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 large trees and shrubs. One might see a low to the ground 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.
At the mouth of Frobisher Bay and the southeast tip of Baffin Island, the Lower Savage Islands are an archipelago of islands 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 will drop you off and reposition 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 a way out and 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 be looking for your first polar bears of the voyage on this excursion.
Kimmirut, otherwise known as Lake Harbour, is located at the head of a narrow fjord flanked by rocky outcrops. Be out on deck as your Captain navigates this challenging approach to Kimmirut. Upon anchoring, drop the zodiacs and transfer ashore for a visit to this beautiful town. A visit to the visitors center is a must in Kimmirut and it is here that you will receive a welcome to the town from community members. Have the opportunity to hike and also have a tour of the town.
Later in the day aim to land at High Bluff Island for a nature based excursion. An offshore island, High Bluff offers immersion into the natural world of Nunavut. Walking, hiking, photographic and kayaking opportunities abound as you make your way from the zodiacs to your onshore site. For those interested in a more challenging hike to the high point of the island there will be an opportunity to see an inuksuk, a stone trail marker often built in the shape of a human.
The largest island in Ungava Bay, Akpatok Island is home to one of the great seabird colonies of the Arctic. The limestone cliffs rising up to 800 feet above sea level are home to thick-billed murres (also known as Brunnichs guillemots), black guillemots and black-legged kittiwakes. Where there are sea bird colonies, you may also find peregrine falcons and Arctic fox. Given appropriate sea conditions, plan to explore the base of these cliffs by zodiac.
Named for the wife of Sir John Franklin, the explorer of Northwest Passage note, Lady Franklin Island bears an interesting resemblance to Lady Franklin herself. From a distance, the island is not imposing and doesn’t stand out however, as you approach there is an appearance of something formidable. And, as you really start to explore it, you realize that it is a force to be reckoned with. All much like Lady Franklin who almost single-handedly kept the search going for her missing husband for years if not decades after his disappearance. In fact, only recently, in August 2012 the Canadian government launched its latest search for Franklin and his ships.
More than just for its intrinsic value, Lady Franklin Island is also a good spot to find polar bear, caribou and gyrfalcons. Slowly approach by ship and drop the zodiacs for cruise and possible landing on this island.
While it's not certain where the ice edge will be, sail for the ice in Davis Strait in order to experience this dramatic transit zone. Much of the Arctic sea life seems to be interested in this transit zone as well and keep your eyes peeled for bearded, hooded and ringed seals as well as polar bears and walrus. Who knows, perhaps a bowhead whale will be cruising the ice edge. Spotting scopes and binoculars will be in use as all scan the ice looking for wildlife. If conditions permit, launch the zodiacs so that you can get into the ice and explore.
Sunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle. Who knows, on this day, you might cruise across the Circle on the ship, zodiac cruise across it in the zodiacs and even hike across it on shore. A beautiful place to hike, have various groups going for elevation as well as traversing the shoreline of the fjord. The sea kayakers will take advantage of often - sheltered conditions for a paddle here.
Turn back south away from the Arctic Circle and sail toward the mouth of Cumberland Sound. Protecting the northern entrance to Cumberland Sound, Cape Mercy is an exposed headland jutting out into Davis Strait. 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. All eyes will be searching as you sail this region.
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 town is known for its arts and crafts and a visit to the art gallery is a must. In addition, the Angmarlik Visitor Center has a wonderful interpretive display featuring the lifestyle of the Thule and of the modern Inuit.
Leave Cumberland Sound behind as you sail south through Davis Strait and back towards Frobisher Bay. Your last excursion is to visit Monumental Island. An offshore island in Davis Strait, it is a known spot for finding walrus. Put the zodiacs into the water and search the shoreline for them. When seen up close, the sheer size of these creatures creates the impression they would be slow and slovenly, however in the water their dynamic ability to twist and turn is inspiring to even the fastest swimmer. 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 and your small group to witness the brilliance of it. Polar bears are often found here and have been known to chase the walrus off their haul out and into the water.
Arriving back into the capital of Nunavut, disembark here and take a transfer to the airport for your flight home.