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. Upon arrival, enjoy a walking tour of Iqaluit and board your expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe in the afternoon. As you become familiar with your new home, raise anchor and depart, spend some time on the outer decks enjoying your new surroundings as the ship sails into the remote Canadian Arctic.
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.
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.
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.
Sunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle. Depending on the weather, the ship might cruise across the Circle, perhaps you can cruise across it by zodiac, or the more active may choose to hike across this landmark on shore. Whichever way, it’s a thrill to be above the Arctic Circle! Sunshine Fjord offers some excellent hiking opportunities and your guides have a number of great routes in mind. Some may wish to take the extended hike, gaining some real elevation and offering wonderful views of your surroundings. Or you may choose to take the less strenuous option along the shoreline. The sheltered waters of the fjord provide kayakers with great conditions for paddling.
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.
A very large island in the mouth of Disko Bay, Qeqertarsuaq is a site of both geologic and historic interest. A possible summer fishing camp for the Viking colonists in Greenland, mineral deposits containing native iron and hot springs are all part of the allure of this island. Visit the southern coast, cruising the spectacular rock arches before visiting the town of Qeqertarsuaq.
One of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord spews massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The approach to Ilulissat depends on 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.
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 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. Expect some fantastic hiking opportunities, with hikes geared to all fitness levels.
Located at the head of Sondre Stromfjord, Kangerlussuaq is home to one of the worlds longest runways. Disembark in the morning and transfer to the airport for your charter flight back to Ottawa, Canada.