Baffin Island is magnificent, remote and unspoilt - one of the most wild and places left on Earth. The wildlife and scenery of Baffin will be the focus of this inspiring ice strengthened ship based expedition led by a team of experts which will include Aqua-Firma Marine Scientist, Charlotte Caffrey. From Iqaluit natural history expert guides will help us explore the wild east coast of Baffin Island discovering the deep fjords, soaring mountains and immense glacial systems.
The landscape is breath-taking particularly where almost vertical mountain cliffs extend to the sea along the islands north east shore. Polar bears, an icon of the arctic north and high on everyone's list to see roam the area in search of ringed, bearded and harp seals, often followed in their quest for scraps by hungry Arctic fox. You will spend time exploring on land in the company of inspiring guides who will reveal the nature of Baffin's secrets. You will also go in search of the beluga whale where these ghostly white individuals are often joined in search of food by the surreal narwhal.
Birdlife here is prolific and huge migrations of little auks and guillemot can be witnessed throughout the short summer months with opportunities to spot snowy owl, ptarmigan, redpoll, gyrfalcon.
Key locations you can hope to explore depending on sea and ice conditions include:
- Monumental Bay: opportunities for polar bear, walrus, gyrfalcon
- Cumberland Sound
- Isabella Bay: opportunities for Bowheads
- Pond Inlet: opportunities for Narwhals
- Lancaster Sound: opportunities for whales and harp seals
- Prince Leopold Island: 200,000 strong bird colonies
- Beechey Island: the final resting place of 3 of Franklin's crew
Along the way we plan to visit remote communities; the Inuit culture here is strong and the local communities very welcoming of visitors and eager to share their ancient crafts and traditions.
The history of early exploration will provide a strong theme throughout our voyage and we visit former Hudson's Bay Company locations and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outposts. All will pay their respects at Beechey Island at the memorial for lost crew of the ill fated Franklin expedition before ending the epic journey at your final destination - the remote outpost of Resolute.
13 Day Sample Itinerary
This 13 day itinerary explores the beautiful coastline of Baffin Island before exploring the first section of the infamous Northwest Passage.
Please note that our polar itineraries are written to provide a flavour of each voyage. The actual route will be decided by the captain and expedition team in accordance with prevailing ice, weather and sea conditions and opportunities to see wildlife and wilderness scenery.
You depart Ottawa this morning on your scheduled flight to Iqaluit, situated on Baffin Island. Upon arrival into Iqaluit you enjoy a walking tour of the town and board your expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe in the afternoon. After settling in to your cabin and exploring the ship, you will meet your expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off to explore one of the most remote places on earth - Baffin Island.
Day 2: Lower Savage Islands
At the mouth of Frobisher Bay on the southeast tip of Baffin Island, the Lower Savage Islands are a geological wonder. A maze of channels criss-cross the islands and provide superb zodiac cruising opportunities. It's possible to navigate from one side of the island to the other where the ship will collect us. The islands are ideally situated between the dynamic flow of the Hudson Strait and this mixing of nutrient-rich waters makes for a diversity of marine life, including polar bear and fantastic sighting of 4 bears was witnessed here, first day of the 2016 departure!
Situated in the Davis Strait, Monumental Island is a well-known location for walrus. Ice permitting you will explore by zodiac along the shoreline looking for these fascinating creatures. Watchful eyes may locate smaller pups within the masses. Sometimes polar bears are encountered in this vicinity and during their hunting forays and have been known to chase walrus off their haul out and into the water.
Throughout the coming days and rest of the voyage, your onboard experts educate and inspire with a series of presentations about the environment, wildlife and history of Baffin Island and the Canadian Arctic and the locations you plan to visit.
Nestled in the heart of Cumberland Sound and the western gateway to Auyuittuq National Park, the village of Pangnirtung is beautifully situated between the mountains and the sea. This remote community is a well known centre for traditional and contemporary arts and crafts - including carvings, prints and textiles. In addition, the Angmarlik Visitor Centre has a wonderful interpretive display featuring the lifestyle and history of the Thule and of the modern Inuit.
Sunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees, 33 minutes north of latitude. Depending on the weather, you might cruise across the Circle on the ship, cross it in the zodiac boats or the more active option maybe to cross the circle on foot. Whichever way, it's a thrill to be above the Arctic Circle at last! Sunshine Fjord offers terrific hiking opportunities and there are a number of great routes in mind. You may wish to take the extended hike, gaining elevation and offering wonderful views of our surroundings. Or choose to take the less strenuous option along the shoreline. For the sea kayakers, the sheltered waters of the fjord provide great conditions for paddling.
Day 6: Auyittuq National Park
On the eastern coast of Baffin Island, lies one of Canada's most spectacular National Parks - Auyittuq. The landscape is dominated by steep and rugged mountain scenery, extensive glacial systems and powerful rivers. In partnership with Parks Canada, you venture into the park with skilled local guides who are able to interpret the flora, fauna, geological and glacial systems which can be found here. It's a fascinating place experienced by only a few fortunate visitors every season. The plan is to go hiking on shore and cruising the rocky shorelines looking for wildlife. The plan includes a visit to Qikiqtarjuaq, a small settlement which is home to several Inuit families. After an inspiring day of exploration (ice permitting) the ship continues north along the coastline of Baffin Island, venturing deeper into the Arctic wilderness.
