Baffin Island & West Greenland
The Arctic has an allure that grips many adventurers. Whether it’s the Inuit culture of the Canadian North, the incredible wildlife along the fringe of the ice, or the riveting exploration history that captivates many a reader. The Arctic Circle is also a highlight of this trip. A parallel of latitude located at about 66 degrees and 33 minutes North, the Arctic Circle marks the southernmost latitude where the sun stays above the horizon for 24-hours on the Summer Solstice. Over the course of this voyage we will cross the Arctic Circle at least twice on the ship as we explore this region of the Eastern Canadian Arctic and the West Coast of Greenland.
In the Canadian Arctic we will search for Polar Bears along the ice edge in Davis Strait, visit the stunning town of Pangnirtung with it’s backdrop of Auyittuq National Park and look for bowhead whales in Cumberland Sound.
Crossing Davis Strait will take us to Greenland, heading partway up Sondre Stromfjord, one of the longest fjords in the world, in search of muskox. We will poke our nose into a fjord just south of Sondre Stromfjord in search of some glaciers before heading south for Nuuk, the capital of Greenland and our return trip across Davis Strait to Iqaluit.
A further dimension to this expedition voyage is our 'Off the Beaten Track' program - an expanded choice of off-ship activities, which we pioneered on our Antarctic voyages. Such activities include extended hiking opportunities ashore, snow shoeing, full day photography excursions with our resident professional photographer. For those signed up for sea-kayaking, we offer paddling excursions which may last all day.
Day 1 - Iqaluit
Iqaluit, the capital and largest community of Nunavut, is located at the head of Frobisher Bay, on Baffin Island. With an average monthly temperature below zero degrees for eight months of the year, the permafrost inhibits the growth of a low to the ground large trees and shrubs. One might see Arctic willow however keep your eyes open, they don’t typically stand higher than 6” from the ground. Following a walking tour of Iqaluit, our water-based adventure starts when we board our expedition vessel by zodiac.
Day 2 — Monumental IslandOur first excursion is to visit Monumental Island. Located in Davis Strait, it is a known spot for finding walrus. We explore by zodiacs and search the shoreline for these fascinating creatures. Watchful eyes may locate smaller pups within the masses. Taking our time in the zodiacs at this site allows for nature to take its course. Polar bears are often found here and have been known to chase the walrus off their haul out and into the water.
Day 3 — Cape MercyMarking the northern headland of Cumberland Sound are the dramatic cliffs of Cape Mercy. As the Baffin Bay middle ice recedes throughout the summer, the stretch of Baffin coast from Cape Mercy to Cape Dyer is a great place to find polar bears coming ashore. We will explore this region with the goal of hiking the shoreline ridges, paddling the bays and zodiac cruising the ice in search of Arctic wildlife.
Day 4 — PangnirtungNestled in the heart of Cumberland Sound and the gateway to Auyuittuq National Park, Pangnirtung is beautifully situated between the mountains and the sea. This remote town is known for its arts and crafts and a visit to the local art gallery is a highlight. In addition, the Angmarlik Visitor Center has a wonderful interpretive display featuring the lifestyle of the Thule and of the modern Inuit.
Days 5 & 6 — Ice Edge Cruising in Davis StraitWhile we cannot be certain where the ice edge will be, we will sail for the ice in Davis Strait in order to experience this dramatic transition zone. Much of the Arctic sea life seems to be interested in this zone, we will keep our eyes peeled for bearded, hooded and ringed seals as well as polar bears and walrus. Who knows, perhaps a bowhead whale will be cruising the ice edge. Spotting scopes and binoculars will be in use as we all scan the ice looking for wildlife. If conditions permit, we will even launch the zodiacs so that we can get into the ice and explore. At some point we will leave the sea ice behind us and direct the binoculars and scopes towards the never-ending stream of icebergs sailing up the west coast of Greenland.
Day 7 — Sondre StromfjordOne of the worlds longest fjords, Sondre Stromfjord towers above the ship on either side as we sail up it. Our goal is not the end of the fjord, but rather some of the small side fjords along it that we can zodiac into and explore on foot or by kayak. Major geologic and geomorphologic features will surround us and for those looking for living and breathing excitement, we will hope to find muskox along the shores of the fjord as well. Soaring high above us will be the white-tailed sea eagle, majestic as always while riding the thermals off the ridges.
Day 8 — Evigshed FjordJust inland from the town of Kangamiut is Evigshed Fjord. As we sail up this fjord we should start to see brash ice and bergy bits in the water. We will turn into an offshoot of this fjord and drop the zodiacs for a cruise along the base of an icefall and glacier in here. The terrain around us has been heavily glaciated and makes for some dramatic scenery and hiking as we explore this fjord complex.
Day 9 — Nuuk, GreenlandA visit to the West Coast of Greenland wouldn’t be quite complete without a visit to the capital city of Greenland. With a population of approximately 16,000, Nuuk offers numerous opportunities for all interest groups onboard the ship. Whether it be a visit to the Greenland National Museum, lunch at a Greenlandic café or a paddle in beautiful Nuuk fjord, there will be many activities available to us.
Day 10 — Davis StraitAs we cross Davis Strait, our educational team onboard the ship will continue to introduce us to the Arctic through stories and pictures. Whether it be history or wildlife, or perhaps a photographic review by our onboard photographers, we can all take time to enhance our knowledge of the region. In addition, there will be a keen wildlife watch on the bridge and outer decks as we cross this rich stretch of ocean.
Day 11 — Lower Savage Islands
At the mouth of Frobisher Bay and the southeast tip of Baffin Island, the Lower Savage Islands are an archipelago of islands that look like they have been split apart by a large hammer. A maze of channels and small islets, this is a fantastic place to explore by zodiac. The Akademik Ioffe will drop us off and reposition to the south side of the islands. As we explore, we will make our way from the northeast side of the island down a series of channels looking for a way out and our ship.
The location of these islands mean that they are ideally situated between the rapid and dynamic flow of the Hudson Strait, the outflow from Frobisher Bay and they even catch some of the Baffin current that flows south down the coast of Baffin Island from Baffin Bay. This mixing of waters makes it quite rich in marine life and we will be looking for a few more polar bears on this final excursion of the voyage.
Day 12 — Iqaluit, NunavutArriving back into the capital of Nunavut, we disembark here and take a transfer to the airport for our flight home.