Summary : This iconic voyage through the remote Northwest Passage follows in the footsteps of the early Arctic explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen and Larsen, as you explore the archipelago of islands and channels that create Canada's high Arctic region. This is the home of the polar bear, grizzly bear, muskox, caribou and walrus. Journey through the wild Canadian north aboard the celebrated expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe. Wildlife is the major draw of your expedition but history and stories of that ill-fated expedition by Sir John Franklin more than 170 years ago are central to your journey, too. Franklin made his last heroic foray into the Arctic in 1845 with two ships and 129 men, never to be heard from again. Visit the last known wintering site of his ships, and other sites along the way where traces of the expedition have been found. For lovers of remote expedition discovery, this journey has it all.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking
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Depart Edmonton this morning on a special charter flight to Cambridge Bay, a remote outpost above the Arctic Circle. Located on the southern shores of Victoria Island, today it is a center for hunting, trapping and fishing. Upon arrival, enjoy a walking tour of the town and board your expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe, in the afternoon. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off, bound for the fabled Northwest Passage.
Chart a course into the Northwest Passage, your onboard presentation series begins, and the legend of Sir John Franklin and his "lost expedition" is shared with you. 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 archaeological team and the recent Victoria Strait Expedition. On Victoria Point, 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 came. Aim 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. Experts and marine archaeologists all agree, the second of Franklin's lost ships, HMS Terror, is likely to be in this vicinity. There is great optimism that it will be found when ice conditions permit the search to resume.
This morning, arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage, hope to encounter one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. 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 during low tide. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons – and very healthy looking polar bears!
Transit the narrow passage of Bellot Strait – a channel separating northerly Somerset Island from continental North America. Aim 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 eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. The skill of the Captain and Officers and the capabilities of the ship becomes apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation. 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.
Beechey Island holds great historic importance on the 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 lasted nearly three decades. 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.
At almost 75? latitude north, cruising the coastline of Devon Island, you are now in the waters of Lancaster Sound—a rich, bio-diverse region often referred to as 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. These waters combine to make a rich cocktail of nutrients supporting an abundance of Arctic wildlife. Plan on visiting the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbor, 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.
Sight the wild north coast of Baffin Island and navigate through Navy Board Inlet. The vast landscapes of Sirmilik National Park tower around as you approach the remote Inuit community of Pond Inlet. You are welcomed ashore, and a highlight will be a visit to the Natinnak Center, where a fascinating cultural exhibit showcases aspects of daily life, culture, and history of the people of the north. Inuit carvings, jewelry and other traditional craft is on display and purchasing such items from the local artisans is a great way to support the community. Enjoy meeting the local children of Pond Inlet and marveling at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the skills and challenges of traditional Inuit games. The skills and physical agility developed by such games were often those necessary for everyday survival in the harsh Arctic environment.
Enter the spectacular Gibbs Fjord with towering cliffs all around. Your expedition ship will seem dwarfed by the giant peaks and snowy glaciers as you cruise slowly along the dark waters. Past travelers have likened Gibbs Fjord to a "scene from a Lord of the Rings."
Isabella Bay (Niginaniq) is an important summer habitat and feeding area for endangered bowhead whales. These remarkable marine mammals are able to break sea ice with the crown of their head. The area also includes a shallow shelf at the entrance to the bay that provides protection for bowheads from predatory orca whales. Polar bears, ringed seals, Canada geese, snow geese and narwhal are also found in and around the area.
Sunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle. This location offers terrific hiking opportunities and your expedition team has a number of great routes in mind. You may wish to take the extended hike, gaining some real elevation and offering wonderful views of the surroundings. Or choose to take the less strenuous option along the shoreline. The sheltered waters of the fjord provide kayakers with great conditions for paddling.
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 the modern Inuit.
Located in Davis Strait, Monumental Island is a known location for walrus. Explore by Zodiac along the shoreline looking for these fascinating creatures. Watchful eyes may locate smaller pups within the masses. Polar bears are sometimes encountered in this vicinity and they have been known to chase walrus off their haul out and into the water. As you near the end of your journey, enjoy an entertaining voyage recap from the Expedition Leader. This evening, celebrate with a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship and reflect on your voyage across the top of the remote Canadian Arctic.
Anchor off the beach from Iqaluit – the largest community on Baffin Island. Say goodbye to your crew and make the way ashore on your final Zodiac ride. Transfer to the airport and board the scheduled flight to Ottawa. On arrival in Ottawa, your journey comes to an end.
Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions experienced and the itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favorable conditions. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Medical Documentation: Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Sea Kayaking Option: $695 per person
Pre-booked option. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. It must cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Accommodations onboard; meals; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; use of onboard expedition rubber boots; use of wet weather gear; transfers as applicable.
International airfare; charter airfare where applicable; pre- and post-cruise hotel nights; passport and visa fees; excess baggage charges; airport taxes; travel insurance; all gratuities; extra meals; items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks; medical expenses; optional activities and trips; kayaking supplement.
PHOTOS: © Boris Wise