Tales of the Arctic
In one Sámi legend, an Arctic fox’s tail sends sparkles to the sky. In another, a whale’s spray paints the heavens. They call the Northern Lights “guovssahas,” or “light you can hear.” Read on!
Explore the Arctic Circle
Embrace a latitude shift. For millennia, we’ve told stories to sustain us, make sense of the world, and share common experiences. Explore the world with us north of 66.6 degrees, where magic happens in the realm of the polar bear. Spirits thrive in the modern world. Musical sprites barter in waterfalls, mystery and mayhem abound, and Roald Amundsen lives on. Get ready to write your own story! Snuggle up and journey with us as we uncover the people, places, and Tales of the Arctic.
6 Destinations. Endless Tales.
We sail to six destinations on the planet’s northern cap that share many similarities: icy glacier-scapes, mind-blowing plant and animal life, an awareness of environmental sustainability, and mythologies of other worlds. In Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, the Northwest Passage, Norway, and Norway’s archipelago, Svalbard ancient legends of the Northern Lights and the existence of mystical creatures – including elves! – are alive and well. Before you write your own Tale of the Arctic, check these out.
What do gunslinger Wyatt Earp and Roald Amundsen have in common? Nome, Alaska, where the word “frontier” has many meanings. Just 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle on the southern side of the Seward Peninsula along the coast of the Bering Sea, Nome was a haven for polar explorers before it became one for treasure-seekers of the Alaska Goldrush. Wyatt Earp, of OK Corral fame, and his wife were among them. In the late 1890s, they erected the Dexter Saloon, a successful business that quickly became known as a “second class” establishment. He and his wife left in 1901, just on the edge of Amundsen’s traverse of the Northwest Passage. Amundsen landed in Nome in 1906. One of the world’s four busts of Amundsen sits outside Nome City Hall near the sign that marks the location of Wyatt Earp’s Dexter Saloon. It’s no accident that these pioneers of very different stripes are together. You’ll see them when you’re there, along with old railroad tracks, abandoned dredges, and no shortage of local folklore.
The Greenlandic word for “ancestor’s soul” is “tupilak,” and it has become one of the most famous symbols of Greenland. Visitors buy the small popular figures, usually beautifully carved from wood or bone, as good luck charms. But tupilaks weren’t always good luck charms. Dating back to ancient times, tupilaks were spiritual avengers. Shamans made them from bones and other parts of dead animals to represent aggression. They endowed them with magical and destructive capabilities and set them out to sea to fight their enemies. The real danger of tupilaks? If an enemy’s tupilak was stronger, the tupilak would return and destroy its creator. Today, Greenlandic artists sell the descendants of these stunning monsters as souvenirs to ward off evil. Will you fall under the tupilak’s spell?
In Iceland, elves, or huldufólk, are no joke. Statistics vary but suffice it to say a significant percentage of the population believes in the existence – or at least the possibility – of elves. With stories going back to ancient times, huldufólk, or hidden people, play an important role in protecting their environment. Among the most famous is of Álfhólsvegur, or Elf Hill Road, in Kópavogur. In the 1930s, machinery and drills repeatedly broke down when the town tried to build a road directly over what locals claimed was an elf home. The road was re-routed. In the 1980s, developers tried again to build a road in the same place with no success. When you’re in Reykjavik, be sure to stop by the Elf School where you can learn more about the 13 different types of elves who inhabit – and protect – Iceland.
Rumors of murder, cannibalism, and ghosts plagued nearly every attempt through the chunks of ice that connect the Atlantic to the Pacific until Amundsen’s success in 1906. Charles Francis Hall’s 1871 expedition to find the likely-haunted remains of his predecessor, Sir John Franklin, is no exception – save the presence of a brilliant Inuit guide, Inut translator, and expert Arctic hunter from Nunavut named Tookoolito, aka Hannah, and her young family. As the story goes, Hall’s crew poisoned him, he died, and then their ship got trapped in the ice and their hull collapsed. They survived for six months on an ice floe until a whaler rescued them off the coast of Newfoundland in 1873. While that part makes the history books, this part doesn’t – Tookoolito and her family helped Hall’s men survive in the Arctic, communicate with the Inuit, learn more about Inuit culture, and hunt. Without her, they’d have no story to tell.
Sure, you’ve heard of Thor and Odin and probably Loki, but in Norway, mythology goes much deeper. Miles away and fathoms below the hull of your expedition ship off the coast of Norway lives the Kraken, an enormous octopus-esque sea monster that terrorizes entire ships from Norway to Greenland before devouring them whole. For the discerning Norwegian fisherman though, Kraken also brings the benefit of schools of fish stirred up by its swirling tentacles. King Sverre of Norway first reported Kraken in 1180 based on what historians suspect were sightings of giant squid. But for ancient navigators, the sea hid scads of monsters – and for every fisherman that returned home after a long time at sea, oh, you can bet they had stories to tell. Don’t worry – Kraken does not enjoy hybrid electric-powered ships. Too bony.
Svalbard is beautiful and most of the ~2,500 people who live there reside in Longyearbyen, where you’ll experience the coziness of Arctic life nearly everywhere you go. Home to more polar bears than people, Svalbard is also home to the world’s northernmost everything. Pubs, hotels, kindergartens, grocery stores, cemeteries – but you’re not allowed to die there since the 1950s. Or give birth. Or have a cat. Svalbard is an archipelago above 75° North, halfway between Norway and the North Pole. It’s technically a desert, and while it’s part of Norway, the Norwegian Immigration Act doesn’t apply. No visas required – just the means to live there. If you live there and you’re pregnant, you must head back to mainland Norway 21 days before the baby’s due. And if you die there? Well, you won’t be buried underneath the permafrost. It’s not possible – bodies rise up from the ground after a period of melting and freezing, so… As for the cat, there are two problems. First, they’re risky because they nibble sensitive vegetation and their susceptibility to rabies and tapeworm is dangerous to humans. Secondly, Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault holds over one million of types of seeds, the world’s insurance policy to ensure that future generations will be able to overcome climate change and population growth. Polar bears? No problem. Curious kitties? Not so much!
Book Early and Save
The earlier you book the more you save! Book now through April 30, 2023 for the deals on bucket-list destinations like Antarctica, Alaska, Iceland, Norway and more! Save up to $4,000 on select expedition cruises.