One story is that the island of Iceland was so-called by Viking settlers to discourage invaders from undertaking a voyage to such an uninhabitable-sounding place.
Another is that ninth-century Viking Hrafna-Floki bestowed the name on this remarkable land after seeing a fjord full of icebergs during a climb up one of the many mountains that characterise its rugged, volcanic landscape.
It might be something you want to ask the world-class Seabourn Expedition team about, because there is always a select group of academics, scientists and naturalists on board to provide expert insights about every aspect of your trip around this wild and unspoilt part of our planet.
Whether you have chosen Greenland & Iceland: Vikings and Volcanoes or the Iceland, Greenland and Wild Shores adventures covering across countries, the more specific Legend of the Icelandic Sagas or even the 23-day Journey Across the North West Passage, the itinerary will have been developed to help you mine the most out of this unforgettable experience.
It might involve walking around Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, the more remote Paamiut with its brightly coloured buildings and Hvalsey, where an Expedition Team archeologist will guide you through the ruins of the great halls and church.
Or it could be photographing Mt Kirkjufell outside the small Icelandic fishing village of Grundarfjörður.
Or nature-watching on Vigur Island where the nesting birdlife co-exists precariously with the area’s predatory contingent of arctic foxes.
The Seabourn Venture is as bespoke as the voyages on which it takes you. The views of mountains and ice-blue glaciers that entranced the Inuit people and settlers alike, the icebergs that gave early explorers pause for thought, the incredible flora, fauna and fjords – and the whales, walruses, reindeer and polar bears that continue to draw people today – can all be viewed from the veranda of your ultra-luxurious ocean front suite, the Bow Lounge or even the bridge.
And the Seabourn way is always to go the extra nautical mile.
To do this, the purpose-built expedition ship with its PC6 ice-strengthened hull provides 24 Zodiacs with enough places for everybody on board to cruise beneath the cliffs, alive with screeching birdlife, and kayaks to enable the curious to paddle between the huge creaking icebergs in complete safety.
For guests of a more adventurous bent, there are also places on the ship’s two six-berth submarines for an up-close-and-personal look at the biodiversity of the Arctic Ocean as hooded and spotted seals flirt with the craft and giant bowhead whales lurk near underwater ice cliffs. All memories that will last a lifetime.
Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital (and the world’s most northerly one at that), is the embarkation point for many Seabourn trips and is a thrilling modern city, juxtaposed against the beautiful pyroclastic landscape that sits behind it.
But the east coast of Greenland – home to both Scoresby Sund, the world’s biggest fjord system, surrounded by sheer 6,500ft-high basalt walls, and Greenland National Park, the largest nature reserve on Earth (375,000sq m, compared with the 269,000 that make up Texas) – might as well be on another planet entirely. The wildlife, including narwhals and beluga whales, are perfectly cast for the almost alien environment.
To the west of Greenland, on the other side of Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait, is Nunavut, the collection of islands that makes up the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the most remote and least-populated destination on offer during the Seabourn Venture’s Arctic season. The Davis Strait is named after John Davis, the 16th-century English explorer who attempted to discover the fabled Northwest Passage, a means of reaching the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic (and vice versa) via the Arctic Ocean. He was foiled by the ice cap, and it would take more than 300 years before the indefatigable Roald Amundsen managed the feat in the 1900s. Many more tried and failed in-between, including Sir John Franklin and the members of his doomed expedition between 1845 and 1847.
Today’s intrepid adventurers aboard the Seabourn Venture do not have such safety concerns, and travel in the most luxurious style imaginable, but still owe a debt of gratitude to those early pioneers for mapping the Arctic to make this all possible. Thanks and respect can be paid at the graves of some of them to be found on Beechey Island or at Lady Franklin and Monument Islands, both named for the explorer and his widow.
A home to breeding seabirds and hungry polar bears on the prowl, Nunavut is the perfect place to conclude Seabourn’s season in the seldom-seen empire of the Midnight Sun.
Luxury cruise experience
For more information on boutique cruising with Seabourn, including itineraries, visit seabourn.com or call 0344 338 8615.
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