Canada’s Ellesmere Island stretches farther north than any other land in the world, save for Greenland— explore both on this epic Arctic expedition. This is a region of ancient ice, where tidewater glaciers of exceptional beauty dominate the landscape. Few humans have ever been here. It is home to hunting polar bears, muskox, and extremely rare wildlife, including narwhal. Rely on our expedition team’s experience in Baffin Island and Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage to ensure peak exploration and wildlife encounters; and then strike as far north at the ice allows, tracing the rarely visited coast of northwest Greenland and Ellesmere Islands into parts largely unknown, where the only assurance is great wonder, beauty, and genuine exploration. The High Arctic in its full glory is a lifetime experience.
Explore regions covered in ancient glaciers, seldom seen by humans
Ellesmere Island’s remoteness and short window of accommodating conditions has long isolated it from exploration and study. It’s amazing to realize with all the exploration that has been done in the Arctic, Ellesmere Island was circumnavigated for the first time only in 2011.
See iconic High Arctic wildlife
We’ve been sharing the wonder of the High Arctic with guests for decades. Rely on our experience in finding polar bears, ringed seals, arctic foxes, walrus, plus beluga and bowhead whales. We’ll sail into Milne Bay, a place we’ve seen narwhal, the rare arctic whale known for its long, spiraling tooth that projects up to ten feet from its jaw.
Meet the welcoming people and explore abandoned settlements
Hike the scenic outlying trails of the town Qikiqtarjuak, an Inuit name meaning “Big Island,” and then see the settlement with our Inuit guide, Stevie Audlaqiaq, a.k.a., “Kisa.” Meet the welcoming people who make their lives in the remote north as Stevie proudly shows us his village. Venture to Niaqurnak Point, a former Inuit camp where glacial tongues extend to the water’s edge. Visit the Inuit fishing village of Sermermiut. In Coronation Fiord walk among the graveyard and remains of an 1800s whaling community, the only residents now king eiders, long-tailed ducks, dovekies, and fulmars. And in the extreme northwest Greenland, visit the small, occasionally inhabited community of Etah. It was once the northernmost continuously inhabited settlement in West Greenland, the huts stand as they did when the last failed settlement was abandoned in the 1980s—we’ll see if anyone’s home.
Every day is active and engaging
You’ll get out on adventures every day—to Zodiac cruise, hike and walk, or kayak in spectacular fjords and crystalline waters like Lancaster Sound, a vital Inuit hunting ground for centuries. You’ll have a choice of activities, plus your choice of naturalists to join—for a moveable feast of personalities, insights, and interests. Choice also includes opting to relax too. Enjoy the view from behind Explorer’s panoramic glass windows. Or visit the fitness center with its generous views of the ice vistas, or ease into the sauna or a massage in the wellness center.
Travel in excellent company
Explore under the sure guidance of an expedition leader, an assistant expedition leader, eight veteran naturalists, a National Geographic photographer, plus a National Geographic certified photo instructor, an undersea specialist, a Global Perspectives guest speaker, a wellness specialist and a video chronicler. Their knowledge and passion for the fascinating Arctic region is the key to your extraordinary experience.
Arrive in Keflavík and transfer to Reykjavík, located just south of the Arctic Circle.
Check-in to the Reykjavík Hilton Hotel (or similar).
Take a guided overview of the old town, including Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral.
Or choose to explore the Blue Lagoon and soak in the geothermal waters. (L,D)
Fly by chartered aircraft to Greenland. Embark National Geographic Explorer at the head of Kangerlussuaq Fjord, a picturesque waterway that stretches 100 miles. (B,L,D)
Dozens of deep fjords carve into Greenland’s west coast, many with glaciers fed by the ice cap that covers 80% of the country. In the morning, we trace this ragged coastline, and search for humpback and minke whales. Later, at Sisimiut, a former whaling port, we visit the museum and wander amid a jumble of wooden 18th-century buildings.(B,L,D)
We begin our exploration of the Canadian High Arctic with a visit to the small Inuit community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut. We will explore some of the beautiful bays and inlets along Baffin Island's northern coast and Lancaster Sound. We search for ringed seals, arctic foxes, and polar bears, as well as beluga and bowhead whales. Perhaps even see the elusive narwhal, known for the long, spiraling tooth that projects up to ten feet. Possible stops to explore Beechey Island and the remains of the Franklin expedition’s winter quarters and Lancaster Sound for polar bears on ice. (B,L,D)
National Geographic Explorer ploughs the waters at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, now heading towards the most easterly part of the south coast of Devon Island to Dundas Harbor, where the Canadian government established a RCMP (Royal Mounted Police) post in the 1920s. Later, we reach Croker Bay, where last year we discovered several very well preserved winter-house ruins from the Thule culture. From the 1200s and until late in the 1800s, Inuit were living in these regions hunting caribou and muskoxen—which we hope to spot along with polar bears.
Continue to Philpots Island, a geological structure consisting of ancient red granite that is part of the Ellesmere-North Greenland geological complex. It has been dated to 1.6 billion years in age! The plan is to go ashore on rocky Philpots Island for a chance to hike on the tundra and search for interesting flora and fauna, including extensive moss beds with interspersed flowering vascular plants, various bird species, Arctic hares, and perhaps even musk oxen—an impressive beast covered with an incredibly thick coat of long hairs overlying a dense layer of underfur known as qiviut (very valuable wool used in producing the lightest, finest knitted products available today). Be on deck as we head out into the open waters offshore, where there are plenty of impressive icebergs calved from a huge glacier. (B,L,D)
Heading ever northward, we make our way up the beautiful and remote east coast of Ellesmere Island, where the Explorer first ventured last season. Cruise along scenic Smith Bay (a.k.a. Skog Inlet) bordered by a steep wall of mountains, with a glacial ice tongue which pours down the mountains on either side. Be up on the bridge as we search for a patch of "polar bear ice," the mixture of first-year and multi-year sea ice that is the preferred habitat of the ice bears. Our binoculars seek out any small ivory-colored dot on an otherwise white ice surface. We strain to see the dot move. Yes, it is a bear, spotted at a considerable distance. We approach, ever so slowly, stalking the polar bear much as the bear stalks seals on the ice. At the end of the bay we go ashore to hike or kayak in picturesque surroundings. Ice is always present here.
