- Search for bears, whales and walrus in their Arctic feeding grounds
- Explore the magnificent fjords of Greenland’s west coast
- Cross the Arctic Circle by sea
- Marvel at the Arctic summer in bloom
- Engage with leading experts and local hosts in discussions regarding the future of Arctic conservation, including the expertise of our special guests from WWF-Canada
We begin by exploring Greenland’s fjords and communities. The great icefjord at Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and source of the majority of the icebergs in the North Atlantic, is one of many highlights. Across the Davis Strait, the Canadian Arctic experience begins in the picturesque community of Mittimatilik (Pond Inlet).
As we head north, opportunities for polar bear, whales, and musk ox abound on Devon Island and throughout Lancaster Sound, while Prince Leopold Island is one of Canada’s best birding areas. Abandoned RCMP and HBC posts offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history; at Beechey Island, we’ll pay our respects at the graves of three of Sir John Franklin’s men. Resolute Bay memorializes the courage of the Inuit of Canada’s Arctic.
On this trip, we will live and breathe the natural history of some of the planet’s most striking features as we search for the cultures and wildlife of the vast and beautiful north.
This is our proposed itinerary. It is highly probable that weather, sea, and ice conditions will not allow us to travel this exact route. Our Expedition Leader and the Ocean Endeavour‘s captain will determine our exact route day by day.
Day 1 – Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
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. We begin our adventure by sailing down this dramatic fjord as the sun sets before us.
Day 2 – Sisimiut
People have lived in the Sisimiut area for 4,500 years. The first 2,000 years, the people of the Saqqaq culture occupied the area. Approx. 2,500 years ago, new people brought the Dorset culture to the Sisimiut area. They lived here for 1,500 years and were followed by the people of the Thule culture—the ancestors of the current population. All these cultures came from Canada. The people primarily lived on fish, birds, and mammals such as whales and seals. These ice-free conditions in the sea around Sisimiut, including some of Greenland’s deepest fjords, allow us to sail in waters that are home to many whales and seals.
Day 3 – Ilulissat
Venturing 250 kilometres 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 home to the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, one of the most active and fastest moving in the world at nineteen metres per day and calving more than thirty-five square kilometres 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 – Uummannaq Fjord
Uummannaq Fjord in northwest Greenland is the country’s second-largest system of fjords. It empties into Baffin Bay and is characterized by its developed coastline and various bays, islands, and peninsulas. It is considered to be the sunniest spot in Greenland, and favourable weather—coupled with proximity to coastal travel routes—have made the fjord system a popular destination for Greenlandic Inuit. It has been settled and re-settled continually for the last 4,500 years. Archaeological excavations at Qilakitsoq, due south of Uummannaq Island, revealed the existence of the ancient Saqqaq culture. Recent evidence indicates that these groups settled Greenland between 2500 BC and 800 BC, and further, that they migrated from Sibera to arrive in Uummaanaq. It is thought that this migration gave rise to both modern Native Americans and the Inuit. Our time in Uummannaq will be spent cruising and exploring; our expert resource staff will be on deck to help spot wildlife and contextualize the dramatic scenery surrounding the Ocean Endeavour.
Day 5 – Karrat Fjord
Today we will cruise one of Greenland’s most spectacular fjords, known for plentiful marine life and awe-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.
Day 6 – At Sea
Our presentation series will continue as we steam across the Davis Strait towards Canada. While out on deck, keep your eyes peeled for minke and humpback whales amid potential pack ice, as well as the seabirds that are sure to mark our passage.
Day 7: Mittimatilik (Pond Inlet)
Mittimatalik is a bustling Arctic community surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the eastern Arctic. We will have a chance to explore the town, including its excellent library and other facilities, and meet many local citizens who will gladly share their culture.
We will be treated to a cultural presentation at the Community Hall—arts and crafts may be available here. Mittimatalik is a famously excellent region for viewing marine mammals, including the elusive narwhal.
Day 8: North Baffin
Today will be an expedition day in the truest sense as we navigate the fjords of northeast Baffin Island. Baffin’s fjords are striking, affording stunning perspectives on geological processes. The Ocean Endeavour is the perfect vessel for exploring these hidden treasures of the north, as her manoeuvrability and shallow draft allows her to access regions that would be impassable to larger vessels. We will be on alert for changing weather and ice conditions and use our judgement as to which route along the coast will be the most spectacular. As ever, our team will be on deck for the duration, searching for wildlife and contextualizing the mighty landscape through which we travel.
Day 9: 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.
Days 10: Lancaster Sound
We will spend two days exploring Lancaster Sound, which is a proposed Marine Protected Area due to the large populations of marine mammals, including narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales. There is a great selection of landing sites available. Weather, wildlife, and sea conditions will influence our choice of landing today.
Day 11: Prince Leopold and Beechey Islands
The tall cliffs of Prince Leopold Island are exceptional birding areas in the high Arctic both during the breeding and summering seasons. It is a breeding site for thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes, northern fulmars, glaucous gulls, and black guillemots. 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, and it was two years before search parties were launched. Aside from the bodies of the 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—until recently. In the autumn of 2014, Canadian archaeologists discovered remnants of the hms Erebus in the frozen waters of the Northwest Passage. And in the fall of 2016, further searching led to the discovery of Franklin’s second ship: the Terror.
Day 12: Qausuittuq (Resolute), NU
Qausuittuq, or “place with no dawn” is truly the land of the midnight sun—daylight persists constantly from about April 29 to August 13 each year. Archaeological evidence, points to at least three stages of occupation at Qausuittuq by Dorset, Thule and advanced Thule people. The community’s English name, Resolute Bay is in honour of the hms Resolute, one of the ships in the Franklin search expedition commanded by Captain H.T. Austin. In 1953, Inuit from Inukjuak, Québec, and Mittimatalik were relocated to Qausuittuq by the Canadian government.
Today we will disembark the Ocean Endeavour and transfer to the airport for our return flights.