The intricate waterways of the famed Northwest Passage have fascinated explorers and adventurers throughout history. Explore a segment of this legendary passage to gain insight into the captivating world that entranced early pioneers like Franklin, Amundsen, and Larsen. Discover the final resting sites of these renowned explorers and immerse yourself in the archipelago of islands and channels comprising Canada's High Arctic region. Along the journey, there's a chance to encounter the indigenous people who inhabit this remote wilderness and observe the diverse wildlife, including polar foxes, bowhead whales, polar bears, and the elusive narwhal. Variable sea ice, once a formidable barrier to passage, adds an adventurous element reminiscent of genuine expeditions.
Operating in remote and challenging environments, we encourage participants to embrace a flexible and adventurous mindset. The provided itinerary is a mere guideline, subject to change based on weather, sea conditions, and other uncontrollable factors.
During this expedition, we'll visit isolated Inuit hamlets and settlements where traditional hunting methods, including whaling, are still practiced. For those who may find these practices distressing, please promptly inform a member of the expedition team. They will make every effort to address your concerns and take appropriate action whenever possible.
Upon arrival at Toronto Airport, proceed to check in at the designated group hotel near the airport for an overnight stay. Visit the hospitality desk to obtain luggage cabin tags and consult with the ground operations team, who may provide details on pre-embarkation procedures and the charter flight to Kangerlussuaq scheduled for the following day. Ensure that your luggage is equipped with cabin tags clearly labeled with your name and ship cabin number.
Accommodation: Westin Toronto Airport Hotel (or a similar option).
Ensure your luggage is equipped with cabin tags clearly labeled with your name and cabin number. Keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day, as your luggage will be delivered to your cabin before your arrival on board.
Following breakfast at the hotel, proceed to board the charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where the vessel, the Sylvia Earle, awaits. Upon boarding, take time to settle into your cabin before the important safety briefings. The departure from Søndre Strømfjord, surrounded by towering mountains, is a magnificent sight. In the evening, join your expedition team and crew for the Welcome Dinner.
Sisimiut, Greenland's second-largest town, is situated about 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, providing the opportunity to experience the midnight sun during the summer months. The town is renowned for its old blue church featuring a gate made of whale bone. Adjacent to the church, a charming museum offers an excellent reconstruction of an Inuit turf house and exhibits showcasing local history and early life in Greenland.
Sisimiut provides hiking trails with varying levels of difficulty. The easier paths guide you through the town, its outskirts, and into the mountains, where spectacular vantage points await.
Around 4,500 years ago, the Saqqaq culture migrated from Canada and settled in the area, residing for approximately 2,000 years before mysteriously disappearing. The Dorset culture arrived around 500 CE and stayed until the 1200s, succeeded by the Thule culture. Today, the majority of Sisimiut's population are descendants of the Thule culture.
Renowned as the 'birthplace of icebergs,' this area produces some of the most mesmerizing ice formations globally. Embark on a hike to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Icefjord and be awestruck by its immense beauty. Sermeq Kujalleq, or Jakobshavn Glacier, stands out as the most productive glacier, not only in Greenland but across the entire Northern Hemisphere, generating a staggering 20 million tonnes of ice daily. This ice flows into the Ilulissat Icefjord and Disko Bay. If conditions permit, partake in a Zodiac cruise at the fjord's mouth and kayak amidst sea ice and icebergs. An optional 90-minute helicopter flight over the icefjord offers a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The optional helicopter excursion (90 mins) provides the exclusive opportunity to approach the colossal glacier. Departing from Ilulissat Airport, the 12-seater helicopter sweeps over hills, lakes, and ice fjords. Land on the mountain at Kangia, within the preserved area, to revel in the incredible surroundings. On the return flight to Ilulissat, soar above the glacier's edge with breathtaking views of massive icebergs drifting in the fjord. The excursion concludes with captivating views of some of the largest icebergs stranded on a moraine beneath the water, just outside the town. Note that this excursion requires a minimum of 8 passengers to operate.
This captivating island shares more similarities with Iceland than Greenland. Although its interior is predominantly mountainous and glaciated, the striking shorelines feature black sandy beaches, distinctive basalt columns, hot springs, and dramatic lava formations. A Zodiac cruise in Disko Bay reveals fascinating geology, making it a hotspot for marine life, including various whale species such as humpback and minke.
The team of experts entertain us with informative talks about wildlife, geology and epic tales of early explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen. Reaching the coast of Baffin Island, we may encounter Greenland’s famous icebergs. Keep watch for whales as well as various species of seals such as ring and harp seal.
