Summary : This expedition traces the routes of early explorers who sailed through the fabled Northwest Passage and showcases the breathtaking wilderness of Canada's High Arctic. Wildlife is another major draw throughout the voyage. You'll visit one of the largest migratory bird sanctuaries in Canada and several locations where encounters with polar bears are frequent. Sightings of seals, whales, and narwhal are also common. A focus of this adventure is the history of Arctic exploration and the early quest for the Northwest Passage. The story of Sir John Franklin's expedition from the mid-18th century and the enduring mystery of its fate has gripped the imagination and intrigue of Canadians - and history lovers - for more than 150 years. Your modern expedition vessel will sail through the very same waters as you learn about the fate of these early Arctic explorers. Throughout the trip, enjoy onboard presentations by polar experts and fascinating shore excursions to many key historic sites.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$7,095 to $13,895
Meet at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in the morning for a group transfer to your charter flight. Enjoy your charter flight* from Edmonton 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 was trapped in ice and abandoned there in 1850 while searching for the lost Franklin Expedition. A weather station and airstrip made it a strategic outpost during the Cold War. On arrival, you will meet your expedition team and prepare for your Zodiac ride to the ship. After a welcome cocktail, you will weigh anchor and depart Resolute in the early evening.
*See Additional Costs under Rate Notes for round-trip charter flight details.
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 1845-1846 before disappearing into the icy vastness to the south, as they probed for a route through the Northwest Passage. The enduring mystery of what happened to the Franklin party and two ships was partially solved in September 2014, when a joint Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expedition found the HMS Erebus in the Victoria Strait.
A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach gives one pause to wonder at the bravery (or foolhardiness) of these pioneering explorers as they sought a way through the barren, frozen landscape. Over the coming days you will learn about this enduring Arctic tale from onboard historians and polar specialists. An afternoon visit to Radstock Bay brings you to the imposing Caswell Tower - a huge rock headland and known archaeological site. Remains of Thule ‘qarmat’ homes, made of rocks, whale bones, rock and sod walls, with skins for roofs can be found in the vicinity telling a story of over 800 years of human habitation.
Cross the broad expanse of Lancaster Sound, spending time on the ship’s bridge or outer decks looking for wildlife. The Sound has been likened to the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. A massive confluence of water from the Atlantic to the east, the Pacific to the west, and the archipelago of islands to the north all mix here; combining to make a rich source of nutrients and food for an abundance of Arctic wildlife. Approaching northern Baffin Island take in the spectacular Arctic landscape that seemingly stretches on forever. Cape Charles Yorke offers several great walking opportunities. You may sight polar bears along this coast. The ship will navigate into nearby Elwin Inlet, a breathtaking fjord which is well protected and ideal for a Zodiac cruise or hike onshore.
Having crossed Prince Regent Inlet overnight, you will approach the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island in the morning. The island is home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. The birds here number in the several hundred thousand, making Prince Leopold Island one of the most significant Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the entire Canadian Arctic. The sights here make for fantastic Zodiac cruising.
As the ship navigates south into 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, your captain and crew will attempt a transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. 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 the capabilities of the ship become apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation.
Having emerged from Bellot Strait, you will cross Franklin Strait and arrive at Coningham 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.
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, an abandoned lifeboat, bits and pieces of copper and iron, cutlery, buttons, and a skeleton here and there - all tell a story of a desperate race south in search of rescue that never came. Depending on conditions, you may visit Victory Point as the ship transits 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.
This small group of islands is of tremendous historic importance. In this vicinity the wreck of HMS Erebus was found in September 2014. To bookend this remarkable find, the sister ship – HMS Terror - was discovered nearby in the Summer of 2016. It is profoundly moving to be in a location where Franklin and his men abandoned their ships knowing hope of rescue was virtually nonexistent. There is a shore landing planned here to stretch your legs as you cross islands that may have felt the doomed footsteps of Franklin's men.
Returning to the ship, meet in the presentation room and enjoy a memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Then celebrate with a special dinner, attended by the captain of the
ship, and reflect on a wonderful expedition.
By morning, you will anchor in Cambridge Bay. Today this remote outpost on the southern shores of Victoria Island is a center for hunting, trapping, and fishing. Make your way ashore by Zodiac and bid farewell to your crew. A charter flight will return you to Edmonton where your journey will come to an end.
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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance. The travel insurance must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter), luggage and personal effects, and personal liability. It is strongly recommended that you purchase cancellation and curtailment insurance. 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
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.
Please arrive Edmonton by 2 PM on the day before your voyage departure date, as attendance at a very important expedition briefing about charter flights and embarkation logistics is expected that evening. At the conclusion of your voyage, the return charter flight will arrive in the early evening and a transfer will be provided from the airport to a central downtown location. We recommend staying overnight in Edmonton and scheduling your onward travel plans for the following day.
Kayaking: pre-booking required
Limited to 16 guests. Participants will be accompanied by highly experienced kayak guides. This optional activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. Limited to 16 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport or local hotel on disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; resident photography guide available to assist all guests; emergency-trained medical physician onboard every voyage; daily off-ship excursions and guided hikes ashore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and community visits; educational presentations and talks onboard or ashore; use of library, sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; end of voyage video, photos, and take-home USB; gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles); all meals onboard the ship; daily housekeeping; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); port fees and permits to access visited areas. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Additional Inclusions for Suites:
Welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); early morning adventure concierge coffee service; in-room mini bar, single brew coffee machine, mini-stereo, and iPad with reference and fictional content; complimentary field guide to polar region visited. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Required charter flights and any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodation and transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); optional paid activities such as sea kayaking; personal expenses onboard such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, massage, spa treatments or laundry charges; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation or medical travel insurance related expenses; a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew; fuel surcharge may apply.