Last Minute Svalbard Photography Expedition

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from Brendan van Son with an opportunity. A ship-management company that operates Arctic and Antarctica vessels had a charter cancel on them this summer.

For a ship management company, there’s little worse than a lost charter in the expedition season. Not only does it mean lost revenue, but it also means that you have to pay to keep the ship in port or docked. It can be extremely expensive.

Rather than the boat sitting there, losing money, Brendan and I offered to take the boat at a heavily discounted rate, of course. 

The boat management company agreed to our pitch! 

We have now partnered with Polar Tracks Expeditions and have an expedition ship, fully crewed, at our disposal.

Now, I’m still a little cautious when it comes to risk, so I had some safeguards built into our contract with the boat management company that protects all customer’s payments should we fail to fill the boat with the numbers needed to make the cruise viable. After all, this is very last minute.

Expect to see an abundance of wildlife and landscapes including Polar Bears and Walrus.


  • Prices start at $4,200 USD making this a once in a lifetime deal. A trip like this would typically start at around $7,000 to $8,000.
  • Because this is so last minute, we need to sell 40 spaces by April 6th.
  • If we do not sell 40 spaces by April 6th, you get your money back.
  • 49 is the maximum number of spaces available.
  • Sailing dates are June 6th-16th 2023, but you will need to arrive at least 1 day early. We sail from Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
  • Food and Drink are included, but alcohol is not.
  • Flights and Transfers are not included.
  • There will be 4 photographers onboard to guide and deliver presentations (see below for details). There will also be expedition leaders who are responsible for driving the Zodiacs, leading excursions and being on hand to educate us on local wildlife, culture, history etc.
  • We will be searching for Polar Bears, but I must stress: There is no guarantee that we will find them.


The pricing varies depending on the type of accommodation you’d like. The prices are based on double occupancy, so if you book solo, you’ll be matched with a fellow solo traveller of the same gender. There is also an option for a single supplement.

  • Triple Room With Shared Bathroom – 4200usd Sold Out
  • Twin Room with Shared Bathroom – 5000usd Sold Out
  • Twin Room with Private Bathroom – 5500usd Sold Out
  • Mini-Suite – Double Bed, Great for Couples – 7000usd (2 cabins) Sold Out
  • Owner’s Suite – Double Bed, Great for Couples – 8000usd (1 cabin)

Included in the price is all your food and drink (non-alcoholic) onboard the vessel. Not included are flights to/from Longyearbyen, transfers to the ship, and hotel on the night of the 5th (before departure).

To book, you’ll need to fill out the form below. Spaces will fill on a first-come, first-serve basis. Since there are limited spaces available, choose the berth you would prefer, if that’s not available, the team will reach out to you with other options.

The Team

Jonas Paurell
Jonas is an explorer, expedition leader and photographer. In the spring of 2022 Jonas lead an unsupported 35 day expedition across Svalbard with a team of geologists & scientists to undertake important climate research. You can learn more about Jonas and his work here.

Thomas Heaton (me)
It feels odd to write about myself. I was seasick on my last boat trip, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. However, on that trip I gained a real enthusiasm for photographing wildlife, so I will be on hand to yell & scream with you every time we spot wildlife.

Brendan van Son
Brendan is a talented landscape & travel photographer & writer. We have worked together all over the world and I trust nobody more than Brendan to co-lead this exciting voyage to Svalbard. You can learn more about Brendan and his photography here.

Neil Arthurs
Neil Arthurs is a travel and landscape photographer and videographer from Ireland. Driven by a sense of adventure and good humour, Neil inspires people to get outside and find a connection with those singular moments that photographing the natural world reveals. Learn more about Neil here.

As well as having 4 professional photographers on board, there will be a team of experienced expedition leaders who will look after our safety, work with us and guide us to the best locations and drive the Zodiacs to get us as close as possible to the action.

The Ship

The MV Polar Pioneer has been reborn and was reintroduced to polar waters during Svalbard’s 2022 season with resounding success. The Polar Pioneer is one of 10 Akademik Shuleykin-class Russian ships built in the mid-1980s in Finland for the Soviet Union’s oceanographic research purposes. To learn more about the ship and accomodation onboard, click here.

The ship is equipped with Zodiacs to make landfall, explore and get close to action.