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: Kitlineq (Victoria Island)

The eighth largest island in the world, Victoria Island is found on the border between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The main community to be found here is Cambridge Bay, with a population of just over 1,000. Depending on conditions, we may stop at the community or make an outdoor expedition stop.

 

Day 3: 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, 279 in 2011.

 

Day 4: 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 5: Fort Ross

Fort Ross is an uninhabited former trading post in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada. Founded in 1937 it was the last trading post to be established by the Hudson's Bay Company.

Situated on the Bellot Strait at the southeastern end of Somerset Island, it was operational for only eleven years as the severe ice conditions rendered it uneconomical and difficult to access. This left the island uninhabited. The former store was recently refurbished and strengthened, and is still used as a shelter by Inuit caribou hunters from Taloyoak, and as a refuge for researchers and small boat travellers passing through.

 

Day 6: Prince Leopold Island

The tall cliffs of Prince Leopold Island are one of the top bird sites in the High Arctic both during the breeding and summering seasons. It is a breeding site for Thick-Billed Murre, Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar, Glaucous Gull, and Black Guillemot. It was beneath these tall cliffs, that Sir James Clark Ross, perhaps the greatest polar explorer of the 19th century, was based in 1848-49. Ross's 1848-49 expedition in search of the Franklin expedition was not successful; they spent a frustrating winter locked by ice in Port Leopold on the northeast coast of Somerset Island and returned to England the following summer. It was also from this area that Sir John Ross (James's uncle) escaped in 1833 after abandoning the Victory and spending four harrowing winters in the Arctic.

 

Day 7: 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 8: 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 though this scenic bay and marvel at icebergs, freshly calved from the glacier at the head of the bay.

 

Day 9: Aujuittuq (Grise Fiord)

Aujuittuq means 'place that never thaws.' That's apt for this peaceful hamlet, 1,150km above the Arctic Circle - Canada's northernmost civilian community. We'll be welcomed by the population of about 165 souls.

Our activities will centre on the school where we will have a chance to meet members of the community and learn about their way of life.

 

Day 10: 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, Smith Sound is often packed with ice and provides favourable conditions for wildlife viewing.

 

Day 11: Qaannaq

Artistic talent runs high in this most northern community, and visitors are often in search of the distinct art pieces that are created here. One of the hardest places to reach in the Arctic, it is easiest to visit by ship. Not only is it the northernmost civilian habitation on Earth, Qaanaaq is also the most northern palindrome on the planet. A well-appointed store offers outstanding hand-carved jewellery and art pieces.

 

Day 12: 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 honour 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.

 

Day 13: Melville Bay

Melville Bay (Greenlandic: Qimusseriarsuaq), is a large bay off the coast of northwestern Greenland. Located to the north of the Upernavik Archipelago, it opens to the south-west into Baffin Bay. Its Kalaallisut name, Qimusseriarsuaq, means "the great dog sledding place".

 

Day 14: 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 will likely result in some good wildlife sightings, not to mention unbeatable photographic opportunities.

 

Day 15: Ilulissat

Ilulissat translates literally into "iceberg", and there couldn't be a more fitting name for this stunning coastal community.

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 16: Sisimuit Coast

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 17: Kangerlussuaq

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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