Summary : Sail in the wake of the early explorers from Cambridge Bay in Canada to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. Experience the raw, daunting beauty of the terrain that some of history’s greatest explorers had to overcome. Even today, few ships have the capability to navigate this sea passage, which cuts through the remote Arctic regions of North America. As you make your way through the icy waters you will be amazed by the vast expanses of pristine wilderness seen from the deck. Call at some of the world’s northernmost communities and explore legendary inlets and channels. When conditions allow, you will have the opportunity to launch kayaks or explore your surroundings on day hikes.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking
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Your expedition starts with an overnight hotel stay in Montréal. While you are here, you have a chance to take in the picturesque 18th-century facades of Old Montréal before strolling along the Canal de Lachine. Discover the shops downtown before experiencing one of the most exciting food scenes in North America. Montréal is famed for Kamouraska lamb and Arctic char. Not to mention poutine: French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Montréal also offers irresistible patisseries, English pubs, Jewish delis, and magnificent food markets reminiscent of Paris.
An early morning transfer will take you to the airport for your flight to Cambridge Bay. The community of Cambridge Bay is located on the southeast coast of Victoria Island. In Inuinnaqtun it is called 'Iqaluktuuttiaq', meaning a 'good fishing place.' This hamlet is located close to the Ekalluk River, which is famous for giant char. Victoria Island is rich in archaeological history. Archaeological sites found all over this enormous island indicate that indigenous peoples have been living in this part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago continuously for the last 4,000 years. Roald Amundsen visited Cambridge Bay in 1905. In 1918 he traversed the same route back from west to east on his new ship, the Maud. Then Hudson Bay Company purchased this vessel as a fur trading supply ship, returning to Cambridge Bay in 1921. The Maud was used for years before it sank in the harbor. Its exposed hull has been a Cambridge Bay landmark for 80 years. An attempt is currently underway to re-float the vessel and return her to Norway. Wildlife abounds in this area with caribou, musk oxen, geese, and seals. This is where MS Fram awaits to take you into the Northwest Passage.
Gjøa Haven is a popular destination for fans of Arctic history. The name honors the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who wintered here on the Gjøa expedition. He called the place 'the finest little harbor in the world’. Amundsen and his men spent two years at Gjøa Haven, and they were busily engaged in collecting scientific data. Hunting caribou and exploring the surrounding area varied their work routine. When Amundsen arrived, there was no European settlements here. But he was in contact with the local Inuit and he learned a lot from them about survival and travel in polar regions. The local Inuit people, the Netsilik Inuit, are direct descendants of the ancient Thule people and they have lived in the area for over 1,000 years. The John Ross expedition of 1829–1833 had previously visited this region and the ill-fated John Franklin expedition of 1845 perished nearby, so Gjøa Haven is often visited by Arctic history buffs. Today the settlement is known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, where carvers are famous for their renderings of shamanistic faces and talented seamstresses produce beautiful articles of Inuit clothing. It is also home to excellent cultural venues including the Heritage Centre, the Hamlet Centre, and the Northwest Passage Territorial Trail. In the warm months, when the tundra is covered with flowers and the sea is open, numerous Arctic birds nest nearby, including loons, geese, ducks, terns, jaegers, plovers, snow buntings, and snowy owls. A handsome herd of musk oxen lives on the island and there are some here caribou too. When you arrive, you will be warmly welcomed to 'the finest little harbor in the world.'
Enjoy navigating through the 112-mile long and 30–40-mile-wide James Ross Strait. It is named after British polar explorer James Clark Ross, and Roald Amundsen sailed here on the Gjøa expedition. The strait runs between King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula and based on conditions at hand you will conduct landings for hikes or small-boat cruising.
When you arrive at Coningham Bay, you will launch in small boats and explore the bay. Hope for wildlife sightings, as this shallow, broad bay is a known hot spot for belugas and polar bears.The Bellot Strait is a narrow passage that serves as the route from Prince Regent Inlet to Peel Sound and Franklin Strait. To the south of the channel, you find the Boothia Peninsula – the northernmost point in mainland North America. The strait, only about one mile wide, has fierce currents that can run up to nine miles per hour. There may be the added navigational challenge of ice in the water. As a result, a careful assessment of the conditions on the day is required and the transit must be timed to avoid the strongest currents. No need to worry, though. MS Fram was purpose-built as an expedition vessel with a 1B ice class, ship-depth sounding database, extractable forward-sounding sonar, and iceberg search lights – and the captain and his crew are experienced in sailing treacherous waters. You will continue to keep an eye out for wildlife. Remember, the more eyes keeping watch, the greater the chance of spotting the polar bear, which is often seen in this area. This strait is where the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans meet. After having crossed the passage you will be leaving the Pacific Ocean and entering the Atlantic Ocean.
