The Northwest Passage is an iconic route which follows in the footsteps of the early Arctic explorers such as Hudson, Franklin and Amundsen.
This unique 13 day voyage will explore the archipelago of islands and channels that create Canada's high Arctic region. As with most Aqua-Firma High Arctic experiences, wildlife will be a major focus. This region is the home of the polar bear, the barren-ground caribou, grizzly bear, muskox and walrus.
Travelling by small expedition ship you will explore the wild Canadian north in the footsteps of the ill-fated expedition by Sir John Franklin more than 150 years ago. Franklin made his last heroic foray into the Arctic in 1845 with two ships and 129 men, never to be heard from again. Your expedition ship was instrumental to the finding of the last known wintering site of Franklin's ships, the Erebus and Terror, and other sites along the way where traces of the expedition have been found.
Your voyage will begin on the dramatic coast of West Greenland where some of the most productive glaciers and icefjords in the Arctic are found, you will then follow the sea ice as you cross Baffin Bay to reach the north east coast of Baffin Island. The rich waters of Lancaster Sound are home to bowhead and beluga whales as well as the elusive narwhal and staggering numbers of seabirds who nest in the sheer cliffs around the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. You will have the opportunity to pay a visit to King William Island, where the wreck of Franklin's ship the Erebus was found in 2014.
13 Day Sample Itinerary
This 13 day itinerary follows the classic route taken by early explorers such as Sir John Franklin when searching for the Northwest Passage. You will begin by exploring the iceberg rich coast of Greenland before crossing the Davis Strait to the mountains and fjords of the north east coast of Baffin Island.
Day 1: Ottawa to Sondre Stromfjord (Kangerlussuaq)
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.
Sondre Stromfjord is one of the world's longest fjords cutting into the interior of Greenland. Your charter flight from Ottawa, Canada into Greenland will see you land at a former American Airbase (Bluie West Eight and Camp Lloyd), located just miles north of the Arctic Circle. You will will board your expedition vessel by zodiac and weigh anchor. Throughout the evening and through the night you will sail down this incredible fjord, crossing the Arctic Circle, before reaching the ocean and Davis Strait. You will turn north out of the mouth of Sondre Stromfjord and cross the Arctic Circle yet again, remaining north of this point for the rest of the voyage.
You will explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before visiting the town in the afternoon. You will hope to meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and perhaps see a demonstration of "Eskimo Rolling" by one of the former champions of the Greenland Kayaking Championships.
Day 3: Ilulissat and Jacobshavn Icefjord
One of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord spews massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. Your approach to Ilulissat will be dependent upon the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the icefjord. Ilulissat was the hometown of Knud Rasmussen, one of Greenland's most famous explorers and anthropologists, born here in 1879.
Your crossing of Baffin Bay will depend on the extent of the so-called 'middle ice'. Your goal will be to find the edge of this and then follow it around and to the coast of Baffin Island. Your time at sea will be determined by the extent of the ice and amount of wildlife. As you cross Baffin Bay be sure to keep a look out for fin, sperm, sei and humpback whales as well as the numerous species of Arctic seals and seabirds that abound in the Bay.
You will visit the town of Pond Inlet and make your way to the Natinnak Centre, where a spectacular cultural exhibit will be the background of a display put on for you by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit carvings, jewellery and other local craft will be available to purchase from the local artisans. You will be able to take time to meet the children of Pond Inlet and marvel at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the challenges of the Inuit Games.
Days 7 & 8: Lancaster Sound and Devon Island
Lancaster Sound is in many ways the wildlife 'super-highway' of the Arctic. A massive outlet for water from the high Arctic archipelago, there is a mixing of water here that is rich in nutrients. Coupled with areas of open water for much of the year, Lancaster Sound is home to a diverse concentration of wildlife that can be staggering, especially given the sparseness of the region. Your stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound will depend very much on ice conditions and weather.
Day 9: Beechey Island and Prince Leopold Island
Beechey Island holds great importance in your quest to complete the Northwest Passage. It is here that 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 finished the charting of Canada's northern archipelago. Almost sixty years later, Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage.
Following your visit to Beechey Island, you will sail south toward Prince Regent Inlet, stopping for a view of the bird cliffs at Prince Leopold Island. A migratory bird sanctuary, Prince Leopold Island is home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. Totalling several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Canadian Arctic.
Encounters with polar bear, beluga, narwhal and the occasional bowhead whale have also been known in the summering grounds around Prince Leopold Island and Prince Regent Inlet.
Day 10: Fort Ross and Bellot Strait
If ice conditions permit, you will sail south through Prince Regent Inlet and approach the eastern end of the Bellot Strait. Fort Ross, located at the southern end of Somerset Island, is a former Hudson's Bay Company fur trading outpost. Ancient archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors. Upon leaving Fort Ross, you will attempt the passage of the Bellot Strait, entering at slack water if possible, in order to avoid a current that can be more than seven knots during the peak flow. The mixing of waters in this strait provides ample food source for marine mammals and you should keep your eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. Upon exiting Bellot Strait you will turn south in Victoria Strait, taking a bearing for King William Island.
Having emerged from the exciting transit of Bellot Strait, you will then cross the broad Victoria Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the eastern shore of Prince Edward Island. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage is perhaps one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic and a known hotspot for polar bears. Beluga whales come to the shallow inlet to rub their white skins against the gravel bottom - an annual ritual. Often when the tide recedes, the whales become trapped in the shallows making them easy prey for the polar bear. It's common to find mothers and their cubs here in sizeable numbers and the skeletons of beluga whales litter the shore - grim testament to the ebb and flow of life in the Arctic.
Day 12: Victory Point, King William Island
Little is known of how the remainders of the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait have left no trace. A lifeboat left abandoned, bits and pieces of copper and iron, cutlery and buttons and a skeleton here and there all tell a story of a desperate race south in search of rescue that never occurred. You will visit Victory Point and continue to reflect on the quest for exploration that opened up the Arctic, while sacrificing some of its bravest explorers.
Day 13: Cambridge Bay to Edmonton
You can hope to visit the community of Cambridge Bay, on the southern shores of Victoria Island. Cambridge Bay, also known as Ikaluktutiak or "good fishing place", is a centre for hunting, trapping, and fishing. Local Inuit have had summer camps in the locality for hundreds of years. Today ships visit the region annually bringing supplies. Amundsen spent two winters in this area, learning how to master dogsledding from the locals. Prior to this, McClintock found solid evidence of the Franklin Expedition here in 1859, including naval artifacts, sledges, graves and letters.
You will drop anchor in the harbour of Cambridge Bay and make your way ashore by zodiac. Your charter flight to Edmonton will await you here and you will board the flight for the short flight back to ‘southern’ Canada.
About the itinerary - Polar exploration can be 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 may 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 our 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.
10 - 29 Sep 2020
from £ 9,090
Reykjavik - Reykjavik (20 Days)
Includes: free expedition jacket
Transfer & hotel package not included (contact us for details)
This voyage explores the stunning west coast of Greenland and the North West Passage. Please Contact Us for a detailed itinerary
Single supplement: Single occupancy price is 1.5 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.