Sondre Stromfjord is one of the world’s longest fjords cutting into the interior of Greenland. Your charter flight from Ottawa, Canada lands at a former American Airbase (Bluie West Eight and Camp Lloyd), located just miles north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland. Board your expedition vessel by zodiac and weigh anchor. Throughout the evening and through the night sail down this incredible fjord, crossing the Arctic Circle, before reaching the ocean and Davis Strait. Turn north out of the mouth of Sondre Stromfjord and cross the Arctic Circle yet again, remaining north of this point for the rest of the voyage.
Explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before visiting the town in the afternoon. You can hope to meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and perhaps see a demonstration of “Eskimo Rolling” by one of the former champions of the Greenland Kayaking Championships.
One of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord spews massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The approach to Ilulissat is dependent upon the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the icefjord. Ilulissat was the hometown of Knud Rasmussen, one of Greenland’s most famous explorers and anthropologists, born here in 1879.
Your crossing of Baffin Bay depends on the extent of the so-called ‘middle ice’. The goal is to find the edge of this and then follow it around and to the coast of Baffin Island. Your time at sea is determined by the extent of the ice and amount of wildlife. As your ship crosses Baffin Bay, keep a look out for fin, sperm, sei and humpback whales as well as the numerous species of Arctic seals and seabirds that abound in the Bay.
Visit the town of Pond Inlet and make a base at the Natinnak Center, where a spectacular cultural exhibit acts as the background of a display put on for the ship's passengers by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit carvings, jewelery and other local craft are available to purchase from the local artisans. Take time to meet the children of Pond Inlet and marvel at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the challenges of the Inuit Games.
Lancaster Sound is in many ways the wildlife ‘super-highway’ of the Arctic. A massive outlet for water from the high Arctic archipelago, there is a mixing of water here that is rich in nutrients. Coupled with areas of open water for much of the year, Lancaster Sound is home to a diverse concentration of wildlife that can be staggering, especially given the sparseness of the region. Stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound very much depend on ice conditions and weather.
Beechey Island holds great importance in the quest to complete the Northwest Passage. It is here that 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 finished the charting of Canada’s northern archipelago. Almost sixty years later, Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage. Following your visit to Beechey Island, sail south toward Prince Regent Inlet, stopping for a view of the bird cliffs at Prince Leopold Island. A migratory bird sanctuary, Prince Leopold Island is home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. Totaling several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Canadian Arctic. Encounters with polar bear, beluga, narwhal and the occasional bowhead whale have also been known in the summering grounds around Prince Leopold Island and Prince Regent Inlet.
If ice conditions permit, your Captain may sail south through Prince Regent Inlet and approach the eastern end of the Bellot Strait. Fort Ross, located at the southern end of Somerset Island, is a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost. Ancient archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors. Upon leaving Fort Ross, the ship attempts the passage of the Bellot Strait, entering at slack water if possible in order to avoid a current that can be more than seven knots during the peak flow. The mixing of waters in this strait provides ample food source for marine mammals so be sure to keep our eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. Upon exiting Bellot Strait, turn south in Victoria Strait, taking a bearing for King William Island.
Having emerged from the exciting transit of Bellot Strait, cross the broad Victoria Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the eastern shore of Prince Edward Island. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage is perhaps one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic and a known hotspot for polar bears. Beluga whales come to the shallow inlet to rub their white skins against the gravel bottom - an annual ritual. Often when the tide recedes, the whales become trapped in the shallows making them easy prey for the polar bear. It's common to find mothers and their cubs here in sizeable numbers, meanwhile the skeletons of beluga whales litter the shore in a grim testament to the ebb and flow of life in the Arctic.
Little is known of how the remainders of the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait have left no trace. A lifeboat left abandoned, bits and pieces of copper and iron, cutlery and buttons and a skeleton here and there all tell a story of a desperate race south in search of rescue that never occurred. Visit Victory Point and continue to reflect on the quest for exploration that opened up the Arctic, while sacrificing some of its bravest explorers.
On your last day, you can hope to visit the community of Cambridge Bay on the southern shores of Victoria Island. Cambridge Bay, also known as Ikaluktutiak or “good fishing place”, is a center for hunting, trapping, and fishing. Local Inuit have held summer camps here for hundreds of years. Today ships visit the region annually bringing supplies. Amundsen spent two winters in this area learning how to master dogsledding from the locals. Prior to this, McClintock found solid evidence of the Franklin Expedition here in 1859, including naval artifacts, sledges, graves and letters. Drop anchor in the harbour of Cambridge Bay and make your way ashore by zodiac. Your charter flight to Edmonton await you here for the short flight back to ‘southern’ Canada.