Northwest Passage-East to West

Adventurer
Sea Adventurer, 2014
118 Passengers

From the soaring shores of Greenland, to the mouth of the Coppermine River, the legendary Northwest Passage is pure inspiration. Even today, few venture in to this remote route through Canada’s Arctic. In the Arctic, nature reigns supreme, and we will go only where the ice and weather conditions permit. We recommend this expedition to our most adventurous guests!

Travelling the shores of the world’s largest island, we’ll marvel at icebergs and fjords and enjoy Greenlandic culture, in the quaint town of Upernavik and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ilulissat. Crossing from Greenland to the Canadian Arctic, we will continue our journey as conditions permit, exploring legendary locations swathed in ice and bathed in northern light: Smith Sound, the Beaufort Sea, Prince of Wales Strait, Amundsen Gulf, and Melville Island among them.

Lancaster Sound is famous for its beluga whales and other marine mammals. Beechey Island holds the graves of the ill-fated Franklin expedition. Along the coast of Ellesmere Island, we’ll follow the route to the North Pole. How many can say they have visited Canada’s northernmost community? Aujuittuq (Grise Fiord) is 'the place that never thaws', but visitors are warmly welcomed by our eager local hosts.

 

ITINERARY
Day 1:  Kangerlussuaq
Day 2:  Sisimiut
Day 3:  Ilulissat
Day 4:  Karrat Fjord
Day 5:  Upernavik
Day 6:  Kap York
Day 7:  Smith Sound
Day 8:  Aujuittuq (Grise Fiord)
Day 9:  Coburg Island
Day 10: Devon Island
Day 11: Beechey Island
Day 12: Bathurst Island
Day 13: Melville Island
Day 14: Banks Island
Day 15: Prince of Wales Strait
Day 16: Ulukhaktok (Holman)
Day 17: Kugluktuk (Coppermine)

Day 1: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Lying at the head of the longest fjord in western Greenland, Kangerlussuaq has one of the most stable climates in the region though temperatures can range from -50C in the winter to as high as 28C in summer. Kangerlussuaq, which means 'The Big Fjord' in Greenlandic, is appropriately named, as it’s 168km long and is the start of our voyage.

Day 2: Sisimiut Coast, Greenland

The west Greenland coastline is a rich mixture of fishing communities, myriad islands and complex coastal waterways. We will be making an expedition stop here to explore the Greenlandic landscape

Day 3: Ilulissat, Greenland

Venturing 250km north of the Arctic Circle we find the stunning coastal community of Ilulissat. Ilulissat translates literally into "iceberg", and there couldn’t be a more fitting name. Our visit will include time in the colorful town and a chance 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.

Day 4: Karrat Fjord

In Karrat Fjord we will cruise one of Greenland’s most spectacular fjords. During ice breakup, narwhals and seals use the long leads created by high winds in this region to hunt the rich waters of the fjord. The cliffs within the fjord should give us good opportunities to see colonies of dovekies. Time spent on deck today should result in some good wildlife sightings, not to mention unbeatable photographic opportunities

Day 5: Upernavik

Upernavik or "the spring place" is populated by 1,100 people most of whom make their living in the fishing industry this a few small fish processing plants line the harbor. Part of the population relies on polar bear hunting and sealing. Upernavik’s location on the small island facing the open sea makes Upernavik unusual in comparison with other Greenlandic towns. Its location on the side of a hill provides a fantastic view of the Davis Strait. Of particular interest in the town is the cemetery. Here permanently frozen ground has forced the villagers to bury their dead in raised graves covered with rock and concrete. Just down the hill, near the Old Town Museum and church, you’ll find the grave of Navarana Freuchen who died on the fifth Thule expedition with Knud Rasmussen.

Day 6: Kap York

The rugged coastal environment at Kap York is rich in wildlife and is part of an extensive network of traditional hunting grounds. During the spring and summer months the skies and cliffs are dotted with millions of birds, primarily auks and murres. This district boasts the largest seabird population in northwest Greenland. Whalers and explorers often entered these waters and later Admiral Robert Peary’s family raised a monument in honor of his achievements on the cape. Sailors’ and ships’ logs record multiple climbs of the cape in order to survey the ice conditions in Qimusseriarsuaq. We will hike the tundra landscape and enjoy our own magnificent vistas.

Day 7: Smith Sound

We will spend a day exploring north into this fabled body of water that served as the main route for explorers and adventurers searching for the North Pole. Adolphus Greely, Sir George Nares and Elisha Kent Kane all travelled these waters with varying degrees of success. The Sound was named by William Baffin after Sir Thomas Smythe, promoter of voyages to find a Northwest Passage. Only 48-72km wide and 88km long, it is often packed with ice and provides favorable conditions for wildlife viewing.

