Iqaluit, the capital and largest community of Nunavut, is located at the head of Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island. With an average monthly temperature below zero degrees for eight months of the year, the permafrost inhibits the growth of flora, which the many trees and shrubs growing low to the ground attest to. One might see Arctic willow however keep your eyes open, they don’t typically stand higher than 6” from the ground. Following a walking tour of Iqaluit, your water-based adventure starts when you board your expedition vessel by zodiac.
Your first excursion is to visit Monumental Island. Located in Davis Strait, it is a known spot for spotting walrus. Explore by zodiacs and search the shoreline for these fascinating creatures. Watchful eyes may locate smaller pups within the masses. Taking your time in the zodiacs at this site allows for nature to take its course. Polar bears are often found here and have been known to chase the walrus off their haul out and into the water.
Marking the northern headland of Cumberland Sound are the dramatic cliffs of Cape Mercy. As the Baffin Bay middle ice recedes throughout the summer, the stretch of Baffin coast from Cape Mercy to Cape Dyer is a great place to find polar bears coming ashore. Explore this region with the goal of hiking the shoreline ridges, paddling the bays and zodiac cruising the ice in search of Arctic wildlife.
Nestled 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.
While it is uncertain where the ice edge is, the ship sails for the ice in Davis Strait in order to experience this dramatic transition zone. Much of the Arctic sea life seems to be interested in this zone, so be sure to keep our eyes peeled for bearded, hooded, and ringed seals, as well as polar bears and walrus. Who knows, perhaps a bowhead whale may be cruising the ice edge, too! Spotting scopes and binoculars are available to use as your fellow passengers all scan the ice looking for wildlife. If conditions permit, you can even launch the zodiacs to get into the ice and explore. At some point, leave the sea ice behind us and direct the binoculars and scopes towards the never-ending stream of icebergs sailing up the west coast of Greenland.
One of the world's longest fjords, Sondre Stromfjord towers above the ship on either side as you sail up it. The goal is not the end of the fjord, but rather some of the small side fjords along it that you can zodiac into and explore on foot or by kayak. Major geologic and geomorphologic features surround you and for those looking for living and breathing excitement, you can hope to find muskox along the shores of the fjord as well. Soaring high above might be the white-tailed sea eagle, majestic as always while riding the thermals off the ridges.
Just inland from the town of Kangamiut is Evigshed Fjord. As you sail up this fjord, expect to see brash ice and bergy bits in the water. Turn into an offshoot of this fjord and drop the zodiacs for a cruise along the base of an icefall and glacier in here. The terrain around you has been heavily glaciated and makes for some dramatic scenery and hiking as you explore this fjord complex.
A visit to the West Coast of Greenland wouldn’t be quite complete without a visit to the capital city. With a population of approximately 16,000, Nuuk offers numerous opportunities for all interest groups onboard the ship. Whether it be a visit to the Greenland National Museum, lunch at a Greenlandic café or a paddle in beautiful Nuuk fjord, there are many activities available to you.
As you cross Davis Strait, the onboard educational team continues to introduce you to the Arctic through stories and pictures. Whether it be history or wildlife, or perhaps a photographic review by your onboard photographers, you can take time to enhance our knowledge of the region. In addition, be sure to join the keen wildlife watch on the bridge and outer decks as the ship crosses this rich stretch of ocean.
At the mouth of Frobisher Bay and the southeast tip of Baffin Island, the Lower Savage Islands are an archipelago that look like they have been split apart by a large hammer. A maze of channels and small islets, this is a fantastic place to explore by zodiac. The Akademik Ioffe drops you off and repositions to the south side of the islands. As you explore, make your way from the northeast side of the island down a series of channels looking for your ship. The location of these islands mean that they are ideally situated between the rapid and dynamic flow of the Hudson Strait, the outflow from Frobisher Bay and they even catch some of the Baffin current that flows south down the coast of Baffin Island from Baffin Bay. This mixing of waters makes it quite rich in marine life and we will be looking for a few more polar bears on this final excursion of the voyage.
Arriving back into the capital of Nunavut, disembark here and transfer to the airport for your flight home.