Arrive in Toronto, Canada and join your charter flight to Kangerlussauq, Greenland (not included in cruise fare). Lying at the head of the longest fjord in western Greenland, Kangerlussuaq has one of the most stable climates in the region though temperatures can range from -50C in the winter to as high as 28C in summer. Kangerlussuaq, which means 'The Big Fjord' in Greenlandic, is appropriately named, as it's 168km long and is the start of your voyage.
The west Greenland coastline is a rich mixture of fishing communities, myriad islands and complex coastal waterways. You will be making an expedition stop here to explore the Greenlandic landscape.
Venturing 250km north of the Arctic Circle we find the stunning coastal community of Ilulissat. Ilulissat translates literally into "iceberg", and there couldn't be a more fitting name. Your visit will include time in the colorful town and a chance to hike out to an elevated viewpoint where we can observe the great fields of ice. You will also cruise in your fleet of zodiacs in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord. The Icefjord is where you will find the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, one of the most active and fastest moving in the world at 19m per day and calving more than 35 square kilometers of ice annually. The glacier has been the object of scientific attention for 250 years and, because of its relative ease of accessibility, has significantly added to the understanding of ice-cap glaciology, climate change and related geomorphic processes.
In Karrat Fjord you will cruise one of Greenland's most spectacular fjords. During ice breakup, narwhals and seals use the long leads created by high winds in this region to hunt the rich waters of the fjord. The cliffs within the fjord should give you good opportunities to see colonies of dovekies. Time spent on deck today should result in some good wildlife sightings, not to mention unbeatable photographic opportunities.
Upernavik means 'springtime place'. This was where people came in spring, when the ice broke up, to trade, fish and to drive the catch out to the open sea. Qaarsorsuaq Mountain, the town's landmark, can be seen up to 10km away.
Sail through Milne Inlet, a narwhal breeding ground, enroute to Pond Inlet. This bustling Arctic community is surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Eastern Arctic. Have a chance to explore the town, as well as take in a cultural presentation at the Nattinnak Centre.
The largest uninhabited island in the world supports significant concentrations of wildlife, including 26 species of seabirds and 11 species of marine mammals. At Dundas Harbour find the lonely remains of an RCMP station dating from the 1920s. You may also spot walrus, polar bear, muskox and caribou here. At nearby Croker Bay, have a chance to Zodiac cruise though this scenic bay and marvel at icebergs, freshly calved from the glacier at the head of the bay.
In 1845 Sir John Franklin took his expedition of 129 men in two ships into the Wellington Channel. Not a soul returned from the fateful expedition. It was two years before search parties were launched. Aside from the bodies of three souls buried here, only relics were found as clues to the disappearance. Until recently, the three graves had left no indication as to the fate of the rest of the British party. Such is the interest in this story, the Canadian government recently announced a new initiative to locate the missing Franklin vessels.
Prince Leopold is known as the 'Island of Freedom,' the vertical cliffs of Prince Leopold Island rise about 250m. The island was first sighted in 1819 by W.E. Parry, and named in honour of His Royal Highness Prince Leopold Saxe Coburg. The island is noted for its extraordinary bird cliffs that house Thick-billed Murres, Northern Fulmars, and Black-legged Kittiwakes, who care for their young chicks on nests glued to the rocks with guano. The colony is estimated at a quarter of a million birds. Other species known to breed on the island include Atlantic Brant, Common Raven, Common Eider, Parasitic Jaeger, Glaucous Gull, and Snow Bunting. The seabirds generally occupy the site from early May to the end of August. The entire island is included within the Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Federal Crown Land). It encompasses 311 square kilometers, which includes a 5km marine buffer around the island.
Fort Ross was the last trading post built by the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada's Arctic. Established in 1937 it was meant to bridge the eastern and western Arctic fur trading districts through the Bellot Strait, a narrow 32-kilometre passage separating the northernmost tip of North America from Somerset Island. Rising out of the vast Arctic wilderness, Fort Ross had two buildings, a manager's house and a store, and was also home to a number of Inuit families. It was operated for some 11 years, but eventually abandoned because ice constantly choked the strait. When Fort Ross was finally closed in 1948, everything was moved some 250 kilometres south to Stanners Harbor, establishing the town of Spence Bay, now known as Taloyoak. Bellot Strait marks the first meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific tides north of Magellan Strait. Surprisingly, the strait was missed by John Ross and wasn't discovered until 1852 by William Kennedy, who named the strait after his second-in-command, Joseph-Rene Bellot.
