Our classic Arctic expedition begins by exploring Greenland's fjords and communities. The great icefjord at Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and source of the majority of the icebergs in the North Atlantic, is one of many highlights. Across the Davis Strait, the Canadian Arctic experience begins in Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet). As we head north, opportunities for polar bear, whales, and musk ox abound on Devon Island, while Prince Leopold Island is one of Canada's best birding areas. Abandoned RCMP and HBC posts offer a glimpse into the region's rich history; at Beechey Island, we'll pay our respects at the graves of three of Sir John Franklin's men. Resolute Bay memorializes the courage of the Inuit of Canada's Arctic. On this trip, we will live and breathe the natural history of some of the planet's most striking features as we search for the cultures and wildlife of the vast and beautiful north.
Although there is no commitment to extended walking on this journey, we nonetheless want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore advise that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect.
Sondre Stromfjord is one of the longest fjords in the world and boasts 168 kilometres of superb scenery. Kangerlussuaq, the town at its eastern head, means ‘the big fjord.’
We begin our adventure by sailing down this dramatic fjord as the sun sets before us. If you choose to take the optional charter flights the flight departs Toronto (Ontario) in the early morning so we suggest you book one night pre-trip accommodation to ensure you do not miss the flight.
People have lived in the Sisimiut area for 4,500 years. The first 2,000 years, the people of the Saqqaq culture occupied the area. Approx. 2,500 years ago, new people brought the Dorset culture to the Sisimiut area. They lived here for 1,500 years and were followed by the people of the Thule culture—the ancestors of the current population. All these cultures came from Canada. The people primarily lived on fish, birds, and mammals such as whales and seals. These ice-free conditions in the sea around Sisimiut, including some of Greenland’s deepest fjords, allow us to sail in waters that are home to many whales and seals.
Sailing 250km north of the Arctic Circle we find the stunning coastal community of Ilulissat. Translating literally into 'iceberg, Ilulissat could not be more appropriately named. We will include time in the colourful town and a have an opportunity to hike out to an elevated viewpoint where we can observe the great fields of ice. We will also cruise in our fleet of zodiacs in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord. The Icefjord is where we find the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, one of the most active and fastest moving in the world at 19m per day and calving more than 35 square kilometers of ice annually. The glacier has been the object of scientific attention for 250 years and, because of its relative ease of accessibility, has significantly added to the understanding of ice-cap glaciology, climate change and related geomorphic processes.
Uummannaq Fjord in northwest Greenland is the country’s second-largest system of fjords. It empties into Baffin Bay and is characterized by its developed coastline and various bays, islands, and peninsulas. It is considered to be the sunniest spot in Greenland, and favourable weather—coupled with proximity to coastal travel routes—has made the fjord system a popular destination for Greenlandic Inuit. It has been settled and re-settled continually for the last 4,500 years.
Today we will cruise one of Greenland's most spectacular fjords, Karat Fjord. During ice breakup, narwhals and seals use the long leads created by high winds in this region to hunt the rich waters. The cliffs within the fjord should give us good opportunities to see colonies of Dovekies. Spending some time on deck today should result in some good wildlife sightings, not to mention unbeatable photographic opportunities.
Our presentation series will continue as we steam across the Davis Strait towards Canada. While out on deck, keep your eyes peeled for minke and humpback whales amid potential pack ice, as well as the seabirds that are sure to mark our passage.
Mittimatalik or Pond Inlet is a bustling Arctic community is surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Eastern Arctic. We will have a chance to explore the town, as well as take in a cultural presentation at the Nattinnak Centre.
Today will be an expedition day in the truest sense as we navigate the fjords of northeast Baffin Island. Baffin’s fjords are striking, affording stunning perspectives on geological processes. The Ocean Endeavour is the perfect vessel for exploring these hidden treasures of the north, as her manoeuvrability and shallow draft allows her to access regions that would be impassable to larger vessels. We will be on alert for changing weather and ice conditions and use our judgement as to which route along the coast will be the most spectacular. As ever, our team will be on deck for the duration, searching for wildlife and contextualising the mighty landscape through which we travel.
We will spend the next two days exploring Lancaster Sound including a landing at Devon Island, which is a proposed Marine Protected Area due to the large populations of marine mammals, including narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales. There is a great selection of landing sites available. Weather, wildlife, and sea conditions will influence our choice of landing each day. Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on earth and comprises over fifty thousand square kilometres. It was first sighted by Europeans in 1616, though it was not inhabited for another three hundred years with the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The island's geology consists of reddish Precambrian gneiss and Paeleozoic siltstones and shales; these, combined with its harsh climate, have drawn comparisons with the planet Mars.
Known as the 'Island of Freedom,' the vertical cliffs of Prince Leopold Island rise about 250m. First sighted in 1819 by W.E. Parry, the island was named in honour of His Royal Highness Prince Leopold Saxe Coburg. The island is noted for its extraordinary bird cliffs that house Thick-billed Murres, Northern Fulmars, and Black-legged Kittiwakes, who care for their young chicks on nests glued to the rocks with guano. The colony is estimated at a quarter of a million birds. Other species known to breed on the island include Atlantic Brant, Common Raven, Common Eider, Parasitic Jaeger, Glaucous Gull, and Snow Bunting. The seabirds generally occupy the site from early May to the end of August. The entire island is included within the Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Federal Crown Land). It encompasses 311 square kilometers, which includes a 5km marine buffer around the island. On Beechey Island we delve deep into Arctic exploration history where in 1845 an expedition of 129 men, led by Sir John Franklin, sailed two ships into the Wellington Channel. Not a soul returned from the fateful expedition and it was two years before search parties were launched. Aside from the bodies of three souls buried here, no other clues were found to explain the fate of the rest of the British party. Such is the interest in this story, the Canadian government recently announced a new initiative to locate the missing Franklin vessels.
Qausuittuq, or “place with no dawn” is truly the land of the midnight sun—daylight persists constantly from about April 29 to August 13 each year. Located on the south coast of Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay is the "jumping off place" for expeditions to the North Pole. From archaeological excavations, it has been concluded that there have been at least three stages of occupation at Resolute Bay. The Dorset culture was the first, followed by an early phase of the Thule culture, in which the artefacts found show strong Alaskan affinities. These were probably both short periods of occupation, possibly by only a few families. A late or developed phase of the Thule culture was of longer duration, with a considerably larger population. Resolute Bay was named after HMS Resolute, one of the ships in the Franklin search expedition commanded by Captain H.T. Austin. An airfield was established at Resolute Bay in 1947 during construction of a joint US-Canadian weather station. In 1953, Inuit from Inukjuak, Que´bec, and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) were relocated to Qausuittuq (Resolute) by the Canadian government. If you choose to take the optional charter flights the flight departs Resolute bound for Ottawa (Ontario) a few hours after disembarking the ship. Overnight accommodation in Ottawa is recommended.
Per Person, Twin Share