Our flexible itinerary stops may include Skraeling Island (“Skraeling” is the word that the Norse settlers of Greenland used for the Inuit.), an archaeological find that shows the Norse once traded with the native Inuit here at Ellesmere, or we might go for a Zodiac cruise in Makinson Inlet, where tidewater glaciers tumble down to the sea. (B,L,D)
On these two days we explore to 80ºN and hopefully beyond, if the ice allows. We take full advantage of our “human resources”—our experienced captain, expedition leader and naturalists—as well as our technological resources. We chart where the ice is impenetrable and where there are leads guiding us to exciting discoveries. (B,L,D)
The remote and rarely explored coast of Northwest Greenland is our next destination—going places the Explorer has never been. The area north of Qaanaaq has the most interesting exploration history of Greenland, with many expeditions based here; timbers from Hall’s ship, the Polaris, may still exist on the beaches. Cape York is also historically significant with a monument to Admiral Peary. We visit the small community of Etah, the north-most habitation in West Greenland, where we can interact and learn about the people of the Far North.
Explorer will be in true expedition mode every turn of the way. The former Prime Minister of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist, told us this region was one of the most beautiful and unexplored parts of all of Greenland: glaciers, fjords, inlets and islands. Wildlife galore, unlike parts of the south where it is more actively hunted. In addition, we connected with our very own Dr. Henning Thing, one of the more experienced scientists working in Greenland, and he gave us some very specific places to explore that sound wonderful. We will definitely be exploring new frontiers. (B,L,D)
Today we are back in familiar waters, stopping at Uummannaq, where a collection of mummies dating to 1475 was discovered in 1972 and featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine’s February 1985 issue. (B,L,D)
Sail into Disko Bay and set out to explore a tongue of the Greenland ice cap. Take an extraordinary cruise among towering icebergs.
Take a hike to the UNESCO archaeological site at Sermermiut, and view the Jakobshavn Icefjord. (B,L,D)
Our final day aboard will be spent in the beautifully scenic fjords north of Sondre Stromfjord. Take a Zodiac cruise, kayak, or hike across the tundra. Our undersea specialist may launch the ROV to see the marine life inhabiting the fjord floor. (B,L,D)
Disembark in Kangerlussuaq in the morning followed by a tour and lunch. Fly by private charter to Reykjavík, where we check in to the Island Hotel (or similar). (B,L,D)
Our grand adventure takes us to Iceland’s lively capital city, Reykjavík. Have a guided overview of the old town, visit the famous Blue Lagoon thermal baths and have lunch, prior to your flight home. Or you may wish to extend your stay in Iceland for further adventures. (B,L)
All day-by-day breakdowns are a sampling of the places we intend to visit, conditions permitting.
Main Deck with one or two Portholes #301-308
Main Deck with Window #317-320, 335-336
Main Deck with Window #313-316, 321-328, 337-340, 342, 344, 346, 348, 350 Triples: Main Deck with WIndow #341, 343
Upper and Veranda Decks with Window #103-104, 107-108, 201-202, 204-207, 210, 212, 217, 226, 228
Solo A Main Deck with Window #309-312, 329-334
Solo B Upper and Veranda Decks with Window #105-106, 203, 208
Upper Deck with Balcony #209, 211, 214, 216, 218, 220-222, 224
Veranda Deck–Suite #101-102; Upper Deck-Suite with Balcony #213 Triples: #101-102
Upper Deck–Suite with Balcony #215, 219, 230 All cabins are available as triples.
Charter Flight TBC: AUD pp
National Geographic Explorer
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 108 meters
Passenger Capacity: 148 (single & twin cabins)
Built / Refurbished: 1982 / 2008
National Geographic Explorer is a state-of-the-art expedition ship. It is a fully stabilized, ice-class vessel, enabling it to navigate polar passages while providing exceptional comfort. It carries kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft. An Undersea Specialist operates a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and sophisticated video equipment, extending access to the underwater world.
Public areas: Bistro Bar; Chart Room; Restaurant; Global Gallery; Library, Lounge with full service bar and state-of-the-art facilities for films, slideshows and presentations; Mud Room with lockers for expedition gear, and Observation Lounge. Our “Open Bridge” provides guests an opportunity to meet our Officers and Captain and learn about navigation.
Meals: Served in single seatings with unassigned tables for an informal atmosphere and easy mingling. Menu is international with local flair.
Cabins: All cabins face outside with windows or portholes, private facilities and climate controls.
Expedition Equipment: Zodiac landing craft, kayaks, Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), hydrophone, SplashCam, underwater video camera, Crow’s Nest remote controlled camera, video microscope, snorkeling gear.
Special Features: A full-time doctor, Undersea Specialist, LEX Photo Specialist and Video Chronicler, Internet Cafe and laundry.
Wellness: The vessel is staffed by two Wellness Specialists and features a glass enclosed Fitness Center, outdoor stretching area, two LEXspa treatment rooms and Sauna.