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The Northwest Passage

Canadian Arctic Cruise

  • Akademik Ioffe
  • Research Ship
  • 96 Capacity
  • 13 Days
  • View Departure>
  • Price from
  • $999,999,999

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 150 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, Hiking, Kayaking


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Day 1
Ottawa, Canada / Sondre Stromfjord (Kangerlussuaq)

Sondre Stromfjord is one of the world’s longest fjords cutting into the interior of Greenland. Your charter flight from Ottawa, Canada into Greenland will see you land at a former American Airbase (Bluie West Eight and Camp Lloyd), located just miles north of the Arctic Circle. Board your expedition vessel by zodiac and weigh anchor. Throughout the evening and through the night, sail down the incredible fjord, crossing the Arctic Circle, before reaching the ocean and Davis Strait. Turn north out of the mouth of Sondre Stromfjord and cross the Arctic Circle yet again, remaining north of this point for the rest of the voyage.

Day 2

Explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before visiting the town in the afternoon. You may meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and perhaps see a demonstration of “Eskimo Rolling” by one of the former champions of the Greenland Kayaking Championships.

Day 3
Ilulissat and Jacobshavn Icefjord

One of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord spews massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. Your approach to Ilulissat will be dependent upon the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the icefjord. Ilulissat was the hometown of Knud Rasmussen, one of Greenland’s most famous explorers and anthropologists, born here in 1879.

Day 4 – 5
Baffin Bay

Crossing Baffin Bay will depend on the extent of the "middle ice." Your goal will be to find the ice edge and follow it to the coast of Baffin Island. Time at sea will be determined by the extent of the ice and amount of wildlife. As you cross Baffin Bay, keep a look out for fin, sperm, sei and humpback whales as well as the numerous species of Arctic seals and seabirds that abound in the Bay.

Day 6
Pond Inlet

Visit the town of Pond Inlet and make your base at the Natinnak Center, where a spectacular cultural exhibit will be the background of a display by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit carvings, jewelery and other local craft will be available to purchase from the local artisans. Take time to meet the children of Pond Inlet and marvel at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the challenges of the Inuit Games.

Day 7 – 8
Lancaster Sound and Devon Island

Lancaster Sound is in many ways the wildlife ‘super-highway’ of the Arctic. A massive outlet for water from the high Arctic archipelago, water mixing here is rich in nutrients. Coupled with the areas of open water, Lancaster Sound is home to a diverse concentration of wildlife that can be staggering, especially given the sparseness of the region. Stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound will depend very much on ice conditions and weather.

Day 9
Beechey Island and Prince Leopold Island

Beechey Island holds great historic importance in the quest to complete the Northwest Passage. Franklin’s ill-fated expedition spent its last ‘comfortable’ winter here in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness, sparking an incredible series of search expeditions that finished the charting of Canada’s northern archipelago. Almost sixty years later, Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage.

Following your visit to Beechey Island, sail south toward Prince Regent Inlet, stopping for a view of the bird cliffs at Prince Leopold Island. A migratory bird sanctuary, Prince Leopold Island is home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. Home to several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Canadian Arctic.

Encounters with polar bear, beluga, narwhal and the occasional bowhead whale have also been known to summer in the grounds around Prince Leopold Island and Prince Regent Inlet.

Day 10
Fort Ross and Bellot Strait

If ice conditions permit, sail south through Prince Regent Inlet and approach the eastern end of the Bellot Strait. Fort Ross, located at the southern end of Somerset Island, 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 by the Inuit and their predecessors. Upon leaving Fort Ross, 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 ample food source for marine mammals—keep your eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. Upon exiting Bellot Strait, navigate south in Victoria Strait, taking a bearing for King William Island.

Day 11
Conningham Bay

Having emerged from the exciting transit of Bellot Strait, cross the broad Victoria Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the eastern shore of Prince Edward Island. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage is perhaps one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic and a known hotspot for polar bears. Beluga whales come to the shallow inlet to rub their white skins against the gravel bottom - an annual ritual. Often when the tide recedes, the whales become trapped in the shallows making them easy prey for the polar bear. It's common to find mothers and their cubs here in sizeable numbers and the skeletons of beluga whales litter the shore–grim testament to the ebb and flow of life in the Arctic.

Day 12
Victory Point, King William Island

Little is known of how the remainders of the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait have left no trace. 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 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.

Day 13
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to Edmonton, Alberta

You may to visit the community of Cambridge Bay, on the southern shores of Victoria Island. Cambridge Bay, also known as Ikaluktutiak or “good fishing place”, is a 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 dogsledding from the locals. Prior to this, McClintock found solid evidence of the Franklin Expedition here in 1859, including naval artifacts, sledges, graves and letters. Drop anchor in the harbor of Cambridge Bay and make your way ashore by zodiac. Your charter flight to Edmonton will await you here and you will board the flight for the short flight back to ‘southern’ Canada.


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.

Mandatory Insurance:
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.

Not Included:
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