Summary : Discover the magnificent history and wildlife of the Northwest Passage. The principal focus of this expedition is the history of Arctic exploration and early quest for the Northwest Passage. The story of Sir John Franklin's expedition from the mid 18th century and the enduring mystery of their fate, has gripped the imagination and intrigue of Canadians – and history lovers – for more than 150 years. A new chapter in this tale was written in September 2014 when a joint Canadian government/prviate expedition located the final resting place of one of Franklin's two 'lost ships' – HMS Erebus, in the frigid waters of the Victoria Strait. As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, several of the scientists and researchers from the historic 2014 discovery will join this expedition, bringing to life the incredible story of Franklin and other pioneering explorers, in their quest to open up the maze of waterways in Canada's north. The Arctic's prolific wildlife and bird life accompany you every day as you encounter marine mammals, rich bird life, and polar bears throughout this journey. 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. Frequent shore landings in the company of expert guides allow for exploration on foot observing wildlife, Arctic flora, and points of historical interest. All of this is set against a backdrop of epic Arctic scenery and skies that go on forever. This is an ideal introduction to small ship expedition cruising in the remote Canadian Arctic.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
$999,999,999 to $0
Depart Edmonton this morning on your 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, you will have time to explore the ship and get to know your cabins before a welcome cocktail. Weigh anchor and depart Resolute in the early evening.
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 experience for history buffs. For many, it will be the defining moment of your expedition. Return to the ship this evening and 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. Through the afternoon, you will sail across Barrow Strait and approach the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island. 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 you find ringed seals you usually find polar bears.
You will sail overnight south through Prince Regent Inlet and wake up in the morning along the southeastern shore of Somerset Island. Your goal is to get ashore at Fury Beach, named after the HMS Fury, a Royal Navy sloop used in two Arctic expeditions by Commander Edward Parry. During her second expedition, she was damaged in the ice while overwintering and was abandoned in August of 1825 on a beach on Somerset Island, now known as Fury Beach. Her stores were unloaded on the beach as a depot of supplies and the location shared around to other Royal Navy expeditions. John Ross, another Royal Navy explorer relied on these stores to save the lives of his men after he lost his ship to the ice in 1829.
Continuing to the southern end of Prince Regent Inlet, you will approach 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, you will attempt a transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. The aim 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. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an abundant food source for marine mammals. Keep your eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals, and even polar bears. The skill of the captain and officers and capabilities of the ship becomes apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation.
Having emerged from Bellot Strait, you will cross the Franklin Strait today and arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince of Wales Island. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage, you will hopefully encounter one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. This is a known hot spot 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!
Heading further south, 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 archaeological team and the recent Victoria Strait Expedition. On Victory 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. You will hopefully visit Victory Point as you transit 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. One can only imagine the last desperate days of Franklin’s men as another frigid Arctic winter approached, supplies dwindling and health failing.
Working your way north, you will stop in Pasely Bay, on the Boothia Peninsula. The RCMP vessel St. Roch, during her transit of the Northwest Passage in 1942 was frozen in Pasely Bay and in February of 1942, one of the sailors on board died. He was buried along the shores of Pasely Bay in the spring before the ship broke out of the ice and continued north through the passage. Today you will explore the shore of Pasely Bay, searching for wildlife and enjoying the isolated beauty of the Boothia Peninsula.
Sail through Franklin Strait and into Peel Sound, between Somerset Island and Prince of Wales Island. Peel Sound is known for its often heavy sea ice concentrations and is only open to vessel navigation for a short period each year. The ice plug in the top of Peel Sound frustrated many explorers as they tried to pass through this body of water in order to complete the Northwest Passage. This stretch of water from Victoria Strait through Franklin Strait and into Peel Sound is considered the crux of the Northwest Passage and it is now known that Franklin sailed his two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror through Peel Sound in the summer of 1846, before becoming beset in the ice ‘5 leagues NE of [Victory Point]’.
Your last day of excursions before returning to Resolute Bay has you stopped at the northern end of Peel Sound and on the southern shore of Barrow Strait. Aston Bay is an arm of Peel Sound and with the heavy concentrations of ice in the area should be a hot spot for wildlife activity. You will head out into the Zodiacs and possibly ashore in search of wildlife and adventure as you reflect on the exciting adventures you've experienced on this voyage.
By morning, you are at anchor in Resolute – where you commenced your expedition a week ago. Make your way ashore by Zodiac and bid farewell to your crew. A charter flight will return 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-booking required
Limited to 16 passengers. Will be accompanied by 3 kayak guides. Requires previous experience. Must be booked in advanced, no option to book once onboard. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details and booking information.
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.
© Daisy Gilardini