Qeqertarsuaq (Disko Island)
This compelling island seems to have more in common with Iceland than Greenland. While most of the interior is mountainous and glaciated, its beautiful shorelines boast black sandy beaches, unusual basalt columns, hot springs and dramatic lava formations. On a guided hike, enjoy a diversity of Arctic flora. Zodiac cruise in Disko Bay, a hotspot for marine life including humpback, fin, minke and bowhead whales. The small friendly village has a fascinating historical museum.
At sea, Qikiqtarjuaq (Baffin Island)
Today, the Expedition Team will entertain you with informative talks about wildlife, geology and epic tales of early explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen. Reaching the coast of Baffin Island, you may encounter Greenland’s famous icebergs. Keep watch for humpback, sperm and fin whales, as well as various species of seals such as ring and harp seal.
Farther north along the east coast of Baffin Island visit Isabella Bay, an important summer and autumn feeding ground for a large population of bowhead whales.
Today, sail around Sillem Island, with glacial features on all sides. A slow cruise offers the chance to see many glaciers, discharging cascades as well as a variety of seals and other arctic wildlife.
Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), Tremblay Sound
The picturesque hamlet of Pond Inlet, overlooking Eclipse Sound, is surrounded by scenic mountain ranges and numerous glaciers and fjords. Travellers come to marvel at the abundant wildlife hoping to see narwhals, beluga and orca whales, ringed and harp seals, caribou and the occasional polar bear. Explore churches and visit the Natinnak Centre to see exhibits showing the culture and history of the local Inuit people. Husky dog pens are near the landing beach.
This afternoon, visit Tremblay Sound and enjoy a ship cruise. The area is well-known to attract narwhals that spend summer here. If you are extremely lucky, you may catch a glimpse of these notoriously shy creatures that are related to whales and dolphins.
Bylot Island, Navy Board Inlet
This morning, sail along the coastline of Bylot Island. Covered with mountains, icefields, steep cliffs, snowfields and glaciers, Bylot provides nesting habitat for large numbers of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. A total of 74 unique species of arctic bird thrive on this island. Due to the richness of the wildlife and the beauty and diversity of the landscapes in the area, a large portion of the island was also included in the Sirmilik National Park, established in 2001.
The plan is to visit nearby Navy Board Inlet, an arm of Lancaster Sound that is uninhabited. The inlet is part of Sirmilik National Park and provides stunning views of Bylot and Devon islands, with awe-inspiring scenery including mountains, picturesque fjords, inlets, glaciers, and icebergs. Marine animals including polar bears, narwhal and whales, seals and seabirds frequent the area so keep your cameras and binoculars ready to hopefully spot some wildlife.
Dundas Harbour, Croker Bay
Croker Bay features a number of active glaciers, and a Zodiac cruise, at a safe distance, is a thrilling adventure. In Dundas Harbour, the plan is to anchor and Zodiac ashore (keeping watch for walrus that are often seen in the bay), for a walk across the tundra. Here it is possible to encounter musk ox, enjoy birdwatching, and visit ancient semi-subterranean Thule huts and a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost.
Beechey Island, Lancaster Sound
At the western end of Devon Island lies Beechey Island. Named after Frederick William Beechey, the island has many of Canada’s most important Arctic relics and is a designated Canadian National Historic Site. Sir John Franklin’s first winter, 1845-46, was spent here during his attempted to sail through the Northwest Passage aboard HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with perilous results – the first three of his men died here. Roald Amundsen landed at Beechey Island in 1903, during the first successful voyage to fully transit the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
In true expeditionary style, the itinerary for the following days is entirely dependent on unpredictable sea ice. The following are places you may get to visit:
Prince Leopold Island, Port Leopold – On the southern side of Lancaster Sound opposite Beechey Island lie the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island— the most important bird sanctuary in the Canadian Arctic, with approximately 500,000 nesting bird pairs here in summer. Ringed seals are often spotted on the sea ice. Nearby Port Leopold is a historic site where British explorer James Clark Ross wintered in 1848 while searching for the missing Franklin expedition. The ruin of a century old Hudson’s Bay trading post can be found there, and polar bear often lurk nearby. The shallow gravel beds attract beluga whales, which come to moult in this part of the Arctic each summer.
Cunningham Inlet – On the north coast of Somerset Island, when factors such as weather and whale behaviour align, you might see the amazing spectacle of hundreds of beluga whales shedding their skin on shallow sandy banks. The local scenery makes for excellent guided walks, where waterway trails lead to waterfalls and higher ground.
Coningham Bay – Across from Victoria Strait, Coningham Bay lies on the shores of Prince of Wales Island. This is a polar bear hotspot where the majestic creatures come to feast on beluga whales that are often trapped in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons – and very healthy-looking polar bears!
King William Island – In 1859, a Franklin expedition tent camp was discovered at Cape Felix. Remains attributed to the Franklin expedition have been found at 35 different locations on King William Island and on nearby Adelaide Peninsula. South of Cape Felix, in Victoria Strait, the hope is to visit Victory Point and get close to where the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were abandoned in 1848.
