The North may be the defining feature of the Canadian experience. We approach the Arctic as a condition of what makes us Canadian and what shapes us as a nation. But for most of us the Arctic remains an unreachable myth. This is a unique opportunity to explore the geography, the history and the contemporary reality of the Arctic on board our polar exploration vessel in the company the Canadian university alumni community.
The shipboard and ashore programs are specially designed to delve into the unique landscapes, seascapes and culture of the Canadian North as we forge an Eastward route from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Skilled expedition leaders will help us gain a better appreciation of the rich history, fascinating flora and fauna and cultural expressions of the Arctic. Special shipboard presentations and ashore programs will delve into the unique nature and culture of the North and examine our evolving relationship with this vital part of Canada and the international circumpolar world.
- 14-day expedition
- On board the scientific research vessel Akademik Ioffe
- Only 84 passengers
- Start in Edmonton and end in Ottawa
- Includes pre-expedition hotel accommodation and dinner
- Diverse scenery from desert to tundra
- Fabulous seascapes with glaciers and icebergs
- Landings in remote communities
- Incredible wildlife: polar bears, whales, walrus and musk oxen
- Unique presentation series specific to Canadian and circumpolar Arctic issues
We have had a very wide range of participants on our expedition voyages ranging from people in their twenties to others in their mid-eighties. All have had a normal level of fitness that permit them to get in and out of Zodiacs, with assistance from the expedition staff and sailors, and the ability to walk on pebble beaches and uneven ground. Shore landings usually last for up to four hours at a time, but Zodiacs will be available to transport back to the ship at any time. If you have any concerns about being able to participate in this trip, please contact us for further information. You should be aware that we will be in remote areas, far from conventional medical facilities.
Saturday, August 24 Meet in Edmonton
Our journey of discovery begins in Edmonton. We’ll meet this evening for a celebratory dinner and introductory presentation on the voyage that awaits. We’ll stay overnight in Edmonton this evening so we are ready for our early morning charter flight north.
Sunday, August 25 Fly to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
Early this morning we set off for the airport. We board our charter flight at 54’34”N and disembark north of the Arctic Circle at 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. We always enjoy a warm welcome in this community and after exploring the town and meeting with community elders and young people we will transfer to the beach and prepare to embark our Zodiac inflatable boats for the shuttle out to the ship. We’ll get acquainted with the Akademik Ioffe this evening as we set off for the next 12 nights of our polar expedition.
Monday, August 26 Victory Point, King William Island
Today we delve into the history of this extraordinary part of Canada. 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, a rescue that never occurred. We 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.
Tuesday, August 27 Fort Ross and Bellot Strait
If ice conditions permit, we will sail eastward through Bellot Strait. A very narrow waterway separating Boothia Peninsula from Somerset Island, we will pass the northernmost extent of the North American Continental mainland. We will attempt the passage at slack tide, in order to avoid tides of more than seven knots as we cruise this narrow waterway. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an ample food source for marine mammals and we will keep our eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. At the eastern end of Bellot Strait, we will hope to visit Fort Ross, a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost and ancient archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation at this site by the Inuit and their predecessors.
Wednesday, August 28 Prince Leopold Island and Beechey Island
As we sail north out of Prince Regent Inlet, we will stop at Prince Leopold Island, a Canadian Migratory Bird Sanctuary and home to hundreds of thousands of thick-billed murres, black guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes and northern fulmars. We will zodiac cruise along the base of the cliffs hoping to catch sight of the later breeders as we come to the tail end of the breeding season.Following our visit to Prince Leopold Island, we sail north across the Barrow Strait / Lancaster Sound to Beechey Island. Beechey Island holds great importance in our 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. Roald Amundsen stopped at Beechey Island during the first successful complete transit of the Northwest Passage almost sixty years later.
Thursday, August 29 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 very rich in nutrients. Coupled with areas of open water for much of the year, Lancaster Sound is home to a diversity and concentration of wildlife that can be staggering, given the sparseness of the region be travelled. Our stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound will be very dependent upon ice conditions and weather.
Friday, August 30 Pond Inlet
We will visit the town of Pond Inlet and make our base at the Natinnak Centre there. A spectacular cultural exhibit at the Natinnak Centre will be the background of a display put on for us by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit Carvings, Jewellery, and other local craft will be available to purchase from the local artisans here. Take time to meet the children of Pond Inlet and marvel at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the challenges of the Inuit Games.
Saturday, August 31 Fjords of Northeast Baffin Island
Rising straight out of the water and almost blotting out the sky, the cliffs of these fjords are incredible. We will sail up a few of these fjords, looking for a place to get out and stretch our legs (that does not require a rope and harness). The mouths of these fjord complexes are often rich in wildlife due to the confluence of fresher glacial melt water from the fjords mixing with the seawater of Baffin Bay.
Sunday and Monday, September 1 -2 Baffin Bay
Our crossing of Baffin Bay this late in the season will be easy compared to that of many of the explorers. We will marvel at open ocean views, stunning sunrises and sunsets, icebergs silhouetted against the horizon and sea life. We will encourage as many eyes as possible to be out searching for wildlife, looking for the tell-tale spout of a pilot whale, the ripple of a seal dropping below the surface, the soaring of fulman or the fins of an orca. As we approach the coast of Greenland, we should start to see the bigger baleen whales, both the humpback and fin whales, as well as the castelar icebergs, for which Greenland is famous.
Tuesday, September 3 Ilulissat and Jacobshavn Icefjord
One of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord spews massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. Our 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. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this fjord is the sea mouth of the Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the few glaciers through which the Greenland ice sheet reaches the sea.
Wednesday, September 4 Sisimiut
We will explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before visiting the town in the afternoon. We 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.
Thursday, September 5 Kangerlussuaq
The Greenlandic name translates as “big fjord”. We’ll spend time in the area which supports a wide diversity of land animals including musk-oxen, Gyrfalcon and caribou. This is a good place to see Northern Lights and, weather permitting, we will hope to see the yellow, reddish and greenish hues across the night sky.
Friday, September 6 Charter flight from Kangerlussuaq to Ottawa
Our charter flight awaits us here and we will board the flight for the short flight back to ‘southern’ Canada. This flight from Greenland will see us depart from a former American Airbase (Bluie West Eight and Camp Lloyd), located just miles north of the Arctic Circle. We arrive back in Canada the same day.
We put safety first and that means weather, ice, wildlife, or other conditions may require us to modify the itinerary as we go. We consider this half the intrigue of Polar exploring. Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions experienced and the itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favourable conditions. Arctic exploring is not predictable which is one of the many reasons we think it is so special.