This iconic 13-day voyage explores the remote Northwest Passage and stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline. Follow in the footsteps of early Arctic explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen and Larsen, discovering the archipelago of islands and channels that create Canada’s high Arctic region. Then, journey along the coast of western Greenland aboard the celebrated Akademik Sergey Vavilov, one of the highest ice ratings of any vessel exploring Arctic waters.
Go ashore to explore Sisimuit, a town characterized by colorful local houses
Discover Jacobshavn Icefjord – a UNESCO World Heritage site
Enter a broad channel- home to the remote Inuit community of Pond Inlet
Cross Lancaster Sound to Devon Island, an area known as a wildlife "highway"
Depart Ottawa this morning on your charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, situated on the west coast of Greenland. Upon arrival into Kangerlussuaq enjoy a short tour before boarding the ship in the afternoon. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the vessel, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you cast off and enjoy a welcome cocktail while cruising along Sondre Stromfjord, bound for the fabled Northwest Passage
Explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before going ashore to explore this beautiful location in the afternoon. Characterized by colorful local houses, the town features a towering granite peak as a backdrop. Hope to meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and to see a demonstration of ‘Eskimo rolling’ by one of the former Greenland kayak champions. A small museum is another interesting diversion in the Canadian Arctic.
If one word could sum up today’s experience it would be 'ice'. Even your expedition team members, with years spent exploring both the Arctic and Antarctica, take a moment to reflect on the awesome ice sculptures surrounding the ship in all directions. Truly one of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord – a UNESCO World Heritage site - spews gigantic tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The glacier that creates these stunning monoliths advances at over 40 metres per day, creating something in the order of 50 cubic kilometres of ice annually. Your approach to Ilulissat is always dependent on the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the fjord. The Captain and officers are skilled ice navigators and your ship has one of the highest ice ratings of any vessel exploring Arctic waters. Ilulissat was the hometown of Knud Rasmussen, one of Greenland’s most famous early explorers. The town is home to a pretty harbor with colorful fishing boats and houses on shore.
Leaving the rugged coastline of Greenland, your crossing of Baffin Bay is highly dependent on the extent of the so-called ‘middle ice’. Cruise northwards seeking out the edges of the middle ice and plan to follow the line of ice until you reach the coast of Baffin Island. Your time at sea is determined by the extent of the ice and amount of wildlife you encounter. As you transit Baffin Bay be on the lookout for fin, sperm, sei and humpback whales as well as the numerous species of Arctic seals and seabirds that inhabit these waters. Onboard experts deliver fascinating presentations on board focusing on the wildlife, history, geology and culture of the Arctic.
Nearing the far north of Baffin Island enter a broad channel- home to the remote Inuit community of Pond Inlet. A highlight is a visit to the Natinnak Centre, where a fascinating cultural exhibit showcases aspects of daily life, culture and history of the people of the north. Inuit carvings, jewellery and other traditional crafts are on display and purchasing such items from the local artisans is a great way to support the community. Enjoy meeting the children of Pond Inlet and marvelling at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the skills and challenges of traditional Inuit games. Skills and physical agility developed by such games were often those necessary for everyday survival in the harsh Arctic environment.
Leaving the wild landscapes of Baffin Island, cross Lancaster Sound to Devon Island. You are now at almost 75̊ degrees north of latitude. This broad channel of water has been likened to the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. Massive volumes of water from the Atlantic to the east and Pacific to the west, and from the archipelago of islands to the north all mix here, combining to make a rich source of nutrients and food for an abundance of Arctic wildlife, living both above and below the water. Plan to visit the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour, situated on the southern shores of Devon Island. Muskox and Arctic hare are sometimes sighted in the vicinity and there are some great hiking options in the area.
Beechey 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. 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.
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. This is a thrilling location for history buffs and for many it will be the defining moment of the expedition. Cross the Barrow Straight into Prince Regent Inlet, stopping to view the bird cliffs at Prince Leopold Island. This is an important migratory bird sanctuary, home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars, and black-legged kittiwakes. Numbering in the order of several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the whole of the Canadian Arctic. Given the abundance of food in this vicinity, beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales, several species of seal, and polar bear are often seen here.
Continuing to navigate the ship south into Prince Regent Inlet, approach the eastern end of the Bellot Strait. 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.
Transit 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 are apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation.
Having emerged from Bellot Strait, cross the Victoria Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince Edward 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. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons – and very healthy looking polar bears!
Heading further into the Northwest Passage, the mystery of Sir John Franklin and his ‘lost expedition’ is beginning to unravel. Prior to the recent discovery of the HMS Erebus in September 2014, very little was known of how the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait, are just coming to life thanks to the ongoing efforts of Parks Canada’s marine archeological team and the recent Victoria Strait Expedition. On Victoria Point an abandoned lifeboat, bits and pieces of copper and iron, cutlery, buttons, and a skeleton here and there all tell a story of a desperate race south in search of rescue that never came.
Hope to visit Victory Point and the Victoria Strait, 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. On this, your last night on expedition, enjoy a celebratory dinner attended by the Captain of the ship and reflect on your epic voyage across the top of the remote Canadian Arctic.
Day 13: Cambridge Bay, Nunavut | Disembark | Fly to Edmonton, Alberta
Your journey through the Northwest Passage is all but complete as you approach the community of Cambridge Bay and drop anchor offshore. This remote outpost on the southern shores of Victoria Island is a center for hunting, trapping and fishing. The Inuit have had summer camps in the vicinity for hundreds of years. Today ships visit the region annually, bringing supplies. Amundsen spent two winters in this area, learning how to master dog sledding from the locals prior to his attempt on the South Pole. Make your way ashore by zodiac and say farewell to your crew. Board a charter flight to Edmonton, where your voyage through the Northwest Passage comes to an end.
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Deck 4. Two lower berths (one which can be converted to a sofa during the day), a writing desk/chair, bookshelf and tall wardrobes with internal shelving for storage. Facilities are semi-private (one bathroom between two cabins) and all cabins have a window that can be opened.
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Deck 3, 4 and 5. Two lower berths (one which can be converted to a sofa during the day), a writing desk/chair, bookshelf and tall wardrobes with internal shelving storage. Facilities are private and all cabins have a window that can be opened.
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Deck 4 & 5. One double bed, one sofa bed, separate sleeping quarters, up-graded bedding, a writing desk/chair, IPod alarm clock, mini stereo, capsule coffee maker, mini bar. Private facilities. Large window that can be opened.
- Single Supplement: 1.5x for twin and superior cabins and 2x for suites. Single supplement is not available in the triple cabin category.
- Child and Youth Prices: 25% discount for young people aged up to 17 years, and 20% off for those aged from 18-21 years who can prove they are in full-time education.
The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.