The Northwest Passage is one of the world’s most iconic maritime routes of discovery. Several 12 night voyages cover the full spectrum of Arctic scenery, culture, history and wildlife — making it a much-loved classic. Follow in the footsteps of the early Arctic explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen and Larsen, exploring the vast archipelago of islands and channels that create Canada’s high Arctic region. This is the home of polar bear, barren land grizzly, musk ox, caribou, walrus, beluga and possibly even narwhal. Enjoy daily shore excursions to wildlife locations, historic points of interest and/ or Inuit communities. There are several variations of this itinerary – east to west, west to east – linking the west coast of Greenland to Cambridge Bay in the heart of the Northwest Passage. One itinerary includes more time exploring Baffin Island’s rugged east coast, ending in Iqaluit.
Wildlife is a major draw card of this Arctic vacation, but there is also plenty of historical interest, and the stories of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition nearly 170 years ago are central to our voyage. Franklin made his last heroic foray into the Arctic in 1845 with two ships and 129 men, never to be heard from again. The fate of the expedition remained a mystery until September 2014, when one of the vessels,HMS Erebus, was discovered in a remarkable state of preservation in the frigid waters of Victoria Strait.
Day 1: Ottawa
We depart Ottawa this morning bound for Kangerlussuaq, on the west coast of Greenland. Excitement is in the air as we cast off and enjoy a welcome cocktail while cruising along Sondre Stromfjord, en route to the fabled NorthwestPassage.
Day 2: Sisimiut
We will explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut by Zodiac before going ashore to explore this beautiful location. Characterised by colorful local houses, the town features a towering granite peak as a backdrop. We hope to meet afew of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers as they show us their incredible skills in their small watercraft.
Day 3: Ilulissat Icefjord
Truly one of the wonders of the world, the Ilulissat Icefjord releases gigantic tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The glacier that creates these stunning monoliths advances up to 40 meters per day, creating around 50 cubic kilometers of ice annually. Our Captain and officers are skilled ice navigators and our ship has one of the highest ice ratings of any vessel exploring Arctic waters, making for safe and comfortable travel through the iceberg-laden waters.
Days 4 - 5: Baffin Bay
Leaving the rugged coastline of Greenland, our crossing of Baffin Bay is highly dependent on the extent of the so-called ‘middle ice’. We probe northwards seeking out the edges of the middle ice and plan to follow the line of ice until we reach the coast of Baffin Island. As we transit Baffin Bay we are always 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.
Day 6: Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)
Nearing the far north of Baffin Island we arrive at Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet). The Natinnak Centre features a fascinating cultural exhibit showcasing 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.
Days 7 - 8: Devon Island
We cross Lancaster Sound to Devon Island and are now at almost 75? degrees north of latitude. Water from the Atlantic to the east, Pacific to the west, and the archipelago of islands to the north all mixes here, combining to make a rich source of nutrients and food for an abundance of Arctic wildlife. We plan to visit the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour, situated on the southern shores of Devon Island. Musk ox and Arctic hare are sometimes sighted in the vicinity and there are some great hiking options in the area.
Day 9: Beechey Island and Prince Leopold Island
Beechey Island holds great historic importance on our journey through the Northwest Passage. 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 would span decades. A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach is a thrilling moment for history buffs. Prince Leopold Island is an important migratory bird sanctuary, home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. Several hundred thousand birds fill the skies above –it’s an unbelievable sight. Given the abundance of food in this vicinity we often sight beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales here, as well as several species of seal and polar bear.
Day 10: Bellot Strait
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. Having explored Fort Ross, we attempt a transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. The skill of the Captain and Officers and capabilities of the ship becomes apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation.
Day 11: Coningham Bay
Crossing the Victoria Strait we arrive at Coningham Bay on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Here, in the heart ofthe Northwest Passage, we hope to encounter one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. This is a known hotspot for polar bears. They come here to feast on beluga whales often caught in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay. It is an astonishing sight to see these incredible hunters in their natural environment.
Day 12: Victoria Strait
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. We hope to visit Victory Point and the Victoria Strait, travelling very near the actual location of the wreck of HMS Erebus & HMS Terror, found in Terror Bay in 2016.
Day 13: Edmonton
Cambridge Bay is a remote outpost on the southern shores of Victoria Island and a centre for hunting, trapping and fishing in the region. Amundsen spent two winters in this area, learning how to master dog-sledding from the locals prior to his attempt on the South Pole. Our voyage through the Northwest Passage comes to an end, as we transfer to the airport for our flight to Edmonton and onto a downtown location.
This voyage is operated by One Ocean Expeditions - true experts in Polar expedition cruising.
August 12-24, 2018
Expedition rates start at US$11,395 per person (double occupancy).
Charter flights $1995 per person
*This voyage starts from Ottawa on a special charter flight. The voyage ends with a charter flight to Edmonton.
Optional Sea Kayaking supplement: US$695
Mark at Galapagos Travel wrote a Trip Report on the incredible beluga and bear experiences from his 2012 voyage, which was published by International Travel News in 2013. read more