Northwest Passage West to East
Join us on a voyage through Canada's most historical waterway known for adventure, exploration and navigational skill, the Northwest Passage
Northwest Passage West to East itinerary:
Day 1 - Kugluktuk, Nunavut (formerly known as Coppermine)
Our journey of discovery begins in Edmonton with our charter flight to Kugluktuk Bay and the Arctic. We will board our flight at 54°34’N and disembark north of the Arctic Circle. From the airport in Kugluktuk, we will transfer to the beach and prepare to embark our zodiac inflatable boats for the shuttle out to the ship.
Day 2 - Johanssen Bay, Coronation Gulf
An anvil-shaped bay on the south coast of Victoria Island, Johanssen Bay is a wonderful place for a variety of hiking and water-based activities. Kayak up a small river at the east end of the bay, hike onto the ridge on the north shore or follow the shore on a zodiac cruise. Our fast paced hike will head for an abandoned DEW line site (Distance Early Warning Radar base) and learn a little about the Cold War exploration of the Arctic. Johanssen Bay is also a great place to spot musk ox and we will spend some time looking for them before continuing west.
Day 3 - Cambridge Bay
We hope to visit the community of Cambridge Bay, on the southern shores of Victoria Island. Cambridge Bay, also known as Ikaluktutiak or “good fishing place” is a centre for hunting, trapping and fishing. Local Inuit have had summer camps in the locality for hundreds of years. Today ships visit the region annually bringing supplies. Amundsen spent two winters in this area, learning how to master dogsledding from the locals. Previous to this, McClintock found solid evidence of the Franklin Expedition here in 1859, including naval artifacts, sledges, graves and letters.
Day 4 - Victory Point, King William Island
Little is known of how the remainders of the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait, have left no trace. 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 a rescue that never occurred. We will visit Victory Point and continue to reflect on the quest for exploration that opened up the Arctic, whilst sacrificing some of its bravest explorers.
Day 5 - Pasely Bay
Located on the western coast of the Boothia Peninsula, Pasely Bay was the wintering position of the RCMP vessel St. Roch during the winter of 1941 – 1942. Locked in the ice in early September, the St. Roch was confined within the bay until August 1942. During this time, the crew members undertook extensive sled patrols, some lasting two months at a time. During our visit to Pasely Bay, we hope to enjoy some hiking in the hills overlooking Larson Sound (named after Henry Larson, Captain of the St. Roch).
Day 6 - Fort Ross and Bellot Strait
If ice conditions permit, we will sail eastward through Bellot Strait. A very narrow waterway separating Boothia Peninsula from Somerset Island, we will pass the northernmost extent of the North American Continental mainland. We will attempt the passage at slack tide, in order to avoid tides of more than seven knots as we cruise this narrow waterway. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an ample food source for marine mammals and we will keep our eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. At the eastern end of Bellot Strait, we will hope to visit Fort Ross, a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost. Ancient archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors.
Day 7 - Prince Leopold Island and Beechey Island
As we sail north out of Prince Regent Inlet, we will stop at Prince Leopold Island, a Canadian Migratory Bird Sanctuary and home to hundreds of thousands of thick-billed murres, black guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes and northern fulmars. We will zodiac cruise along the base of the cliffs hoping to catch sight of the later breeders as we come to the tail end of the breeding season. Following our visit to Prince Leopold Island, we sail north across the Barrow Strait / Lancaster Sound to Beechey Island. Beechey Island holds great importance in our quest to complete the Northwest Passage. It is here that 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 that finished the charting of Canada’s northern archipelago. Almost sixty years later, Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage.
Day 8 - Lancaster Sound and Devon Island
Lancaster Sound is in many ways the wildlife ‘super-highway’ of the Arctic. A massive outlet for water from the high Arctic archipelago, there is a mixing of water here that is very rich in nutrients. Coupled with areas of open water for much of the year, Lancaster Sound is home to a diversity and concentration of wildlife that can be staggering, given the sparseness of the region. Our stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound will depend very much on ice conditions and weather.
Day 9 - Pond Inlet
We will visit the town of Pond Inlet and make our base at the Natinnak Centre, where a spectacular cultural exhibit will be the background of a display put on for us by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit carvings, jewellery and other local craft will be available to purchase from the local artisans. We will take time to meet the children of Pond Inlet and marvel at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the challenges of the Inuit Games.
Day 10 - Fjords of Northeast Baffin Island
Rising straight out of the water and almost blotting out the sky, the cliffs of these fjords are incredible. We will sail along a few of these fjords looking for a place to get out and stretch our legs (somewhere that does not require a rope and harness). The mouths of these fjord complexes are often rich in wildlife due to the confluence of fresher glacial melt water from the fjords mixing with the seawater of Baffin Bay.
Day 11/12 - Baffin Bay
Our crossing of Baffin Bay this late in the season will be easy compared to that of many of the explorers. We will marvel at open ocean views, stunning sunrises and sunsets, icebergs silhouetted against the horizon and the marine life. We will encourage as many eyes as possible to be out searching for wildlife, looking for the tell-tale spout of a pilot whale, the ripple of a seal dropping below the surface, the soaring of fulmar or the fin of an orca. As we approach the coast of Greenland, we should start to see the larger baleen whales such as humpback and fin, as well as the castellated icebergs for which Greenland is famous.
Day 13 - Illulissat and Jacoshaven Icefjord
One of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord spews massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. Our approach to Ilulissat will be dependent upon the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the icefjord. Ilulissat was the hometown of Knud Rasmussen, one of Greenland’s most famous explorers and anthropologists, born here in 1879.
Day 14 - Sisimiut
We will explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before visiting the town in the afternoon. We will hope to meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and perhaps see a demonstration of “Eskimo Rolling” by one of the former champions of the Greenland Kayaking Championships.
Day 15 - Kangerlussuaq Sondre Stromfjord
Sondre Stromfjord is one of the world’s longest fjords and cuts into the interior of Greenland. We will disembark here and take the transfer to the airport for our flight home.