Summary : This expedition brings the wildlife of the Arctic into sharp focus. Cross and re-cross the nutrient-rich waters of Lancaster Sound; the abundance of food makes this region of the Arctic a wildlife hotspot. A visit to one of the largest migratory bird sanctuaries in the world, frequent sightings of seals, beluga whale and narwhal provide great interest for wildlife lovers. Sightings of polar bears will be a highlight and you may encounter these iconic hunters of the north at a number of special locations that have been scouted by your crew over the years. Frequent shore landings in the company of expert guides allow you to explore on foot, observing wildlife, Arctic flora, and points of historical interest, including a number of former Hudson's Bay Company outposts. All of this is set against a backdrop of epic mountain scenery, sweeping glaciers and skies that go on forever. Explore aboard a small expedition ship for an ideal introduction to the remote Canadian Arctic.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking
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Depart Edmonton this morning on a special charter flight to Resolute, a remote outpost above the Arctic Circle. Located on the southern shores of Cornwallis Island, the town is named after the British ship HMS Resolute which became trapped in ice and abandoned here in 1850 while searching for the lost Franklin Expedition. A weather station and airstrip here made it a strategic outpost during the time of the Cold War. On arrival, transfer to the beach where your expedition team will meet you and prepare you for your Zodiac ride to the ship. Onboard, enjoy time to explore the ship and get to know your cabin before a welcome cocktail. Weigh anchor and depart Resolute in the early evening.
Having crossed Barrow Strait overnight, approach the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island in the morning. 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 and makes for fantastic Zodiac cruising. The sea ice around Prince Leopold Island is a great place for spotting ringed seals and wherever ringed seals are found, usually polar bears are near. Nearby Port Leopold is a historic site where in 1848, English explorer James Clark Ross wintered here during the search for the missing Franklin expedition. In addition to Port Leopold’s historical attraction, the shallow gravel beds along the shoreline are attractive to the beluga whales who tend to moult in this part of the Arctic each summer.
The ship navigates south into Prince Regent Inlet, approaching 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. Having explored Fort Ross, aim to transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. The goal 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. Upon exiting Bellot Strait, gaze south and into the heart of the Northwest Passage. If ice allows, cross Franklin Strait and visit Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince of Wales 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!
Returning through Bellot Strait, cruise up the eastern shoreline of Somerset Island. Hope to make a shore landing at the very historic site of Fury Beach originally named after the British naval vessel, HMS Fury. The ship was lost in the sea ice, forcing her crew to abandon the vessel. The crew managed to save a large amount of provisions and established a sizable depot on shore. Years later, these provisions were found by the starving Ross expedition.
Continue north through Prince Regent Inlet making landfall on the northern tip of Baffin Island. The vast Arctic landscape here stretches as far as the eye can see. Navigate into nearby Elwin Inlet, a breathtaking fjord which is well protected and great for a Zodiac cruise or hike onshore. Cape Charles Yorke offers several great walking opportunities. Keep your eyes peeled for polar bears which are plentiful along this coastline.
Leaving the wild landscapes of Baffin Island, re-cross Lancaster Sound to Devon Island. 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, which live both above and below the water.
Plan on visiting the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbor. In the afternoon reposition the ship into Crocker Bay, home to a substantial glacial system. This part of Devon Island is home to healthy and sizable population of musk ox; look for these prehistoric looking creatures as you hike ashore.
Beechey Island holds great historic importance in the story of 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 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 is a thrilling location for history buffs, and for many will be the defining moment of your expedition. Return to the ship this evening to enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain. It’s a great time to reflect on the wildlife, history and dramatic scenery of this pristine Arctic wilderness.
By morning, anchor in Resolute. Transfer to shore by Zodiac and bid farewell to your crew. A charter flight returns you to Edmonton where 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; © Daisy Gilardini