline.
Our journey continues across the North Sea to the west coast of Norway, following in reverse the route of the early Vikings. From Bergen we venture inland past charming little villages, old farmhouses, and fruit orchards teeming with their plentiful harvest.
We explore ancient ruins and unearth centuries-old tales of Viking history and discovery. We behold the striking architecture of churches and cathedrals built centuries ago - still so beautifully preserved, despite the merciless hands of time.
As we continue our travels north, we weave our way through countless islands and islets, and in and out of narrow fjords. Ashore, the landscape begins to change, reminding us that we have crossed the Arctic Circle. Reindeer graze freely on the varied flora in this treeless landscape. Idyllic fishing hamlets, with their brightly colored buildings and friendly inhabitants beckon us to their sheltered harbors.
At the northern tip of contiguous Europe, the precipitous cliffs of the North Cape rise more than 900 feet above the Arctic Ocean. The first leg of our adventure ends in the small town of Alta, home to the largest single collection of rock carvings in all of Europe, which is believed to be between 2,500 and 6,200 years old. The carvings, which were entered on to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1985, depict human beings, boats, weapons and hunting scenes.
If this has only just begun to whet your appetite for adventure, more natural treasures await you on the second leg of our journey - from Arctic Norway north to the remote islands of Svalbard, including Spitsbergen.
There are very few untouched wilderness areas remaining in our world today where a traveler can witness landscapes of austere beauty and prolific wildlife. The isolated, yet enchanting, Arctic islands of the Svalbard Archipelago are just such a place. Imagine a vast, pristine land covered in ice, with immense glaciers carving their way past snow-cloaked mountain peaks on their journey to the sea.
This is the High Arctic. It is a land where, in the summer, the sun never sets. It is a place of contrasts, where black basaltic islands float in seas of gleaming ice; harmless seabirds scatter at the approach of a powerful polar bear; wildflowers burst to life from the dormant tundra; barks of ringed seals and snorts of walrus fill the air; and thousands of kittiwakes, murres, little auks, and puffins darken the skies.
We plan to land at historic sites to honor the resolution and fortitude of the early Arctic explorers, many of whom perished as a result of their obsession with exploring the undiscovered North. Svalbard today remains one of the truly secluded corners of our globe.
In the lands of the Nordic Summer, an enchanting world beckons the traveler with an affinity for the natural world and a spirit of adventure and exploration.