Summary : Join the expedition aboard the Akademik Ioffe celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first single-season transit of the Northwest Passage as you sail these fabled waters. The first ever transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage was between 1903-1906 under the command of the great Roald Amundsen of Norway. This feat was not repeated until 1940-42 when the RCMP St. Roch under the command of Staff Sergeant Henry Larsen completed a West to East transit of the passage. In 1944, SSgt. Henry Larsen undertook an East to West transit in a single season, marking the first ever single season transit of the Northwest Passage and making the RCMP St. Roch the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage in both directions. Celebrate this achievement as you sail these waters 70 years later, exploring the breathtaking landscape in search of polar bears, walrus, whales, and seabirds.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking
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Your journey of discovery begins in Edmonton where you board a charter flight to Cambridge Bay and the Arctic. Board your flight at 54°34’N and disembark north of the Arctic Circle. From the airport in Cambridge Bay, transfer to the beach and prepare to embark your Zodiac inflatable boats for the shuttle out to the ship. Cambridge Bay, also known as Ikaluktutiak or ''good fishing place'', is the center for hunting, trapping and fishing. Local Inuit have had summer camps in the locality 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.
Little is known of how the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait, have left no trace. An abandoned lifeboat, 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 – a rescue that never occurred. Visit Victory Point and continue to reflect on the quest for exploration that opened up the Arctic, while sacrificing some of its bravest explorers.
Marking the western shoreline of Peel Sound, the coastline of Prince of Wales Island is broken by numerous bays and coves. As you explore this region, drop anchor in one or two of these bays and launch the zodiacs. A hike on the tundra, wildlife watching and photography will all be part of the attraction to this area as you learn about the history and wildlife of the area and the very important role that the culture played in both.
Attempt the passage of the Bellot Strait entering at slack water, if possible, in order to avoid a current that can be more than seven knots during the peak flow. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an ample food source for marine mammals–keep your eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears as you sail through. On exiting the strait, stop at Fort Ross on the southern tip of Somerset Island. Fort Ross is a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost. Ancient archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation at this site by the Inuit and their predecessors.
Sail North out of Prince Regent Inlet and pass by the incredible cliffs of Prince Leopold Island. A migratory bird sanctuary, Prince Leopold Island is home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and blacklegged kittiwakes. Totaling several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Canadian Arctic. Bird life will be on the wane here as you approach the end of the Arctic summer, but keep your eyes open for the late season inhabitants of this colony. Continue North across Barrow Strait en route to the 75th North parallel and Beechey Island. Beechey Island holds great importance in your quest to complete the Northwest Passage. It is here that 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 finished the charting of Canada’s northern archipelago. Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage almost sixty years later.
Lancaster Sound is in many ways the wildlife ‘super-highway’ of the Arctic. A massive outlet for water from the high Arctic archipelago, there is a mixing of water here very rich in nutrients. Coupled with areas of open water for much of the year, Lancaster Sound is home to a staggering diversity and concentration of wildlife, given the sparseness of the region be traveled. Stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound are dependent upon ice conditions and weather.
Visit the town of Pond Inlet and make base at the Natinnak Center. A spectacular cultural exhibit at the Natinnak Center is the background of a display for you by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit Carvings, jewelery, and other native crafts will be available to purchase from the local artisans here. Take time to meet the children of Pond Inlet and marvel at the athletic abilities they demonstrate that are necessary to compete in the challenges of the Inuit Games.
Almost unknown to outsiders, the fjords of Northeast Baffin are startling for their stark beauty. Sheer cliffs rising hundreds of meters out of the ocean, deep fjords piercing tens of miles inland and hanging glaciers plunging down into the water. An early morning ship cruise, a mid-morning paddle or zodiac cruise and a late afternoon hike will all be on offer depending on the conditions and your progress along the coast of Baffin Island. By this time of the season, the Baffin Bay middle ice has all but disappeared, receding onto the East coast of central Baffin Island as it melts. Search for the remaining ice and the wildlife present in this area. Spotting scopes and binoculars will be trained ashore as you search for polar bear. The low light of sunrise is perfect for helping to spot the faint blow of a narwhal. Expert guides and naturalists help you search for and identify the wildlife as you go.
A small town of approximately 1,300 residents on the South coast of Pangnirtung fjord, Pangnirtung (or Pang as it is commonly known) is located on a coastal plain on the border of Auyuitiuq National Park. A gateway to this crown jewel of Canada’s northern parks, Pangnirtung is also known for its carving and weaving. A visit to Pangnirtung will include the Auyuitiuq National Park office and interpretation center, as well as the weaving studio and art gallery.
A cliff towering from the ocean, Monumental Island is host to numerous bird species and is known to be an excellent place to spot both the gyrfalcon and the Peregrine falcon. From time to time, walrus have been known to haul out here in great numbers and you'll keep your eyes peeled as you approach in the hoping to experience the sight and smell of a large haul out.
Drop anchor off the beach in Iqaluit and make your way ashore by zodiac. Depending on flight times, you may have a chance to explore the capital of Nunavut before making your way to the airport.
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.
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 ($695 per person).
PHOTOS: © Boris Wise