A large town by local standards, Cambridge Bay is the administrative and transportation hub of the region. It is the largest stop for passenger and research vessels traversing the Northwest Passage and unofficially marks the midpoint for voyages of the Northwest Passage. Zodiac ashore for an exploration of this Inuit settlement located in the high arctic. Enjoy a walk through the village, where you can visit the local church, visitor centre and support the local community by purchasing some locally made handicrafts.
In the old town, visit the ancient archaeological sites of the Pre-Dorset, Dorset and Thule people. Wildlife abounds in this area, and you might see caribou, musk ox and seals. The tundra is ablaze with wildflowers and birds including jaegers, ducks, geese and swans, that visit the area in large numbers.
Johansen Bay, Edinburgh Island
Edinburgh Island is a small and uninhabited island in Canada’s Nunavut region. The scenery consists of colourful flowering shrubs, beaches tinged in stunning ochres, while the surrounding cliffs shaded in rich, deep tones. There might be a chance to enjoy a Zodiac excursion within an estuary at the northeast end of Johansen Bay, travelling up the river towards the lake. A possible walk to a lookout overlooking the lake offers spectacular views over lakes, sea and mountains. Wildlife including caribous, reindeer, arctic foxes, hares and peregrine falcons frequent the area.
Enjoy the many facilities onboard the Sylvia Earle as the vessel continues along the shores of the Canadian High Arctic. Enjoy panoramic views from one of the observation lounges, attend informative talks with onboard experts or sweat it out in the gym or the sauna.
Jesse Harbour, Banks Island
Located in the north of Canada’s Northwest Territories, Banks Island, the fifth largest island in Canada, is home to approximately 60 per cent of the world’s population of Lesser Snow Geese. Arctic foxes, wolves, polar bears, caribous, musk ox and many birds are also found here. Grizzly bears are occasionally spotted and bowhead whales are often seen offshore. The dramatic cliffs on the southeast coast feature colourful yellow, white and red quartzites, while, the west coast is characterised by long, sandy offshore bars. Nelson Head cliffs features ancient Precambrian rock that is almost 2 billion years old.
Smoking Hills, Franklin Bay
The smoking Hills in Canada’s Northwest Territories have been smouldering, sending plumes of gas across the landscape, for centuries. Technically sea cliffs, you would be forgiven for thinking that the multicoloured fiery natural phenomenon is the set to an apocalyptic movie depicting the end of the world. The smoke is caused by layers of combustible, sulphur-rich lignite (brown coal) that ignites and emit sulphurous gas into the air, when exposed to erosion and landslides, which also creates a dazzling colouration of the rocks.
Continue your journey west, sailing through waters named after famous explorers such as Amundsen and Beaufort, keep a close watch for marine wildlife including Beluga whales that are often seen here.
Lying 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) off the north coast of the Yukon in the Beaufort Sea, Herschel Island has a heritage of natural importance. Its dry polar climate is home to a unique number of arctic plants, animals and sea life. More than 100 other species of birds live or migrate here, and the western arctic’s largest colony of black guillemots nest in Pauline Cove. The island is also a habitat for musk oxen, caribou, arctic and red foxes. Seals are often spotted on the sea ice, while bowhead and beluga whales frequent the waters. Apart from the dazzling wildlife and historic buildings found on the island, it is the stunning wildflowers, flourishing in the 24 hours of midnight sun daylight, that most visitors remember.
Point Barrow, or ‘Nuvuk’ in the local Inuit language, is a headland on the Arctic coast in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is the northern-most point in the United States, and where you enter the country. The North Pole is only 1,122 nautical miles (2,078 km /1,291 mi) away. The area is home to the Inupiat, an Inuit tribe that have lived in the area for more than 1500 years. Bowhead whales migrate through the region, so keep a close watch for a glimpse of them. A bowhead whale’s jawbone sits on the shore on the outskirts of Utqiagvik town, formerly known as Barrow. The whale bone is in the form of an archway that faces the Chukchi Sea, symbolising the important relationship between the Inupiat and the sea.
Continuing west along the northern coast of Alaska to where the U.S and Russia are only 100 kilometres (60 miles) apart, separated by the Bering Sea, there is ample time to reflect on your adventures while scanning the water for marine life. Enjoy a massage in the wellness centre, share, edit and submit pictures in the onboard photo competition and attend final lectures from the team of onboard experts. Celebrate an unforgettable voyage at the Captain’s Farewell Dinner on board.
Disembark in Nome, fly to Anchorage
In Nome, farewell your expedition team and crew after sharing a once-in-a-lifetime voyage together. After disembarking, transfer to the airport for your flight to Anchorage, for an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel Anchorage (or similar).
Tour ends, Anchorage
Transfer to the airport for your onward journey.
Please note: This is an indicative itinerary only and is subject to change. Sea ice and weather conditions determine the exact route, and Aurora Expeditions cannot guarantee the complete crossing of the Northwest Passage to the Beaufort Sea. However, you will certainly have an incredible adventure trying!