At the end of the channel is historic Fort Ross, a trading post established by the Hudson Bay Company in 1937. There are still two small huts ashore that are maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard, which are occasionally used by the local Inuit for shelter during hunting trips.
Your first stop today is Beechy Island. This place is closely linked to the history of exploration of the Northwest Passage. The most famous voyage, one surrounded in mystery, is the British expedition led by Sir John Franklin. Two ships sailed into the passage in 1845, but neither the ships nor any of the 129 crewmembers were ever seen again. It is known that the Franklin expedition over-wintered on Beechy Island during the winter of1845–1846. Three graves on the shore (plus another one from one of the search parties) is proof of the unfortunate outcome for the expedition members. As you go ashore, you will see the graves and the remains of Northumberland House, built by the rescuers searching for Franklin and his men. The desolate location of the graves and the ruins of Northumberland House create a haunting reminder of the incredible challenges faced by explorers in this powerful wilderness. Next up is Radstock Bay, dominated by the striking landmark Caswell Tower – a prominence of sedimentary rock rising from the sea. The shoreline around Caswall provides a short walk to a pre-historic Inuit dwelling site. Caswall Tower also features a challenging hike to the summit for great views over the surrounding area. The summit is the location of a small station used seasonally for polar bear research.
Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on Earth (Antarctica is counted as a continent). You will arrive at Dundas Harbour, an abandoned settlement which had a Royal Canadian Mounted Police camp and contains several archeological sites. Go ashore to see the ruins of some of these buildings, along with an impressive Thule site. The people who lived here were the ancestors of the Inuit. West of Dundas Harbour is Croker’s Bay, a large fjord with two tidewater glaciers at the head of the bay. The area is rich in wildlife and as with any expedition in the Arctic, the search for natural encounters is part of the experience. You may see several seal species such as walrus, or whales such as the beluga or even the narwhal. Polar bears are frequently seen in the area and the tundra around the shore supports a small number of Arctic hares and musk oxen. This is a perfect place for small-boat excursions to see marine life and glaciers up close.
In the morning, you will head farther south and sail the spectacular Arctic landscape of Eclipse Sound before you arrive at Pond Inlet. Explorer Sir John Ross named Pond Inlet in 1818 for John Pond, a renowned British astronomer. Today the picturesque hamlet, also called 'Mittimatalik' in Inuktitut, is a traditional Inuit community located on the northern tip of Baffin Island, near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage. Pond Inlet is surrounded by mountain ranges, with several dozen glaciers, scenic fjords and inlets, ice caves, geological hoodoos, and drifting icebergs. As we arrive, we sail through a pretty channel flanked by the peaks and glaciers of the Baffin and Bylot Islands. At these latitudes the sea is frozen for most of the year, only opening up in July for a short while. This is where the search for High Arctic wildlife, such as polar bears, can begin. Pond Inlet is also a great place to see large pods of narwhal. Pond Inlet has a small visitor center, and the cultural performance by the local community will be a highlight.
Your first stop in Greenland is Ilulissat. When you go ashore, you will have your first chance to compare life in a settlement in Greenland with a settlement you have seen in the Canadian Arctic. The town is set in the stunning scenery of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just outside the town, at the mouth of the fjord, you can often see enormous icebergs that have run aground. They originate from the Jakobshavn Glacier, one of the most productive glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere. The icebergs make their way down the 12-mile fjord before entering Disko Bay. Marvel at the changes in hue of the ice when the iceberg surface is struck by the midnight sun. Hear the icebergs’ soundtrack of cracking and rumbling as the sounds echo from one end of Ilulissat to the other. You will have a variety of options for viewing the Icefjord. A short walk through town will bring you to the head of a network of short trails that take you to the shores of the fjord. There are also options to get out on the water to see the ice and maybe even whales from local boats. You can also go high up for an aerial view – with ‘flightseeing’ trips by fixed-wing aircraft or by helicopter.
