Northwest Passage West to East

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Download Northwest Passage West to East Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Kugluktuk (Coppermine)

Located at the mouth of the Coppermine river to 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.

 

Day 2: Coronation Gulf

Separating Canada’s mainland the Arctic archipelago is the Coronation Gulf. Named by Sir John Franklin in honour of coronation of King George IV, the Gulf receives the Coppermine, Tree, Rae and Richardson rivers. It is host to several hundred islands and small islets.

 

Day 3: Kent Peninsula

Expedition Day

 

Day 4: Queen Maud Gulf

The Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary contains the largest variety of geese of any nesting area in North America.

The Sanctuary is one of the few nesting areas for both the Atlantic Brant (Brant bernicla hrota) and Pacific Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans). Almost the entire population of Ross' Goose (Chen rossii) nests here.

The Gulf was named by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1905 for Maud of Wales, the Queen of Norway.

The Ahiak Caribou calve along the Queen Maud Gulf coast in Nunavut and spend the summers here. Here we may also find bald eagles, muskox and grizzly bears.

 

Day 5: Gjoa Haven

In 1903, explorer Roald Amundsen, while looking for the Northwest Passage, sailed through the James Ross Strait and stopped at a natural harbour on the island's south coast. Unable to proceed due to sea ice, he spent the winters of 1903-04 and 1904-05.

There he learned Arctic living skills from the local Netsilik Inuit, skills that would later prove invaluable in his Antarctic explorations. He used his ship Gjøa as a base for explorations in the summer of 1904, sledding the Boothia Peninsula and travelling to the magnetic North Pole.

Amundsen finally left, after 22 months on the island, in August 1905. The harbour where he lived is now the island's only settlement, Gjøa Haven, which he called 'the finest little harbour in the world.'

Today the population has blossomed from 110 in 1961 to 1,064 in 2006.

 

Day 6: Taloyoak, NU, Canada

The community of Taloyoak is the northernmost community on the Canadian mainland with a population of just over 800.

The word Taloyoak means "large caribou blind" in Inuktitut, and refers to a stone caribou blind traditionally used by Inuit of the area to corral and harvest caribou.

The foundation of the modern community began in 1948, when poor ice conditions forced the Hudson's Bay Co. to close its trading post at Fort Ross on the south coast of Somerset Island, some 250 kilometres north of Taloyoak. The post was relocated to its present location at Stanners Harbour, and Taloyoak - then known as Spence Bay - was born.

 

Day 7: Bellot Strait

Bellot Strait marks the first meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific tides north of Magellan Strait. Suprisingly, the strait was missed by John Ross and wasn't discovered until 1852 by William Kennedy, who named the strait after his second-in-command, Joseph-Rene Bellot.

 

Day 8: Somerset Island & 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 9: 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 Harbour 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 through this scenic bay and marvel at icebergs, freshly calved from the glacier at the head of the bay.

 

Day 10: Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)

We will sail through Milne Inlet, a narwhal breeding ground, enroute to Pond Inlet. This 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.

 

Day 11: 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 12: Uummannaq

Despite being situated in the shadow of a mountain, Uummannaq is the sunniest place in Greenland! It is an impressive and imposing 1,175-metre hunk of red gneiss called Uummannaq Mountain.

This mountain serves as the town's backdrop on which colourful, single-family homes desperately cling, anchored by cables and pipes. The famous Greenlandic mummies dating from the 15th century were found on the shore opposite Ummannaq.

 

Day 13: 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 colourful 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.

 

Day 14: 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 15: 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!

 
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