Nordic Summer: Adventure and Exploration

July 20, 2000

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.

Discovering Vietnam

July 19, 2000 | Tags: Asia

Mike Messick, July 2000

Just prior to leading our May 2000 expeditions, which circumnavigated Japan's Honshu Island followed by a voyage northwards through the Kuril Islands, I completed a most amazing 16-day scouting trip to Vietnam. Zegrahm Expeditions is planning two Vietnam programs in 2001 and my goal was to define the best that a visit to this country could offer our clients. Before arriving in Hanoi City, I anticipated a country of tranquil rice fields, scenic coastline, and colorful people. Not surprisingly, I encountered all this, along with many unexpected and amusing experiences that I know will make for a fascinating exploration of Vietnam next year.

Upon arrival in Hanoi City Airport, my guide Paul drove me through the serene countryside where graceful women in straw conical hats tended emerald-colored, terraced rice fields. As we entered the city, however, this tranquil setting suddenly morphed into the frantic pace of bustling traffic. Bicycles, motorbikes, cyclos, tuc-tucs and a few buses, trucks, and cars weaved and zig-zagged down the road in harmonious chaos. To my Western mind, this mayhem of traffic could never work, as there were no stop signs, almost no traffic lights, and an inordinate number of bustling pedestrians. I tried to imagine briefing the passengers next year on "how to cross a Vietnamese street," especially following a long trans-Pacific flight.

It took me only a short while to realize that Vietnam is the perfect destination to be explored by ship. Traveling the long, curving coastline of spectacular scenery, our floating home aboard the Clipper Odyssey will provide the perfect base from which to experience the country's natural and cultural wonders.

The Vietnam coast is home to great beauty found in areas such as Halong Bay where towering limestone formations rise from the calm sea. Local legend claims that celestial dragons created the area and were so entranced by its beauty that they took up permanent residence, giving rise to the literal translation of the name - "dragon descending." Hue, Vietnam's cultural and historic center, is the site of some of the most impressive architecture in the country, including the Imperial City, Citadel, and the seven-tier Thien Mu Pagoda. I was particularly excited to discover that the beach at Nha Trang offers a tempting invitation for snorkelers and divers alike to explore the waters that lap at its fringes.

Culturally, Vietnam is equally intriguing and diverse. Whether it was watching a traditional water puppet performance, observing the delicate craft of incense-smoking, or marveling at the women of Hoi An who spin fibers directly from the cocoons of silk worms, Vietnam's centuries-old culture provided me with a remarkable selection of activities to offer for the expeditions. In contrast, modern Ho Chi Minh City provided the perfect place to "people watch" and experience modern-day Vietnamese life.

Most people, upon hearing the word "Vietnam," cannot help but immediately think of the war. My visit to the 17th parallel in the heart of the former Demilitarized Zone quickly brought the realities of "The American War," as the Vietnamese refer to it, to life. The Vinh Moc Tunnels (not to be confused with Chu Chi Tunnels) are open to visitors as a poignant reminder of the battles that took place. This two-kilometer long network of man-made tunnels served as an underground village to some 600 Vietnamese during the almost continuous bombardment by the West.

Although the war is not forgotten here, the healing power of time is evident in the warm, smiling faces that greeted me at every turn. Throughout my travels, I was met with open arms and made to feel most welcome by the locals. The Vietnamese are among the friendliest people I have ever encountered and I anxiously look forward to seeing them again in 2001 when I travel with Zegrahm passengers through this most fascinating country.

Nordic Summer: Adventure and Exploration

July 19, 2000 | Tags: Arctic, Europe

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.

Destination: New Zealand

April 20, 2000

Karen Gruber, April 2000

At first glance, New Zealand is somewhat deceptive. An island nation of 103,737 square miles with a population of fewer than four million people, one might think it would be easy to quickly explore the country. Yet, despite its relatively small size and population, New Zealand offers a bounty of riches that usually far exceeds most travelers' expectations. From snow-capped mountains to broad sandy beaches, from gourmet food and wine to friendly local hospitality, from amazing bird species to marine mammals, from legends of the Maori people to the stories carved by raging rivers, New Zealand is a land of endless possibilities.

Consisting of two main islands (North and South) and several surrounding smaller islands, New Zealand is a perfect destination to be explored by ship. Sailing along the long, scenic coastline, the best of all worlds unfurls with an amazing mixture of natural wonders and charming maritime cities.

The South Island is particularly graced with many attractions. Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park borders the Cook Strait which separates the North and South Islands. The park is an intricate pattern of coves and islands, ideal for Zodiac exploration. Large resident populations of seabirds and marine mammals are testament to the Department of Conservation's efforts to protect the area. Small settlements like Ship Cove, where Captain Cook landed several times in the 1770s, lends a historical aspect to the setting, while outstanding local cuisine and wine provide satiation after a long day of exploration.

