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Download Into the Northwest Passage: East to West Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Kangerlussuaq
Sondre Stromfjord is one of the longest fjords in the world and boasts 168 kilometres of superb scenery. Kangerlussuaq, the town at its eastern head, means ‘the big fjord.’
Day 2: Qeqqata Kommunia, Greenland
There are a number of charming fishing villages along the west coast of Greenland. Depending on timing and sea conditions, we will call in at one of these communities to experience small town Greenlandic life, or we may navigate into the stunning fjords that line the coast. This is a day in the true spirit of expedition travel and we will avail ourselves of the opportunities that present themselves.
Day 3: 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 along a boardwalk 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.
Day 4: Karrat Fjord
Today we will cruise one of Greenland’s most spectacular fjords, known for plentiful marine life and inspiring landscapes. Seals use the long leads created by high winds in this region to hunt the rich waters of the fjord. The cliffs and talus slopes 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 of the majestic rock faces.
Days 5 - 7: Qaasuitsup Kommunia
To the north of the Upernavik Archipelago, Melville Bay opens to the southwest into Baffin Bay. Its Kalaallisut name, Qimusseriarsuaq, means “the great dog sledding place”. Ice does not clear from the bay each summer and it is totally isolated and uninhabited. Because of local winds and extensive ice, Melville Bay is the site of dramatic landscape views. Moving into Smith Sound, we will spend a day exploring 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. Between forty-eight and seventy-two kilometres wide—and eighty-eight kilometres long—Smith Sound is often packed with ice and provides favourable conditions for wildlife viewing.
Day 8: Aujuittuq (Grise Fiord), NU
Aujuittuq means ‘place that never thaws.’ It is an apt name for this peaceful hamlet, 1,150 kilometres above the Arctic Circle—Canada’s northernmost civilian community. We’ll be welcomed by the population of about 165.
Day 9: Coburg Island
At the entrance to Jones Sound is Coburg Island, whose spectacular seabird cliffs are a designated National Wildlife Area. Thirty thousand pairs of black-legged kittiwakes and 160,000 pairs of thick-billed murres crowd the rocky ledges on this island, which is itself almost completely covered by an ice cap.
Day 10: Devon Island
Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on earth and comprises over fifty thousand square kilometres. It was first sighted by Europeans in 1616, though it was not inhabited for another three hundred years with the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The island’s geology consists of reddish Precambrian gneiss and Paeleozoic siltstones and shales; these, combined with its harsh climate, have drawn comparisons with the planet Mars.
Day 11: Beechey Island
In 1845 Sir John Franklin took his expedition of 129 men and 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. The three graves found at Beechey Island left no indication as to the fate of the rest of the British party. In the autumn of 2014, Canadian archaeologists discovered remnants of the HMS Erebus in the frozen waters of the Northwest Passage, a discovery that has re-galvanized interest in the fabled region.
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 the 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.
Day 13: Melville Island
British explorer Sir William Parry first visited Melville Island in 1819. Not only did he discover the island; ice forced him to spend the winter in 1820 at what is now called ‘Winter Harbour’. The island is named for Robert Dundas, second Viscount Melville, who was First Sea Lord at the time.
Day 14: Banks Island
In 1820, Sir William Parry named Banks Island in honour of British naturalist and botanist Sir Joseph Banks. Two federal Migratory Bird Sanctuaries were founded in here in 1961. The island is home to two thirds of the world’s population of lesser snow geese, and also supports barren-ground caribou, polar bears, and birds like robins and swallows. The first grizzly-polar bear hybrid found in the wild was sighted here in April 2006, near Sachs Harbour. Musk ox, numbering over 40,000, are the most striking of the abundant wildlife on the island.
Day 15: Prince of Wales Strait
Prince of Wales Strait is part of the Arctic Ocean, extending northeastward for 275 kilometres from the Amundsen Gulf to Viscount Melville Sound and separating Banks and Victoria Islands. It was discovered in 1850 by Irish explorer Robert McClure, who came within sight of Viscount Melville Sound before heavy ice forced him to turn back.
Day 16: Ulukhaktok (Holman)
Found on the west side of Victoria Island, The Hudson’s Bay Company post was opened at Prince Albert Sound 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—traditional Inuit knives—and gives the community its name. Printmaking is popular in Ulukhaktok, as are beautifully intricate pieces carved from the horns of the abundant local musk ox population. The musk oxen also provide the community with qiviut, one of the warmest and most luxurious fibres in the world, used to make all manner of clothing and coverings.
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. Coppermine reverted to its original Inuinnaqtun name—Kugluktuk, 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.
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