Lena River- Cruising to The Arctic

This cruise aboard the Mikhail Sveltov is a return trip from Yakutsk to Tiksi

The Lena River is over 3,200Km (2,000 miles) long and one of 10 largest rivers in the world. It is the only river to freeze over its entire length each winter. It is only during July and August that river cruise boats can take tourists on this magnificent journey.

Its source is in the Baikal Mountains south of the Central Siberian Plateau, 7 kilometres (4 mi) west of Lake Baikal. The Lena flows northeast, being joined by the Kirenga River, Vitim River and Olyokma River. From Yakutsk it enters the lowlands making its way to the Laptev Sea, a part of the Arctic Ocean, emptying south-west of the New Siberian Islands by the Lena Delta – 30,000 square kilometres (11,583 sq mi). The delta is frozen tundra for about seven months of the year, but in May the region is transformed into a lush wetland for a few months.

The sea shores were inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous tribes of Yukaghirs and then Evens and Evenks, which were engaged in fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry. You will meet the local indigenous people who still maintain many of the traditions of their unique lifestyle and culture.

The wet tundra in the delta, which floods each spring, is an important area for nesting and migrating birds, and also supports a rich fish population. There are 92 planktonic species, 57 benthic species,and 38 species of fish in the river. Sturgeon, burbot, chum salmon, Coregonus autumnalis (cisco), Stenodus leucychthis (nelma), and C. albula are the most commercially important fish.

This arctic ecoregion experiences 7 months of winter before the snow-covered tundra transforms into fertile wetlands. Swans, divers, geese, ducks, plovers, sandpipers, snipes, phalaropes, terns,skuas, birds of prey, passerines and gulls are just some of the migratory birds that breed in the productive wetland that also supports abundant populations of fish and 5 marine mammals. Some scientists think that fish of the genus Coregonus, called ciscos, originated here. Spawning fish reported from the delta include the Arctic lamprey (Lethenteron japonicum), burbot (Lota lota), and Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis). Several species of ciscos (Coregonus spp.) are also found in the delta, including C. tugun, C. sardinella, C. peled, C. muskun, and C. nasus. A few of the many birds that visit or breed in the delta are black brant (Branta bernicla), common and Steller's eiders (Somateria mollissima and Polysticta stelleri), Sabine's and Ross's gulls (Xema sabini and Rhodostethia rosea), and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Here is a quick video of what you can expect to see on this cruise

 

Arrival in Yakutsk. Depending upon time of arrival a transfer is included.

Yakutsk is a capital of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) with a population of almost 300 thousand. This comprises 28 % of the total population of the Republic. It was established in 1632 by the Enisey Cossack, Petr Beketov. Yakutsk is situated on the left bank of the Lena river in the Tuymaada valley. It is the largest city located in a permafrost zone. Yakutsk is the administrative and cultural centre for the region. In true Russian cultural style there are seven theatres including Opera and ballet and the Northern Circus. 19.00– ship departure

The ship stops for a while at the local natural wonder, the “Lena Pillars” national park. Here you will see steep rocks – unique natural phenomenon – in the form of 200 meters high pillars that run for 80 km along the river bank. One can visualise colonnades, arches and battlements within the myriad shapes of the natural stone walls. You will enjoy a wonderful rest stop within this fairy “land”. After a welcome ceremony (by local indigenous people), comprising a ritual dance and a “Purifying with fire” ceremony, you are guided to a rock massif. From the top of one of the “towers” you will have an expansive overview of this great river and the seemingly endless taiga.

Buotama is where The ship stops for a while at the local natural wonder, the “Lena Pillars” national park. Here you will see steep rocks – unique natural phenomenon – in the form of 200 meters high pillars that run for 80 km along the river bank. One can visualise colonnades, arches and battlements within the myriad shapes of the natural stone walls. You will enjoy a wonderful rest stop within this fairy “land”. After a welcome ceremony (by local indigenous people), comprising a ritual dance and a “Purifying with fire” ceremony, you are guided to a rock massif. From the top of one of the “towers” you will have an expansive overview of this great river and the seemingly endless taiga.a major tributary (length of 418 km) feeds into the Lena River. Early mammoth and bison hunters lived here 30/40 thousand years ago. Evidence of Human habitation, from later periods, have also been found in the area. The remains of primitive cooking areas have been found around this part of the taiga. In 2006 a farm for woodland buffalos was established. The buffalos came from Canada, the goal being a recovery of a large fauna representative in the eco system.