A short distance south along the east coast is the fishing town of Kaikoura, the jumping-off spot for one of the best wildlife experiences in New Zealand. From the beach, there is a gradual slope to the ocean floor, which suddenly plunges to a depth of over 2,000 feet. At the drop-off, converging currents create an upwelling of nutrients that attracts clouds of krill, which in turn bring large toothed sperm whales, as well as dolphins and fur seals, to the area to feed. Whale watching excursions provide excellent opportunities to view and photograph the playful antics of these marine creatures.

Christchurch, the South Island's largest city and third largest city in New Zealand, is ripe with the remnants of its English history. Founded as an English settlement in 1850, Christchurch boasts its own River Avon, exquisite gardens and cricket clubs. Robert Falcon Scott used Christchurch as the departure point for his famous Antarctic explorations. Today the city celebrates its historic connection to the Great White Continent with its International Antarctic Centre and the Hall of Antarctic Discovery at the Canterbury Museum. The city also still serves as a supply link to Antarctic missions.

The Scottish settlement of Dunedin is a charming town of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The city proclaims itself the "Wildlife Capital of New Zealand," and for good reason. From Dunedin, it is a short excursion up the Otago Peninsula to visit the only mainland colony of albatross in the world. One of the world's largest seabirds, the majestic royal albatross breeds here amidst sooty shearwaters, oystercatchers, and several species of gulls and shags. The little blue penguin, the smallest penguin in the world, also can be seen sharing the shores of the peninsula with grunting fur seals.

On the southwest tip of the island is the Fiordland National Park, where breathtaking glacier-carved lakes, sheer cliffs, and crashing waterfalls frame the colorfully named Milford, Dusky and Doubtful sounds. The park is virtually an uninhabited wilderness; the perfect setting to experience the serene quiet of the sea, land and sky.

Perhaps the highlight of any trip to New Zealand, and the advantage of ship travel to the region, is the opportunity to visit the sub-Antarctic islands of Campbell, Auckland and Snares. The New Zealand Department of Conservation only allows 500 visitor permits a year to the Auckland and Campbell islands. Zegrahm Expeditions is the only U.S.-based tour operator to be granted visitor permits and is one of only three tour companies in the world with a concession to land at these isolated wildlife havens. The special visitor permits allow our passengers to be among the few each year to visit the nesting sites of light-mantled sooty albatross, Auckland Island shags and white-capped shy mollymawks. Other bird species abound in the sub-Antarctic islands with royal albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, Snares crested penguins, parakeets, skuas, flightless teals and sooty shearwaters, to name but a few. Marine mammals, such as Hooker's sea lions and elephant seals, are also plentiful frolicking in offshore waters or lazily retreating to the soft, sandy beaches for a snooze.

Exploring by ship is a wonderful way to see the amazing variety that New Zealand's coast has to offer; however, there is still more to discover inland. The indigenous Maori culture welcomes travelers to learn more about their oral history and long cultural presence in New Zealand. In several locations throughout the country, one can visit a traditional marae (ancestral village) for an in-depth view of daily Maori life. Traveling inland also lends the opportunity to mingle with the other locals. "Kiwis" are quick to engage in conversation and their warm personalities make them wonderful hosts, be it in their own homes or in the local "boozer" (pub).

For those looking for even more adventure, mainland New Zealand offers a treasure trove of sporting possibilities. Skiing, white-water rafting, golfing, bungee jumping, jet-boating, and kayaking are just some of the activities to keep the most energetic traveler occupied.

From volcanoes, geysers and hot springs to mountains carved by glacial ice; from penguins and parrots to whales, dolphins and fur seals; from the fascinating culture of the Maori tribes to the bustle of city streets - New Zealand has it all.

In January 2004, we once again present our New Zealand and its Sub-Antarctic Islands program aboard the Clipper Odyssey, with special visits to remote Campbell, Auckland, Snares, and Stewart Islands. An optional pre- or post-voyage extension further explores several North Island attractions, including Tongariro National Park, and Auckland.

Destination: New Zealand

April 19, 2000 | Tags: Oceania

Karen Gruber, April 2000

At first glance, New Zealand is somewhat deceptive. An island nation of 103,737 square miles with a population of fewer than four million people, one might think it would be easy to quickly explore the country. Yet, despite its relatively small size and population, New Zealand offers a bounty of riches that usually far exceeds most travelers' expectations. From snow-capped mountains to broad sandy beaches, from gourmet food and wine to friendly local hospitality, from amazing bird species to marine mammals, from legends of the Maori people to the stories carved by raging rivers, New Zealand is a land of endless possibilities.