Day 8: Aujuittuq (Grise Fiord)

Aujuittuq means 'place that never thaws,' and at 1,150km above the Arctic Circle, it is Canada's northernmost civilian community. With a population of 165, we will be welcomed into this peaceful and warm hamlet. Our activities will center around the school where we will have a chance to meet members of the community and learn about their way of life.

Day 9: Coburg Island

At the entrance to Jones Sound is Coburg Island, whose spectacular seabird cliffs are a designated National Wildlife Area. 30,000 pairs of black-legged kittiwakes and 160,000 pairs of thick-billed murres crowd the rocky ledges on this island almost completely covered by an ice cap.

Day 10: Devon Island

The largest uninhabited island in the world supports significant concentrations of wildlife, including 26 species of seabirds and 11 species of marine mammals. At Dundas Harbor we find the lonely remains of an RCMP station dating from the 1920s. We have also spotted walrus, polar bear, muskox and caribou here. At nearby Croker Bay, we have a chance to Zodiac cruise though this scenic bay and marvel at icebergs, freshly calved from the glacier at the head of the bay.

Day 11: Beechey Island

In 1845 Sir John Franklin took his expedition of 129 men in two ships into the Wellington Channel. Not a soul returned from the fateful expedition. It was two years before search parties were launched. Aside from the bodies of three souls buried here, only relics were found as clues to the disappearance. Until recently, the three graves had left no indication as to 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.

Day 12: Bathurst Island

Good soil conditions and a rare wetland environment produce abundant vegetation here, making Bathurst a major calving area for the endangered Peary Caribou. Here we also find Polar Bear Pass National Wildlife Area, a migratory route for polar bears from March to November. The north half of the island is the proposed Tuktusiuqvialuk National Park. There is a long human history on the island, with evidence of Dorset and Thule habitation as early as 2,000 BC

Day 13: Melville Island

Melville Island was first visited by British explorer Sir William Parry in 1819. Not only did he discover the island, ice forced him to spend the winter in 1820 at what is now called 'Winter Harbor'. The island is named for Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville, who was First Sea Lord at the time. Melville Island is one of two major breeding grounds for a small sea goose, the Western High Arctic Brant. DNA analysis and field observations suggest that these birds may be distinct from other brant stocks. Numbering only 4,000-8,000 birds, this is one of the rarest goose stocks in the world.

Day 14: Banks Island

Home to two thirds of the world’s population of Lesser Snow Geese, two federal Migratory Bird Sanctuaries were founded in 1961. The island is home to Barren-ground Caribou, polar bears, muskoxen, and birds such as robins and swallows. The first grizzly-polar bear hybrid found in the wild, was on Banks Island in April 2006 near Sachs Harbor. Muskoxen, with a population of about 40,000, are the most striking of the abundant wildlife on the island. It was named Banks Island in 1820 by Sir William Parry in honor of British naturalist and botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

Day 15: Prince of Wales Strait

Prince of Wales Strait is part of the Arctic Ocean, extending northeastward for 275 km from the Amundsen Gulf to Viscount Melville Sound and separating Banks and Victoria islands. It was discovered in 1850 by Robert McClure, the Irish explorer, who came within sight of the Viscount Melville Sound before heavy ice forced him to turn back. It was named after Albert Edward, then the Prince of Wales. It was not navigated until the RCMP patrol of Sgt Larsen in 1944. It has since become the preferred route of large vessels making the passage.

Day 16: Ulukhaktok (Holman)

Found on the west side of Victoria Island, The Hudson’s Bay Company post at Prince Albert Sound was opened in 1923, moved to Walker Bay in 1928 and finally to Ulukhaktok (Holman) in 1939. The large bluff that overlooks Ulukhaktok was the source that provided the slate and copper used to make ulus and give the community its name. Ulukhaktok is also the location of the most northern golf course in the Americas and hosts the "Billy Joss Open Celebrity Golf Tournament" every summer. Over the years they have managed to attract players from the Edmonton Oilers and the Edmonton Eskimos, as well as golfers from other countries.

Day 17: Kugluktuk (Coppermine)

Located at the mouth of the Coppermine river, southwest of Victoria Island on the Coronation Gulf, Kugluktuk is the western most community in Nunavut. Originally named Coppermine, it was renamed Kugluktuk according to its Inuinnaqtun name meaning "place of moving waters", on January 1st, 1996. The Coppermine River itself is designated a Canadian Heritage River for the important role it played as an exploration and fur trade route. Copper deposits along the river attracted the first explorers to the area. Because the tundra is close to the tree line, a variety of wildlife can be viewed in the area, including grizzly bears, wolverines and moose, as well as tundra wildlife, such as muskoxen, caribou, foxes and wolves.

* Itinerary may be subject to change

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