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Northwest Passage – Franklin's Legend

Northwest Passage Cruise

Summary : For centuries, fortune-seekers risked their lives to find the Northwest Passage, the fabled sea route running between Europe and Asia. The greatest geographical problem of the last three centuries, according to the New York Times on November 25, 1852. During this active adventure, cruise through the heart of the Northwest Passage. Experience first-hand those islands, waterways and wilds that still yield a gratifying sense of achievement for all those who make the voyage, including Beechey Island, made famous by explorers such as Roald Amundsen and Sir John Franklin.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking


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Day 1
Ottawa, Canada

Enjoy an included night in Ottawa and meet your fellow travelers.

Day 2
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland sits just 60 km (37 miles) north of the Arctic Circle at the head of one of the longest fjords in Greenland. Musk ox and Arctic foxes inhabit the tundra-covered plain that surrounds the town. Arrive by group charter flight and then transfer to the ship. Tonight, enjoy views of the fjord as the evening turns to twilight.

Day 3
Itilleq / Sisimiut

Head north to the village of Itilleq, a typical Greenlandic village. Situated on a hollow, Itilleq is on an island without any fresh water. The village has approximately 130 inhabitants and offers charming views of colorful native houses along the tundra.

In Sisimiut, watch a traditional kayaking demonstration. Kayak is an Inuit word the English borrowed to describe a small vessel propelled by paddles, seating one or two people. Explore the town where 18th century buildings from Greenland’s colonial period still stand. Wander through the historic area and pass under an arch formed by two giant bowhead whale bones.

Day 4

Ilulissat Kangerlua is Greenlandic for the Iceberg Fjord. The glacier at the head of the fjord is the most productive in the Northern Hemisphere. The icebergs it calves float down the fjord to enter Baffin Bay. As the ship approaches Ilulissat, have your camera ready to capture photos of young icebergs. The journey of these ‘bergs’ will end years later, somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland. So significant is Ilulissat Fjord that UNESCO has designated the area a World Heritage Site. Listen to the growling of the icebergs as you cruise the fjord by Zodiac. Hike along a lovely boardwalk down to a stunning viewpoint of the bay, or take an optional helicopter ride to the foot of the glacier. If time, enjoy a local microbrew at the pub, or shop for local handicrafts.

Day 5
Eqip Sermia

Visit Saqqaq, a small village about which several anthropologists have published books on its original inhabitants and their hunting methods. Sail to the beautiful glacier Eqip Sermia, tracing the massive ice floe front for some distance.

Day 6

You'll want to be out on deck as the ship approaches Uummannaq regardless of the time of day. The vista is simply breathtaking with its heart-shaped mountain that gave the town its name in full view. Walk through the town and visit the historic oil warehouse built in 1860. Look for the peat hut behind the warehouse, which was still in use up until a few years ago.

In the afternoon, visit Qilaqitsoq where five Greenland mummies were discovered in 1972. Four women and a child are thought to have drowned and remained buried in a dry and cool cave for the last 600-700 years. The mummified remains are kept in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.

Day 7
Baffin Bay

Baffin Bay is technically a sea not a bay; it is an extension of the Arctic Ocean, the massive body of water that separates Canada from Greenland. As the ship sails westward, be on the lookout for icebergs and seabirds gliding on the wing, and whales in the water below.

Day 8
Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

Arriving in the Canadian Arctic, the people of Pond Inlet or Mittimatalik – as it has been called by the Inuit for thousands of years – will welcome you to their town and the Artist’s Co-operative. In addition to the internationally renowned art they produce, the people of “Pond” earn their living fishing for arctic char. Enjoy time to take photos, explore the hamlet and hike the nearby tundra to a local Thule site before returning back to the ship.

Day 9
Devon Island

In the Maxwell Bay region of Devon Island, hike and cruise by Zodiac to visit a Thule site, where the ancestors of the Inuit lived. Watch for wildlife at Dundas Harbour as walrus and musk ox inhabit the area. The abandoned settlement was once a Royal Canadian Mounted Police depot.

Day 10
Beechey Island

Just offshore at the western end of Devon Island is Beechey Island. There, on a stony beach, stand three grave markers; solemn reminders of the lives lost during Sir John Franklin’s search for the Northwest Passage. Upon approach to Beechey Island, be treated to presentations about Franklin and his expedition. Radstock Bay has an impressive archaeological site and is beside Caswell Towers, used as a polar bear observation point.

Day 11
Somerset Island

Call on Somerset Island in Peel Sound, located above the 74th parallel directly on the Northwest Passage. Watch for Peary caribou and musk ox, as well as the hundreds of thousands of birds that nest on the sheer cliffs of Prince Leopold I, off the NE tip of Somerset. The island was named by Lt W.E. Parry who discovered it in 1819, after the county in England.

