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Pathways to Franklin

Canadian Arctic Cruise Information

Summary : Trace the routes of the early explorers who sailed through the fabled Northwest Passage on an expedition with mythical narwhals and polar bear encounters! Filled with wildlife and early polar exploration history, this epic journey includes a visit to one of the largest migratory bird sanctuaries in the world and a detailed retelling of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins


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Day 1
Edmonton, Alberta / Resolute, Nunavut

Meet at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in the morning for an included group transfer to your charter flight. Enjoy your included 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 here 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.

Day 2
Beechey Island

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. 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 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 location for history buffs. 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 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.

Day 3
Cape Charles Yorke and Elwin Inlet

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. Approaching northern Baffin Island you are in awe of the spectacular Arctic landscape that seemingly stretches on forever. Cape Charles Yorke offers several great walking opportunities and you may enjoy some sightings of polar bears along this coast. Navigate the ship into nearby Elwin Inlet, a breathtaking fjord which is well protected and great for a Zodiac cruise or hike onshore.

Day 4
Prince Leopold Island

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. Numbering in the order of several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most significant Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the whole of the Canadian Arctic and makes for fantastic Zodiac cruising.

Day 5
Fort Ross and Bellot Strait

Continuing to navigate the ship 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. 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.

Day 6
Coningham Bay

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.

Day 7
Victory Point, King William Island

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.

Day 8
Royal Geographical Society Islands

This small group of islands is of tremendous historic importance. In this vicinity the wreck of HMS Erebus was found in September 2014. To end 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.

Day 9
Victoria Island or King William Island

Today you will arrive in a very historic part of the Northwest Passage as you explore the waters of southern Victoria Strait and into the top of Queen Maud Gulf. Your itinerary today will be driven by the weather and ice conditions as you surround yourself in history and search for wildlife. This area was traveled on foot (on the sea ice) as well as by small boat before it was ever navigated by sailing or motor vessel. As you wrap up your last excursion you will marvel at the sense of adventure that each explorer must have had. Returning to the ship, you will meet in the presentation room and enjoy a memorable voyage recap by your expedition leader. Celebrate with a special dinner, attended by the captain of the ship and reflect on a wonderful expedition.

Day 10
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut / Edmonton, Alberta

By morning, you will anchor in Cambridge Bay – your final destination. 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. Enjoy an included transfer from the airport to the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald.


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.

Mandatory Insurance:
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.

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.

Arrival/Departure Logistics:

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.

pre-booking required
Participants will be accompanied by 3 kayak guides. This optional activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. Limited to 16 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.

Pre- and post-expedition transfers between the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald and charter flights in Edmonton; transfer from the charter flight to the ship in Resolute; transfer from the ship to the charter flight in Cambridge Bay; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); expertise of experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; daily shore excursions by Zodiac boat in small groups; guided hikes; educational presentations and talks by polar experts; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained physician onboard every voyage; onboard sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center with personal trainer and massage options (additional charges apply for massage and spa treatments); well-stocked library with polar reference books; end of voyage video, photos, and take home USB; port fees and permits to access visited areas; and gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles). Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:

Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; airport taxes; visa and passport expenses; pre- and post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, extra meals, or laundry expenses; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses; travel insurance (mandatory on all trips); optional activities (i.e. kayaking); a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew.

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