Today you will set out to cross Davis Strait, a northern arm of the Labrador Sea. This strait was named for the English explorer John Davis, who led three expeditions in the area between 1585 and 1587. He was looking for a route through the Northwest Passage, and he discovered the Hudson Strait. Davis was the first to draw attention to seal hunting and whaling possibilities in the Davis Strait, and discovered that the Newfoundland cod fisheries extended this far north.
En route to Sisimiut, you will be encouraged to be out on deck to look for whales. The waters close to the settlement are frequented by several whale species, such as humpback and fin. Harbor porpoises and minke whales can be encountered along the west coast of Greenland. If you are lucky, you might also see a large number of seals, the most common being the harp seal. Sisimiut is situated 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It is a modern settlement that maintains ancient traditions. Go ashore to explore the colorful town, visit the small museum, hike in the hills, and shop for local handicrafts. Just across Disko Bay is Disko Island and the settlement of Qeqertarsuaq. This is where the Gjøa expedition and the second Fram expedition stopped to obtain dogs and other equipment on their way to the Northwest Passage.
Kangerlussuaq means 'big fjord' and, MS Fram will sail almost the entire length of the fjord (118 miles) before reaching the town. When you arrive in Kangerlussuaq, the expedition is over. After debarkation you will join a final excursion to the Greenland ice sheet. This vast icy wasteland stretches 1,500 miles north and reaches heights of up to 10,500 feet above sea level. The road to the edge of the ice sheet boasts beautiful natural scenery ranging from Arctic desert and tundra with low-growing shrubs to hilly terrains that offer breathtaking views over the landscape. Your plane to Copenhagen leaves late in the evening.
You arrive in the Danish capital early in the morning, where you will hopefully have the time to explore "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" before you head home.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Arctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Multilingual Departures: English/Norwegian/German (All Departures)
Depending on weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for deck camping during the voyage. Spend the night on deck and enjoy a magnificent view of the landscape and sky. Included: Sleeping bags, a welcome drink, and a fresh pastry and coffee in the morning. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for fishing during the voyage. Set out on a 2.5-3 hour fishing trip to try your luck as a fisherman. You will be joined by an officer and members of the crew. When you return to the ship, you will be invited to meet the chef, prepare your catch, and have it served for dinner. Max. Capacity: 3 passengers. Included: waterproof clothing and a fishing rod. Fishing is not pre-bookable or guaranteed. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather and land conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for a glacier walk during the voyage. Experience close encounters with nature on a 1-2 hour glacier hike with an experienced guide. Included: crampons and rubber boots. Max. Capacity: 12-18 passengers. Glacier walking is not pre-bookable or guaranteed. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather and land conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for hiking during the voyage. Included: Water bottle, snack bar, and lunch pack (if hike is during lunch time). Physical fitness is essential. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for kayaking during the voyage. The duration of each excursion is 2-4 hours. Due to popular demand, kayakers are chosen by a lottery system. Kayaking is not pre-bookable or guaranteed. Basic kayak experience required. Includes kayaking gear. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Science Center: Included
'Hands-on' science program where guests can perform their own science experiments with the assistance of professional biologists and geologists. Featuring ten Leica DM500 biological microscopes and ten Leica EZ4 geological microscopes, groups of 2-3 guests per microscope will work with a trained biologist or geologist. Occasionally, scientists invite guests along to sample biomaterial for use in the science center. There is also a large screen connected to the scientist's microscope for viewing during every session.
Small Boat Cruising:
Depending on the weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for small boat ‘Polarcirkel’ cruising excursions during the voyage. The duration of each excursion is 1-2 hours. Included: Survival float suit, and a hot drink upon return. Small boat cruising is not pre-bookable or guaranteed. Max. Capacity: 21 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Economy flight from Montreal to Cambridge Bay; economy flight from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen; transfer from the hotel to the airport in Montreal; transfer from the airport to the ship in Cambridge Bay, and from the ship to the airport in Kangerlussuaq; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; landings and activities onboard and ashore; professional English-speaking expedition team that gives lectures and accompanies landings and activities; onboard 'hands-on' science center; complimentary tea and coffee; gear on loan (waterproof rubber boots); and a wind- and water-resistant jacket. Expedition Suites (M + MG) include a cabin kit with a bathrobe, slippers, and other beauty articles. Subject to change without notice.
International flights to/from the U.S.; travel protection plan; luggage handling; optional excursions and gratuities; fuel surcharge may apply.