Edmonton to Cambridge Bay (Nunavut)Your journey of discovery begins in Edmonton as you board a charter flight to Cambridge Bay, a remote outpost above the Arctic Circle. Located on the southern shores of Victoria Island, today it is a center for hunting, trapping, and fishing. Upon arrival, enjoy a walking tour of the town and in the afternoon board the expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, meet the expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off, bound for the fabled Northwest Passage.
Victory Point, King William IslandAs you chart a course into the Northwest Passage, your onboard presentation series begins, and the legend of Sir John Franklin and his ‘lost expedition’ is beginning to unravel. The mystery of what happened to Franklin was partially solved in September 2014, when a joint Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expedition found the long lost Franklin shipwreck, HMS Erebus, in the Victoria Strait. Aim to visit Victory Point, traveling very near the actual location of the wreck of HMS Erebus, all the while learning about the quest for exploration that eventually opened up the Arctic. Experts and marine archaeologists all agree, the second of Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Terror, is likely to be in this vicinity. There is great optimism that it will also be found when ice conditions permit the search to resume.
Conningham BayArrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Hobday Island. This is a known hotspot for polar bears who come here to feast on beluga whales, often caught in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay during low tide. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons – and very healthy looking polar bears!
Bellot Strait and Fort RossTransit the narrow passage of Bellot Strait – a channel separating northerly Somerset Island from continental North America. The aim is to enter at slack tide if possible, in order to avoid a current that roars through the passage at more than seven knots during the peak flow. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an abundant food source for marine mammals. Keep your eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. The skill of the Captain and Officers and capabilities of the ship become apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation. The historic site of Fort Ross, located at the southern end of Somerset Island, is a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost. Fascinating archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors.
Beechey IslandBeechey Island holds great historic importance, as it is here that Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition spent its last ‘comfortable’ winter in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness, sparking an incredible series of search expeditions that lasted almost three decades. A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach gives one pause to wonder on the bravery (or foolhardiness) of these pioneering explorers, as they sought a way through the barren, frozen landscape. Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage almost sixty years later. This is a thrilling location for history buffs and for many it will be the defining moment of the expedition.
Lancaster Sound and Dundas HarbourAt almost 75⁰ degrees north of latitude, cruise the coastline of Devon Island in the waters of Lancaster Sound – a rich, biodiverse region often referred to as the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. A mixing of massive volumes of water from the Atlantic to the east, Pacific to the west, and the archipelago of islands to the north combine to make a rich cocktail of nutrients supporting an abundance of Arctic wildlife. The expedition ship plans on visiting the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour, situated on the southern shores of Devon Island. Musk ox and Arctic hare are sometimes sighted in the vicinity and there are some great hiking options in the area.
Pond InletSight the wild north coast of Baffin Island and navigate through Navy Board Inlet. The vast landscapes of Sirmilik National Park surround the ship as it approaches the remote Inuit community of Pond Inlet. Visit the Natinnak Center, where a fascinating cultural exhibit showcases aspects of daily life, culture, and history of the people of the north. Inuit carvings, jewelry and other traditional craft is on display and purchasing such items from the local artisans is a great way to support the community. Meet the local children of Pond Inlet and marvel at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the skills and challenges of traditional Inuit games. The skills and physical agility developed by such games were often those necessary for everyday survival in the harsh Arctic environment.
Gibbs FjordThis morning enter the spectacular Gibbs Fjord with towering cliffs all around. The expedition ship seems dwarfed by the giant peaks and snowy glaciers as it cruises slowly along the dark waters. One past guest was known to liken Gibbs Fjord to a 'scene from a Lord of the Rings' - it's hard to disagree!
Isabella FjordIsabella Bay (Niginaniq) is an important summer habitat and feeding area for endangered bowhead whales. These remarkable marine mammals are able to break sea ice with the crown of their head. The area also includes a shallow shelf at the entrance to the bay that provides protection for bowheads from predatory orca whales. Polar bears, ringed seals, Canada geese, snow geese and narwhal are also found in and around the area.
Sunshine FjordSunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle. This location offers terrific hiking opportunities. You may wish to take the extended hike, gaining some real elevation and wonderful views of the surroundings. Or choose to take the less strenuous option along the shoreline. The sheltered waters of the fjord provide the kayakers with great conditions for paddling.
Pangnirtung, NunavutNestled in the heart of Cumberland Sound and the gateway to Auyuittuq National Park, Pangnirtung is beautifully situated between the mountains and the sea. This remote town is known for its arts and crafts and a visit to the local art gallery is a highlight. In addition, the Angmarlik Visitor Center has a wonderful interpretive display featuring the lifestyle of the Thule and of the modern Inuit.
Monumental IslandA cliff towering from the ocean in Davis Strait, Monumental Island is host to numerous bird species and is known to be an excellent place to spot both the gyrfalcon and the peregrine falcon. Walrus have been known to haul out here in great numbers. Explore along the shoreline by zodiac, looking for these fascinating creatures and smaller pups within the masses. Polar bears in this vicinity have been known to chase walrus off their haul out and into the water. Nearing the end of your journey, enjoy an entertaining voyage recap from the Expedition Leader. This evening celebrate with a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship and reflect on your voyage across the top of the remote Canadian Arctic.
Iqaluit – Disembark – return flight to OttawaDrop anchor off the beach in Iqaluit, the largest community on Baffin Island, and make your way ashore by zodiac. Transfer to the airport and board the scheduled flight to Ottawa, where your journey comes to an end.