21st century, modern expeditions that have become adventures

When did the Russian Arctic become the object of attention not only for researchers of harsh latitudes, not only for scientists and geologists, but also for tourist travelers?

It turns out that the Arctic as a tourist destination began to develop in Russia back in the 19th century, when in 1875, with state financial support, the Arkhangelsk-Murmansk Express Shipping Company was organized. The shipping company began its activities with four ships, but subsequently the fleet increased to ten. Thus, the following vessels were in operation: “Fedor Chizhov”, “Emperor Nicholas II”, “Lomonosov”, “Koroleva Olga Konstantinovna”, “Grand Duchess Ksenia”, “Grand Duke Vladimir”, “Sergei Witte”, “Mikhail Kazin”, “Keret”, “Reverend Tryphon” and “Vaigach”.
These were ships with steel hulls, single- and double-screw, two-masted. Most had 2 decks, and the ship “Emperor Nicholas II” had three, cabins of 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes. The passenger capacity of the ships varied - from 50 to 400 people.

Those wishing to travel by steamship to the North for one purpose or another could find out in advance about the timing of the Partnership's ships going on polar voyages. It was possible to book tickets for the ship. This could be done in St. Petersburg, or by mail at the main office of the shipping company in Arkhangelsk. The most popular were sea voyages to the wildest and most uninhabited shores, to exotic Novaya Zemlya and other islands. The captains on the ships were Pomors, who had extensive experience in sailing in the high latitudes of the Arctic and among the ice. Travel to the North carried a tinge of romance; interest in them was constantly fueled in the press and publications of tourist impressions and stories.

Travel to the North was so popular among residents of the Russian Empire that a real tourist guide was published in 1898. It was called “Guide to the North of Russia: Arkhangelsk. White Sea. Solovetsky Monastery. Murmansk coast. New land. Pechora" and was compiled by Dmitry Nikolaevich Ostrovsky. This guide can still be read on the Kola Maps website.

Modern Arctic tourism in Russia has been developing since the early 2000s and since then there has been a tendency to increase the interest of Russian residents in Arctic tourism. If in the early 2000s, on cruises and other tours to the Arctic, only about 10% of tourists were Russians, and the rest were citizens of other states, then as of 2019, on group trips to the Arctic, the number of Russians increased and averaged 25-30 %.

The most popular Arctic destinations:

● to Wrangel Island. Here are the largest walrus rookeries in the Arctic, and the reserve of the same name is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List;

● to the island of Spitsbergen, famous for its beautiful landscapes and the preserved villages of Pyramid and Grumant. The latter are especially popular with foreigners: here you can feel the spirit of a bygone era - an abandoned coal mine, empty buildings, Soviet interiors and only silence around;

● to the uninhabited Franz Josef Land archipelago. This is the closest point to the North Pole on the mainland, and you need to get to it by icebreaker.

Why do people go on Arctic adventures? Research by analytical companies shows that among travelers to the Arctic there are people who want to see a new, previously unseen world, the second group of tourists goes to the Arctic to get to know their real selves, and recently a new group of tourists has emerged - volunteers who go to the Arctic to took part in scientific research (ethnographic and environmental studies).

Types of tours to the Arctic are not limited to sailing on a large ship or icebreaker in a cozy cabin. Traveling north opens up a wealth of opportunities, such as wildlife-watching tours. Such expedition routes run through the Spitsbergen Archipelago, Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, Severnaya Zemlya, Wrangel Island and other places. They are designed so that travelers can see representatives of the Arctic wildlife during landings on the shore and from the deck of the ship:

● Svalbard is famous for its polar bears;

● “Bird Island” Nuneangan - a nesting place for seabirds: puffin puffins, mossocks, thick-billed guillemots;

● Yttygran Island is famous for its gray whales.

Another group of tours offers travel in the footsteps of great discoverers. Such routes pass through the voyages of famous conquerors of the northern expanses. Thus, the journey to Franz Josef Land is associated with the names of Georgy Sedov, Fridtjof Nansen, Frederik Johansen, members of the St. Anne expedition. And the expedition to the islands of the Russian Arctic repeats the route of explorer Vladimir Rusanov, to whom the novel “Two Captains” is dedicated. Tourists can visit significant historical places and feel like explorers of past centuries.

Traveling with elements of ethnography allows tourists to get acquainted with the life and culture of indigenous people, for example, reindeer herders - visit a camp, ride a reindeer sled, learn how to install a tent.

Extreme tours are suitable for physically fit adventurers:

● crossing the Bering Strait on sleds and skis or on foot with overnight stays in Arctic tents and guest houses;

● helicopter route to the North Pole. The tour includes skydiving, swimming and ice diving in the Arctic Ocean;

● dog sledding trip. A real immersion into the world of wild nature and ancient traditions of the North. The route passes through extreme regions of the Far North with permafrost, and includes an ascent to Mount Chiltald.
Arctic tourism is something completely special. Take this journey seriously, because it may be the journey of your life.
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