Consisting of two main islands (North and South) and several surrounding smaller islands, New Zealand is a perfect destination to be explored by ship. Sailing along the long, scenic coastline, the best of all worlds unfurls with an amazing mixture of natural wonders and charming maritime cities.

The South Island is particularly graced with many attractions. Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park borders the Cook Strait which separates the North and South Islands. The park is an intricate pattern of coves and islands, ideal for Zodiac exploration. Large resident populations of seabirds and marine mammals are testament to the Department of Conservation's efforts to protect the area. Small settlements like Ship Cove, where Captain Cook landed several times in the 1770s, lends a historical aspect to the setting, while outstanding local cuisine and wine provide satiation after a long day of exploration.

A short distance south along the east coast is the fishing town of Kaikoura, the jumping-off spot for one of the best wildlife experiences in New Zealand. From the beach, there is a gradual slope to the ocean floor, which suddenly plunges to a depth of over 2,000 feet. At the drop-off, converging currents create an upwelling of nutrients that attracts clouds of krill, which in turn bring large toothed sperm whales, as well as dolphins and fur seals, to the area to feed. Whale watching excursions provide excellent opportunities to view and photograph the playful antics of these marine creatures.

Christchurch, the South Island's largest city and third largest city in New Zealand, is ripe with the remnants of its English history. Founded as an English settlement in 1850, Christchurch boasts its own River Avon, exquisite gardens and cricket clubs. Robert Falcon Scott used Christchurch as the departure point for his famous Antarctic explorations. Today the city celebrates its historic connection to the Great White Continent with its International Antarctic Centre and the Hall of Antarctic Discovery at the Canterbury Museum. The city also still serves as a supply link to Antarctic missions.

The Scottish settlement of Dunedin is a charming town of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The city proclaims itself the "Wildlife Capital of New Zealand," and for good reason. From Dunedin, it is a short excursion up the Otago Peninsula to visit the only mainland colony of albatross in the world. One of the world's largest seabirds, the majestic royal albatross breeds here amidst sooty shearwaters, oystercatchers, and several species of gulls and shags. The little blue penguin, the smallest penguin in the world, also can be seen sharing the shores of the peninsula with grunting fur seals.

On the southwest tip of the island is the Fiordland National Park, where breathtaking glacier-carved lakes, sheer cliffs, and crashing waterfalls frame the colorfully named Milford, Dusky and Doubtful sounds. The park is virtually an uninhabited wilderness; the perfect setting to experience the serene quiet of the sea, land and sky.

Perhaps the highlight of any trip to New Zealand, and the advantage of ship travel to the region, is the opportunity to visit the sub-Antarctic islands of Campbell, Auckland and Snares. The New Zealand Department of Conservation only allows 500 visitor permits a year to the Auckland and Campbell islands. Zegrahm Expeditions is the only U.S.-based tour operator to be granted visitor permits and is one of only three tour companies in the world with a concession to land at these isolated wildlife havens. The special visitor permits allow our passengers to be among the few each year to visit the nesting sites of light-mantled sooty albatross, Auckland Island shags and white-capped shy mollymawks. Other bird species abound in the sub-Antarctic islands with royal albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, Snares crested penguins, parakeets, skuas, flightless teals and sooty shearwaters, to name but a few. Marine mammals, such as Hooker's sea lions and elephant seals, are also plentiful frolicking in offshore waters or lazily retreating to the soft, sandy beaches for a snooze.

Exploring by ship is a wonderful way to see the amazing variety that New Zealand's coast has to offer; however, there is still more to discover inland. The indigenous Maori culture welcomes travelers to learn more about their oral history and long cultural presence in New Zealand. In several locations throughout the country, one can visit a traditional marae (ancestral village) for an in-depth view of daily Maori life. Traveling inland also lends the opportunity to mingle with the other locals. "Kiwis" are quick to engage in conversation and their warm personalities make them wonderful hosts, be it in their own homes or in the local "boozer" (pub).

For those looking for even more adventure, mainland New Zealand offers a treasure trove of sporting possibilities. Skiing, white-water rafting, golfing, bungee jumping, jet-boating, and kayaking are just some of the activities to keep the most energetic traveler occupied.

From volcanoes, geysers and hot springs to mountains carved by glacial ice; from penguins and parrots to whales, dolphins and fur seals; from the fascinating culture of the Maori tribes to the bustle of city streets - New Zealand has it all.

In January 2004, we once again present our New Zealand and its Sub-Antarctic Islands program aboard the Clipper Odyssey, with special visits to remote Campbell, Auckland, Snares, and Stewart Islands. An optional pre- or post-voyage extension further explores several North Island attractions, including Tongariro National Park, and Auckland.