In this area the Lena river enters the, Central Yakut lowlands. It is a valley that opens up for about 40 km in length with a width of up to 15 km. There are many lakes and marshes within this river plain. This could be considered a braided river section and despite being changeable has a navigable channel. Its depth can reach between 16 and 20 meters. Along this section there is an outflow, known as the Aldan river, one of the largest for the Lena river. By now you should also be seeing Verkhoyansk Mountains. The Lena riverbanks keep disappearing, as vast areas of river valley comes into view and is punctuated by small islands and creeks. Deserted riverbanks pass by for many hundreds of kilometres.

Zhigansk is the first settlement beyond the Polar circle. The Zhigansk stockaded town was
established in 1632 as Yakutsk town. The name of “Zhigansk” comes from the Tungus language and means “an inhabitant of lower lands”. The main occupation of the population is hunting, fishing and cattle breeding. Zhigansk is an administrative district centre with population of over three thousand people. Our ship will anchor in a deeper part of the river, due to insufficient water depth and you will reach the riverbank by a small local ferry. You will be impressed by a performance from the local indigenous people who will present music representing, blowing snow, wind whistles and the sounds of the local nature and fauna. All matched with ritual dancing.

Stop at Kusur, a small settlement in the North of the Arctic Circle. Men are engaged in reindeer herd farming and hunting whilst the women make traditional clothes decorated with fur and beads. The Kusur people will impress you by the simplicity of their village life, typical of the extreme northern areas. The rural settlements endure severe climate changes and strong winds which influence the design and layout. Some local towns, as opposed to indigenous villages, are known for their tragic histories connected with hard life of forced emigres from the Baltic states and Central Yakutia during soviet times.

Subject to weather conditions there will be an excursion to the Tiksi settlement at what is known as the, ‘Sea Gates of Yakutia. The name of Tiksi comes from the Yakut language and means a “place of meeting and mooring”. Tiksi appeared on the map in the mid 1930s. The navigable period for here is extremely short, only being 2 and a half months. During the remaining months the Laptev Sea is glaciated; the ice thickness up to 1.5 to 2 meters or more. In winter there are polar nights: the sun seems to forget about this area. Darkness arrives for several months. Sometimes one can observe Polar lights in the dark sky of the night. In summer there is a period of white nights. The midnight Yakut sun smiles almost 24 hours a day!

The Lena river is one of the greatest rivers of Siberia belonging to the biggest water artery system in the world. There are hardly any other rivers, within the Eurasian Arctic region, that has such a large estuary covering an area of over 32,000 square km. The Lena river delta consists of large and small streams, canals and lakes peppered with 1500 islets of different sizes. Here the Lena river ends its run and spills out to the Arctic Ocean. Today will be on board the ship. You will see the so called ‘Lensk Pipe’, steep rocky (400 meters high) islets rising form the water.

Stepanovka is situated on a picturesque part of the Lena Riverbank. Here you can visit a local Fishermen’s house, to see his lifestyle and taste fish soup made of the fish caught before your eyes.

The Polar circle is an imaginary line on the Earth, in the northern hemisphere and with the latitude of 66’33’38’’. During the winter solstice (December 21-22) northward of the Polar circle the sun does not rise at all and during the summer solstice (June 21-22) period the sun does not set. The Polar circle is constantly moving; its geographic location is not stable. In fact, it moves approximately two meters a day and almost for 100 meters during one year. A polar circle position can be easily determined any time with the help of modern technologies. During the trip our ship will cross the Polar circle in the area of Zhigansk district.

Leaving the endless water environment beyond the Northern Polar circle we pass the estuaries of the rivers Viluy and Aldan. Between the Zhigansk district and the Viluy river estuary there is a natural boundary called the ‘40 isles’.

is one of the most beautiful natural areas where you will enjoy the beauty of what is termed a ‘green stop’. You can walk on the wild bank, observe the bounty of local nature and enjoy an artic sunset. In the evening, in honour of the cruise nearing completion, there will be a riverbank fire and music performance in different languages.

An excursion to the historical architectural open-air museum of Druzhba (Friendship) located at the area where the, ‘Lensk stockaded town’ was founded by Russian Cossacks. The Museum presents samples of ancient wooden architecture in the traditional Russian and Yakut styles. There are displays of wooden home utensils, national Yakut clothes and items of Russian Orthodoxy.

Arrival at the Yakutsk river boat harbour at 04:00. Following breakfast – at a normal hour you will be transferred to the airport.

Price

Prices start from €4700  per person, depending on the ship and the standard of accommodation

DEPARTURE DATES

July and August 2020.  Exact dates to be advised

Inclusions

  • accommodation in the chosen cabin category
  • full board (including dinner on day 1 and breakfast on day 14)
  • captain’s welcome Cocktail Reception
  • transfers along the itinerary
  • excursions according tour program
  • entertainment on the board
  • English speaking guides