Day 12
Fort Ross / Bellot Strait

Through the night, sail in a southerly direction following the coast of Somerset Island, just as Amundsen did. Go ashore at Fort Ross, an uninhabited Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. In May 1670, King Charles II granted the lands of the Hudson Bay watershed to “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.” For nearly two hundred years, the administration of Canada’s north was the responsibility of the merchants of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Sail westward through Bellot Strait, a narrow channel separating mainland North America from Somerset Island. About mid-point through the channel is the northernmost area of the continental land mass, Zenith Point.

Day 13
Victory Point

In 1845, John Franklin led an expedition of 129 British naval officers and seamen to the Canadian Arctic tasked with finding the Northwest Passage. By 1848, they were presumed missing. Rescue missions were conducted for 32 years. The first skeletal remains attributed to the crew were discovered in 1859 by Captain Francis McClintock on the western shore of King William Island. McClintock also discovered the only written remains under a cairn erected on Victory Point.

Since 1859, many skeletal remains and artifacts from Franklin’s expedition have been found at various locations on King William Island. The most recent was in 2013 when Parks Canada gathered several bones for identification and analysis, as well as about 200 small artifacts, ranging from bits of canvas and leather to nails, rivets, cans, metal containers, cast iron and rope.

Day 14
King William Island

For two winters, Franklin’s ships Erebus and Terror were beset in ice near this island. In 1848, the ships were abandoned. A decade passed before a cairn with a terse note of explanation was discovered on Victory Point. The questions raised by that discovery have inspired search expeditions into the 21st century.

Long considered lost forever, the ships of the Franklin Expedition have been the subject of many searches over the years. In September 2014, the Victoria Strait Expedition conducted a large hunt for the two missing vessels, and on 7 September, 2014 the search team found the sunken remains of the HMS Erebus off the coast of King William Island.

Day 15
Coronation Gulf / Cambridge Bay

In 1821, on an earlier voyage to the Arctic, Sir John Franklin named the gulf in honor of the coronation of King George IV. Go ashore to hike or cruise by Zodiac in search of wildlife. If weather conditions permit, visits will be made to historic sites.

The people of Iqaluktuuttiaq, also known as Cambridge Bay and the largest community on Victoria Island, welcome you to their culture through dance and song. Explore the community of 1,400 people, a commercial hub for the region.

Day 16
Bathurst Inlet

In the area around Bathurst Inlet, enjoy a hike on the tundra among the spectacular fall colors. Enjoy the lush flora that flourishes ever so briefly during the short arctic summer. This is also the area where the first polar bear and grizzly hybrid was discovered. Be on the lookout for all three species.

Day 17 – 18
Amundsen Gulf

At the eastern end of the gulf is Dolphin and Union Strait, crossed in 1851 by Dr. John Rae, his two companions, two sledges and five dogs. At the completion of that expedition, Rae and his companions were only 80 km (50 miles) west of the beset ships of Sir John Franklin. Had Rae known, perhaps Franklin’s expedition would have had an entirely different ending. Our in-depth education program will provide the basis for on-going discussions over dinner or drinks in the bar.

Day 19
Kugluktuk / Edmonton

The final destination is the town of Kugluktuk with a chance to explore town. Transfer to the airport to board a group charter flight back to Edmonton. Upon arrival in Edmonton, transfer to your nearby airport hotel.

Day 20
Edmonton, Canada

Make your way home at your leisure or spend some more time in the Edmonton area.


Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.

Mandatory Travel Insurance:
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance coverage. Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers must have a minimum $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that the travel insurance policy covers trip cancellation insurance, trip delay (interruption or after departure coverage), baggage and repatriation. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.

Sea Kayaking Option: $595 per person
Not included in cruise rate. Minimum age 16 years. This is a pre-booked option for kayakers with some experience. Places are strictly limited so please advise at time of booking. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for additional details.

Shipboard accommodation with daily housekeeping; all meals on board ship; shore landings per the daily program; Expedition Leader; Zodiac transfers and cruising; photographic journal; a pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan for shore landings; an expedition parka – yours to keep; coffee, tea, cocoa available around the clock; hair dryer and bathrobe in cabins; pre-departure materials; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges; luggage handling aboard ship; emergency evacuation insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of $100,000 per person*; Greenland voyages Cruise Passenger Tax. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Any airfare; mandatory charter air package; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; kayaking; any beverages that are not in the complimentary selection; mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac cruising; baggage, cancellation and medical travel insurance; excess baggage charges; laundry, bar, beverage and other personal charges unless specified; phone and internet charges; gratuity for ship’s crew and Expedition Team members; additional overnight accommodation; arrival transfer from airport to hotel; fuel surcharge may apply.

*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only to travel between the first and last day of the expedition purchased. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. We strongly advise all passengers to purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.

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