Summary : This iconic voyage explores Canada's remote Northwest Passage and the stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline. Enjoy excellent wildlife encounters, Inuit community visits, exciting navigation, hikes on shore, and superb photographic opportunities along the way. Follow in the footsteps of the early Arctic explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen, and Larsen while exploring the archipelago of islands and channels that create Canada’s high Arctic region. This is the home of the polar bear, muskox, caribou, and walrus. Wildlife is a major draw of this expedition, but there is plenty of historical interest, including the stories of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition nearly 170 years ago. Franklin made his last heroic foray into the Arctic in 1845 with two ships and 129 men, never to be heard from again. The fate of the expedition remained a mystery until September 2014 when one of the vessels, HMS Erebus, was discovered in a remarkable state of preservation in the frigid waters of the Victoria Strait. Enjoy active, small ship cruising at its best, with optional sea kayaking, educational presentations, a photographer-in-residence, and wellness activities.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$9,995 to $18,695
Depart Edmonton for your charter flight* to Cambridge Bay, a remote outpost above the Arctic Circle. Located on the southern shores of Victoria Island, today it is a center for hunting, trapping and fishing. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off, bound for the fabled Northwest Passage.
*See Additional Costs under Rate Notes for charter flight details.
As the captain charts a course into the Northwest Passage, your onboard presentation series begins and the legend of Sir John Franklin and his ‘lost expedition’ starts to unravel. The aim is to visit Victory Point, traveling very near the actual location of the wreck of HMS Erebus & the HMS Terror, all the while learning about the quest for exploration that eventually opened up the Arctic.
This morning you will arrive at Coningham Bay on the shore of Prince of Wales. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage, you will hope to encounter one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. This is a known hot spot for polar bears who come to feast on Beluga whales, often caught in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay during low tide. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons – and very healthy-looking polar bears!
Today you will transit the narrow passage of Bellot Strait – a channel separating northerly Somerset Island from continental North America. The skill of the captain and officers and capabilities of the ship become apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation. Nearby 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.
Beechey Island holds great historic importance on your journey through 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, sparking an incredible series of search expeditions that lasted almost three decades. A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit 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. This is a thrilling location for history buffs and for many it will be the defining moment of their expedition.
Cruising the coastline of Devon Island, you are now in the waters of Lancaster Sound – a rich, bio-diverse region often referred to as the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. Massive volumes of water from Baffin Bay to the east, Beaufort Sea to the west, and from the archipelago of islands to the north combine to make a rich cocktail of nutrients supporting an abundance of Arctic wildlife. Plan on visiting the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour, situated on the southern shores of Devon Island.
Today you will sight the wild north coast of Baffin Island and navigate through Navy Board Inlet. The vast landscapes of Sirmilik National Park surround you as the ship approaches the remote Inuit community of Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet). Once ashore, visit the Natinnak Centre, where a fascinating cultural exhibit showcases aspects of daily life, culture, and the history of the people of the north. Inuit carvings, jewelry and other traditional crafts are on display and purchasing such items from local artisans is a great way to support the community.
This morning you will enter spectacular Gibbs Fjord with towering cliffs all around you. Your expedition ship will seem dwarfed by the giant peaks and snowy glaciers as you cruise slowly along the dark waters. One past guest likened Gibbs Fjord to a 'scene from a Lord of the Rings' - it's hard to disagree!
Isabela Bay (Niginaniq) is an important summer habitat and feeding area for endangered bowhead whales. These remarkable marine mammals can break sea ice with the crown of their head. The area also includes a shallow shelf at the entrance to the bay that provides protection for bowheads from predatory orca whales. Polar bears, ringed seals, Canada geese, snow geese, and narwhal are also found in and around the area.
Sunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle and offers terrific hiking opportunities. You may wish to take the extended hike, gaining some real elevation and offering wonderful views of your surroundings, or elect to take the less strenuous option along the shoreline. The sheltered waters of the fjord provide kayakers with great conditions for paddling.
Nestled in the heart of Cumberland Sound and the gateway to Auyuittuq National Park, the small community of Pangnirtung is beautifully situated between the mountains and the sea. This remote town is known for its arts and crafts and a visit to the local art gallery is a highlight. In addition, the Angmarlik Visitor Centre has a wonderful interpretive display featuring the lifestyle of the Thule and of the modern Inuit.
Situated in the Davis Strait, the rocky dome of Monumental Island can be seen from a distance. Explore by Zodiac along the rocky shoreline and hope to encounter polar bears in this vicinity. In good weather, a complete circumnavigation of the island in a Zodiac is possible. You may encounter large icebergs drifting southward towards Labrador and Newfoundland on the currents of the Davis Strait. As you near the end of your journey, enjoy an entertaining voyage recap from the expedition leader. In the evening, celebrate with a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship and reflect on your voyage across the top of the remote Canadian Arctic.
By morning you are anchored off the beach from Iqaluit – the largest community on Baffin Island. Say good-bye to your crew and make your way ashore on your final Zodiac ride. You will be transferred to the airport and board your flight to Ottawa where your journey comes to an end. A transfer to a downtown location is provided.
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 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.
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.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip starts in Edmonton, Alberta's capital city. It is recommended that you arrive in Edmonton at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure date. From Edmonton you will fly to Cambridge Bay in Nunavut via a charter flight. You will transfer to the ship for embarkation via Zodiac. At the conclusion of the trip, you will fly from Iqaluit in Nunavut, back to Ottawa via a charter flight. Upon arrival in Ottawa, a transfer is provided from the airport to a central downtown location. This flight arrives in the early evening and it is recommended that you make your onward travel plans the following day.
The photographer-in-residence provides presentations, critiques, informal instruction, and a photographer Zodiac to assist with each passenger's photographic goals.
A range of guided hiking options are available for passengers, from contemplative, relaxing shore walks to two- to three-hour treks with challenging terrain.
Sea Kayaking: $695 per person; pre-booking required
Limited to 16 participants. Kayakers will be accompanied by highly experienced kayak guides. This optional activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. 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.
Charter flights; 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.
PHOTOS: © Nate Small, © Rob Stimpson, © David McEown, © Ira Meyer, © Mark Robinson