The east coast of Baffin Island reveals concealed bays serving as feeding grounds for bowhead whales, with glaciers calving into the sea. Sail through inlets and fjords surrounded by towering mountains showcasing impressive geology. Potential destinations include Home Bay, Isabella Bay, Sillem Island, John Ford Fjord, Sam Ford Fjord, and Scott Inlet. If conditions permit, there's a hope to make a shore visit at Pond Inlet and experience a warm welcome from the local community.
Bylot, adorned with mountains, icefields, steep cliffs, snowfields, and glaciers, offers nesting habitat for a significant population of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. The island hosts 74 unique species of arctic birds. Recognizing the richness of wildlife and the beauty of the landscapes, a substantial portion of Bylot Island was included in the Sirmilik National Park, established in 2001. The plan includes sailing along the coastline of Bylot Island to savor the scenery and observe the outstanding birdlife.
Situated at a latitude of almost 75° degrees north, we've truly entered the High Arctic, a region known as the 'wildlife superhighway' of the Arctic due to its nutrient-rich waters supporting abundant wildlife. Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island on Earth, boasts stunning geology, characterized by flat-topped mountains and glacial valleys, giving it a unique character. Our potential visit to Dundas Harbour aims to provide walks on undulating tundra and, perhaps, opportunities for birdwatching. Other potential stops include Croker Bay and Maxwell Bay, featuring remnants of a dilapidated Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost and a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, where walruses are frequently present.
At the western end of Devon Island lies Beechey Island, our planned landing site. Named after Frederick William Beechey, the island is one of Canada’s most significant Arctic sites and holds the designation of a Canadian National Historic Site. Notably, during the Franklin expedition of 1845–46, Franklin attempted to navigate the Northwest Passage with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, resulting in perilous consequences – three of his men are buried here. In 1903, Roald Amundsen landed at Beechey Island during the first successful ship voyage to fully transit the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Note: The upcoming itinerary is subject to the unpredictable conditions of sea ice. The following destinations are our hopeful visits.
Prince Leopold Island
Located on the southern side of Lancaster Sound from Beechey Island, Prince Leopold Island features towering bird cliffs. In 1848, English explorer James Clark Ross overwintered here during the search for the missing Franklin expedition. It serves as the most significant bird sanctuary in the Canadian Arctic, with around 500,000 birds nesting in summer. Ringed seals and polar bears are often observed on the sea ice, and beluga whales frequent the shallow gravel beds for moulting each summer.
Situated on the north coast of Somerset Island, Cunningham Inlet offers the spectacular sight of hundreds of beluga whales shedding their skin on shallow sandy banks, particularly when weather and whale behavior align. The local scenery provides excellent guided walks with waterway trails leading to waterfalls and higher ground.
Prince Regent Inlet, Fort Ross
Sailing down the east coast of Somerset Island, sightings of beluga whales and narwhals feeding on arctic char in Creswell Bay are possible in late summer. The bay, an important bird area, attracts species like black-bellied plovers, king eiders, and white-rumped sandpipers. Fort Ross, an abandoned Hudson’s Bay Company trading outpost, founded in 1937 and closed in 1949 due to thick sea ice, offers guided walks on the tundra.
A deep and windy waterway with strong, swirling tidal currents, Bellot Strait requires navigation close to times of slack water (four times a day). Point Zenith, the most northern continental point of the Americas, is located in the strait. Due to swirling currents, it's better transited during eastbound voyages; if blocked, an alternative is to continue north through Peel Sound. Westbound voyages may necessitate a long detour back north through Prince Regent Inlet.
Across from Victoria Strait on Prince of Wales Island, Coningham Bay is a polar bear hotspot where the creatures feast on beluga whales often trapped in rocky shallows at the bay's entrance. The shoreline may be littered with whale skeletons, and healthy-looking polar bears are commonly seen.
King William Island
Remains attributed to the Franklin expedition have been found at 35 locations on King William Island and the nearby Adelaide Peninsula. South of Cape Felix, in Victoria Strait, we hope to approach the site where HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were abandoned in 1848.
Bid farewell to the crew, expedition team, and fellow travelers in Cambridge Bay before a Zodiac shuttle transports you to the shore. Transfer to the airport for a charter flight to Calgary, where you will spend the night.
Accommodation: Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Downtown / Beltline District (or similar)
Following breakfast, complete the check-out process for your room and proceed with the continuation of your journey.