Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Hanseatic is really riding high. On Aug. 26, the 175-passenger expedition ship set a new record for passenger ships -- sailing within 298 miles of the North Pole. The ship reached the northernmost point at 85 degrees, 40.7' north and 135 degrees, 39.6' east.
“Unusual ice conditions made this record possible," said Captain Thilo Natke. "North of the New Siberian Islands in the Russian Arctic, there was a large ice-free zone stretching north through the Arctic Ocean, which we used for this spontaneous detour.”
In temperatures of around zero degrees and a brisk north-easterly wind, the passengers took a Zodiac ride along the edge of the pack ice. This event was then celebrated in style with a party on deck.
The expedition through the Northeast Passage set off from Nome, AK, on Aug. 12 and will continue on to Severnaya Zemlya, Russia, within the next few days. The itinerary will feature expeditionary landings followed by cruises through the Kara Sea, Novaya Zemlya, the Barents Sea and a port call in Murmansk, considered the end of the Northeast Passage.
Then Hanseatic will sail to Hammerfest, Norway and on to Bodo, Norway, where the voyage will end on Sept. 10.
The Hanseatic has the highest ice class for passenger ships (E4), so it can travel to destinations previously inaccessible to cruise ships. The line also has sizable experience in Arctic and Antarctic travel; its ships have ventured into polar waters more than 200 times.
During most of the 20th century, the Northeast Passage was essentially closed to non-Russian ships. Upon the demise of the Soviet Union, the route opened up and, in 2009, the first full navigation by foreign merchant ships occurred. In addition, a Russian ferry and a Russian tanker ship became the first of their kind to sail the full length in 2010.
Hanseatic is the first non-Russian passenger ship to sail the full passage length.