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The Northwest Passage: Finding Franklin

Canadian Arctic Cruise

Summary : This outstanding expedition showcases the breathtaking wilderness of Canada's High Arctic. With an emphasis on wildlife viewing throughout the voyage, visit one of the largest migratory bird sanctuaries in Canada and a number of locations where encounters with polar bears are frequent. Sightings of seals, whales and narwhal are also common. The principal focus of the expedition 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 their fate has gripped the imagination and intrigue of history lovers for more than 150 years. A new chapter in this tale was written when in September 2014, an expedition located the final resting place of one of two of Franklin's "lost ships"— HMS Erebus—in the frigid waters of the Victoria Strait. Your modern expedition vessel navigates these very same waters as you wonder about the fate of these early Arctic explorers. Throughout the journey, enjoy onboard presentations by polar experts and fascinating shore excursions to many key historic sites.

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


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Day 1
Edmonton to Resolute (Nunavut)

Depart Edmonton this morning on a special charter flight 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 became trapped in ice and abandoned here in 1850 while searching for the lost Franklin Expedition. A weather station and airstrip here made it a strategic outpost during the time of the Cold War. On arrival, you are transferred to the beach where your expedition team will meet you and prepare you for the Zodiac ride to the ship. Onboard, enjoy time to explore the ship and get to know your cabin before a welcome cocktail. Weigh anchor and depart Resolute in the early evening.

Day 2
Beechey Island and Radstock Bay

Beechey Island is a site of great historical importance. 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 long lost Franklin shipwreck, HMS Erebus, in the Victoria Strait. Your ship operator played a vital role in the search by carrying underwater search equipment as well as scientists, historians, researchers, dignitaries and sponsors of this history defining mission.

A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach gives one pause to wonder on the bravery of these pioneering explorers as they sought a way through the barren, frozen landscape. Over the coming days, learn about this enduring Arctic tale from your onboard historians and polar experts. 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 and skins for roofs, can be found in the vicinity telling a story of over 800 years of human habitation.

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. A massive confluence of water from the Atlantic to the east and Pacific to the west, and from 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 witness the awe-inspiring and 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, 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. The sea ice around Prince Leopold Island is a great place for spotting ringed seals and wherever ringed seals are found, polar bears are often near. Nearby Port Leopold is a historic site where in 1848, English explorer James Clark Ross wintered here during the search for the missing Franklin expedition. In addition to Port Leopold’s historical attraction, the shallow gravel beds along the shoreline are attractive to the beluga whales who tend to moult in this part of the Arctic each summer.

Day 5
Fort Ross and Bellot Strait

Continuing to navigate the ship south into Prince Regent Inlet, 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, attempt a transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. The aim is to enter at slack tide if possible, in order to avoid a current that roars through the passage at more than seven knots during the peak flow. 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 capabilities of the ship, becomes apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation.

Day 6
Conningham Bay

Cross Franklin Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince of Wales Island. Here in the heart of the Northwest Passage, hope to encounter one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. This is a known hotspot for polar bears who come here to feast on beluga whales, often caught in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons—and very healthy looking polar bears!

Day 7
Victory Point, King William Island

Heading further into the Northwest Passage, 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 Victoria 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. Hope to visit Victory Point and the 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.

Day 8
Royal Geographic Society Islands

This small group of islands is of tremendous historic importance. It's in this vicinity the wreck of HMS Erebus was found. Expert opinion suggests that the sister ship, HMS Terror, must also be close by and future search efforts are likely to focus in this area. It is profoundly moving to be in the location where Franklin and his men abandoned their ships knowing hope of rescue was virtually nonexistent. Plan a shore landing on the islands 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. Celebrate with a special dinner, attended by the Captain of the ship reflecting on a wonderful expedition.

Day 9
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to Edmonton, Alberta

Anchor in Cambridge Bay, your final destination. 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 returns you to Edmonton where your journey comes to an end.


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.

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.

Sea Kayaking Option: $695 per person
Pre-booked option. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand.

Mandatory Insurance:
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.

Accommodations onboard; meals; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; use of onboard expedition rubber boots; use of wet weather gear; transfers as applicable.

Not Included:
International airfare; charter airfare where applicable; pre- and post-cruise hotel nights; passport and visa fees; excess baggage charges; airport taxes; travel insurance; all gratuities; extra meals; items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks; medical expenses; optional activities and trips; kayaking supplement.

PHOTOS: © Boris Wise

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