Isabella Bay (Niginaniq) is an important summer habitat and feeding area for endangered bowhead whales. These remarkable marine mammals are able to break sea ice with the crown of their head. Polar bears, ringed seals, Canada geese, snow geese and narwhal are also commonly sighted in this vicinity.
This morning we enter the spectacular Gibbs Fjord with towering cliffs all around us. Our expedition ship will seem dwarfed by the giant peaks and snowy glaciers as we cruise slowly along the dark waters. One past guest commented that Gibbs Fjord 'was like something out of Lord of the Rings' - and we think you will agree!
Day 10: Navy Board Inlet and Sirmilik National Park
You venture north into Navy Board Inlet, separating Bylot Island from the northern extremes of Baffin Island. You are completely surrounded now by the National Park. Spotting scopes and binoculars will be trained ashore as all search for polar bear, birds and other wildlife. In the icy waters keep a look out for Harp seals, walrus, narwhal and the white Beluga whale. Excellent photographic opportunities are all around and your onboard professional photographer will be on hand to assist you with image composition and provide other tips and advice.
Day 11: Dundas Harbour and Croker Bay
Leaving the wild landscapes of Baffin Island, you cross Lancaster Sound to Devon Island. This broad channel of water has been likened to the wildlife 'super highway' of the Arctic. Massive volumes of water from the Atlantic to the east and Pacific to the west, and from the archipelago of islands to the north all mix here, combining to make a rich source of nutrients and food for an abundance of Arctic wildlife.
The ship plans on visiting the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour. In the afternoon the ship is repositioned into Crocker Bay, home to a substantial glacial system and a wonderful area for zodiac cruising or a delight for those who wish to sea kayak amid the ice.
Day 12: Prince Leopold Island and Beechey Island
Prince Leopold Island is important migratory bird sanctuary, home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. A population of several hundred thousand birds, makes this one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the entire Arctic ecosystem. Given the abundance of food in this vicinity beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales are somethimes sighted here, several species of seal as well as polar bear.
Your final shore landing - Beechey Island, is a place of great historic significance and suitable finale to the expedition. It is here that Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition spent its last 'comfortable' winter in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness, sparking an incredible series of search expeditions that last almost three decades.
The mystery of what happened to Franklin was partially solved in September 2014, when a joint Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expedition, found the long-lost Franklin shipwreck, HMS Erebus in the Victoria Strait. The ships operations played a vital role in the search by carrying underwater search equipment on our ship as well as scientists, historians, researchers, dignitaries and sponsors of this history defining mission.
A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach, is a thrilling experience for history buffs and for many today will be a highlight of the expedition. You return to the ship and this evening enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain. It's a great time to reflect on the wildlife, history and dramatic scenery of the High Arctic.
Day 13: Resolute, Nunavut to Edmonton
Your expedition comes to an end as you arrive into Resolute. The town is named after the British ship HMS Resolute which became trapped in ice and abandoned here in 1850 while searching for the lost Franklin. A weather station and airstrip made Resolute a strategic outpost during the time of the Cold War. After arriving in Resolute you will disembark the Akademik Ioffe and bid farewell to your crew and fellow passengers. Transfer is provided to the airport for your flight to Edmonton, in 'southern' Canada.
About the itinerary - Polar exploration can be highly unpredictable. Specific sites visited will depend on prevailing weather and ice conditions at the time of sailing. The above itinerary should be read as a 'guide only' and will likely change. The ship's Captain in conjunction with the Expedition Leader continually review the sailing plan throughout the voyage, making adjustments to the itinerary along the way to take advantage of optimal weather and ice conditions or to maximise encounters with wildlife. Decades of experience spent exploring these waterways mean that a large number of outstanding landing sites and zodiac cruising locations to consider, even when the weather conditions may not be ideal or when heavy ice may block out planned route. A flexible approach is something we encourage you to bring to the ship.
Single supplement: Single occupancy price is between 1.5 and 1.8 times the per person cabin price. However, this does not apply if you are prepared to share a cabin with another passenger of the same gender.
Our prices include:
Voyage as indicated in draft itinerary
All meals, snacks, coffee and tea
All shore excursions and zodiac activities
Use of rubber boots during your voyage
Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff
All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme
Comprehensive pre-departure material
Aqua-Firma automatically offsets the Carbon Emissions of your polar voyage
Mandatory charter flight package (please contact us for details)
Pre and post land arrangements
Transfers to and from the vessel
Cancellation and personal insurance
Passports and visas
Arrival and departure tax
Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry etc)
Activity Level: Low unless you select an adventure activity such as kayaking.
Fuel surcharge: A fuel surcharge of £16 / €18 per day will apply unless the price of Brent crude falls below US$120 90 days before the voyage.