During the first navigation of the Northwest Passage by the St. Roch, between 1940 and 1942, she sheltered in Pasley Bay in the winter of 1941. Here, Constable Albert Chartrand died suddenly from a heart attack. Captain Larsen and Corporal Hunt travelled 1300km by dogsled to find a Roman Catholic priest to deliver a service for him. Enjoy an expedition stop here where you'll have a chance to explore this sheltered landscape of the Boothia Peninsula.
In 1903, explorer Roald Amundsen, while looking for the Northwest Passage, sailed through the James Ross Strait and stopped at a natural harbour on the island's south coast. Unable to proceed due to sea ice, he spent the winters of 1903-04 and 1904-05. There he learned Arctic living skills from the local Netsilik Inuit, skills that would later prove invaluable in his Antarctic explorations. He used his ship Gjoa as a base for explorations in the summer of 1904, sledding the Boothia Peninsula and traveling to the magnetic North Pole. Amundsen finally left, after 22 months on the island, in August 1905. The harbor where he lived is now the island's only settlement, Gjoa Haven, which he called 'the finest little harbor in the world.' Today the population has blossomed from 110 in 1961 to 1,064 in 2006.
The Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary contains the largest variety of geese of any nesting area in North America. The Sanctuary is one of the few nesting areas for both the Atlantic Brant (Brant bernicla hrota) and Pacific Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans). Almost the entire population of Ross' Goose (Chen rossii) nests here. It was named by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1905 for Maud of Wales, the Queen of Norway. The Ahiak Caribou calve along the Queen Maud Gulf coast in Nunavut and spend the summers here. Here you may also find bald eagles, muskox and grizzly bears.
Before there were any permanent buildings at Bathurst Inlet, the area was home to the Kingaunmiut, the "people of Nose Mountain". They constructed stone tent rings, meat caches, fox traps and drying racks, as well as hunting hides (taluit) and inuksuit (stone figures, "in the likeness of a man"). Few explorers reached this area - the first Franklin Expedition (1819-1821) came into Bathurst Inlet in the summer of 1821, travelling by large birchbark canoes, mapping the arctic coast and seeking the Northwest Passage. They were also seeking the local Inuit but found no one; everyone had gone inland for the summer. In 1936, the Hudson's Bay Company moved their trading post from the Western River area to Bathurst Inlet; the same year a Roman Catholic Church opened a mission. Both the trading post and mission operated until the mid 1960s.
Located between Victoria Island and the Arctic coast of mainland Canada, the Coronation Gulf is an extensive body of water that is linked to the Arctic Ocean via the Dolphin and Union Strait on the west and by the Dease Strait and Queen Maud Gulf on the east. Inside Coronation Gulf lies the Duke of York Archipelago. Rivers that flow into the gulf include the Rae, Richardson, Coppermine, and Tree. The mainland south of the gulf may have substantial diamond and uranium deposits. The small settlement of Kugluktuk lies at the mouth of the Coppermine River. The gulf was named in 1821 by John Franklin in honour of the coronation of King George IV. The environment and Native culture of the gulf was studied by Rudolph Anderson and Diamond Jenness in 1916 as part of the Canadian Arctic Expedition.
Located at the mouth of the Coppermine river to southwest of Victoria Island on the Coronation Gulf, Kugluktuk is the western most community in Nunavut. Originally named Coppermine, it was renamed Kugluktuk according to its Inuinnaqtun name meaning "place of moving waters", on January 1st, 1996. The Coppermine River itself is designated a Canadian Heritage River for the important role it played as an exploration and fur trade route. Copper deposits along the river attracted the first explorers to the area. Because the tundra is close to the tree line, a variety of wildlife can be viewed in the area, including grizzly bears, wolverines and moose, as well as tundra wildlife, such as muskoxen, caribou, foxes and wolves.
Board your charter flight (not included in cruise fare) which will take you to Edmonton, where you will transfer to your continued flights home.