- Join the Polar research vessel Akademik Ioffe for an exclusive 12-night voyage
- Meet single-tusked narwhal, walrus and polar bear, the undisputed ‘Lord of the Arctic’
- Listen to an on board team of historians and marine specialists bring the history and culture of the Arctic to fascinating life
London / Ottawa
Depart from London Heathrow Airport on an Air Canada flight to Ottawa, Canada.
On arrival in Ottawa, after collecting your luggage and clearing customs, transfer to the Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel. Located in the heart of Canada’s capital next door to the Parliament Buildings, the landmark hotel is a magnificent limestone edifice with turrets and masonry reminiscent of a French château. Dinner at the hotel.
One night’s accommodation at Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel on Bed & Breakfast basis
Ottawa / Sondre Stromfjord (Kangerlussuaq)
This morning transfer to the airport for a charter flight to Greenland, landing at a former American Airbase (Bluie West Eight and Camp Lloyd), located just miles north of the Arctic Circle. Board the expedition vessel, Akademik Ioffe, by zodiac and weigh anchor to sail down Sondre Stromfjord, one of the world’s longest fjords which cuts into the interior of Greenland. Throughout the evening and through the night sail down this incredible fjord, crossing the Arctic Circle, before reaching the ocean and Davis Strait. 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.
12 nights aboard Akademik Ioffe with all meals, guided excursions and lectures included.
Explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before visiting the town in the afternoon. Subject to confirmation, 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.
Ilulissat & Jacobshavn Icefjord
Today view the Jacobshavn Icefjord, one of the wonders of the world, disgorging massive tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The 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.
Traverse Baffin Bay, the ship’s crossing dependent on the extent of the so-called ‘middle ice’. The goal will be to find the edge of this and then follow it around and to the coast of Baffin Island. The time at sea will be determined by the extent of the ice and amount of wildlife. During the crossing of Baffin Bay there will be chances to spot fin, sperm, sei and humpback whales as well as the numerous species of Arctic seals and seabirds that abound in the Bay.
Stop at the town of Pond Inlet to visit the Natinnak Centre, which houses a spectacular cultural exhibition, and watch a display by the Elders and youth of Pond Inlet. Inuit carvings, jewellery and other local craft will be available to purchase from the local artisans. Meet the children of Pond Inlet and see them demonstrate the athletic challenges of the Inuit Games.
Lancaster Sound & Devon Island
Sail up Lancaster Sound which 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. The ship’s stops along the shore of Lancaster Sound will depend very much on ice conditions and weather.
Beechey Island & Prince Leopold Island
Today visit Beechey Island, a highlight of the voyage. It is here that Franklin’s ill-fated expedition spent its last ‘comfortable’ winter in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness, inspiring a whole 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 the visit to Beechey Island, 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.
Fort Ross & Bellot Strait
Ice conditions permitting, 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. Departing from Fort Ross, 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 there may be sightings of harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. There is also a possibility of spotting beluga, narwhals and right whales. After exiting Bellot Strait, turn south in Victoria Strait, taking a bearing for King William Island.
Having emerged from the exciting transit of Bellot Strait, 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 is 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.
Victory Point, King William Island
Visit Victory Point where the first remains attributed to the crew of HMS Erebus were discovered in 1859 by Captain Francis McClintock. 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. McClintock also discovered the only written remains under a cairn erected on Victory Point.
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut / Edmonton, Alberta
Subject to confirmation, a visit is planned 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 artefacts, sledges, graves and letters.
Drop anchor in the harbour of Cambridge Bay, disembark and go ashore by zodiac. Transfer to the airport for a charter flight to Edmonton in ‘southern’ Canada.
On arrival transfer to the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald which stands high on the bank overlooking the largest urban parkway in North America, the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The hotel is within easy walking distance from the main sites of Edmonton.
One night’s accommodation at Fairmont Hotel Macdonald on Bed & Breakfast basis
Day 15: Edmonton / London
Day at leisure.
Transfer to the international airport for an overnight Air Canada flight back to London.
Day 16: Edmonton / London
Arrive London Heathrow.