19 Nights The Northwest Passage - In the Wake of Great Explorers - Eastbound

19 Nights The Northwest Passage - In the Wake of Great Explorers - Eastbound

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Join us on a thrilling expedition cruise as we attempt to cross the legendary Northwest Passage and explore the stunning landscapes and wildlife of southern Greenland.

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    Day 1: Edmonton, Canada 
    Big things are happening in Edmonton, the first destination on your expedition cruise. Alberta’s capital has always been a dependable hub for business and government, but Forbes magazine recently called it “one of Canada’s hottest destinations”. If you’ve arranged to arrive early, you’ll find out why. The city is lively and colorful, with all the features of a modern metropolis: a thriving food scene, craft breweries and distilleries, independent shopping boutiques, and a cutting-edge arts scene. It is also home to the fifth-largest shopping center in the world, the West Edmonton Mall. We highly recommend arriving a few days early to join a Pre-Program to Elk Island National Park, where you can sample the vast wilderness at Edmonton’s doorstep. Just 35 minutes away, it’s possible to see free-roaming bison grazing in a meadow in the national park or standing in the middle of the road.

     

    Day 2: Edmonton / Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island 

    In the morning, you’ll fly from Edmonton to Cambridge Bay, where your expedition ship MS Fram awaits you. Cambridge Bay is a village with fewer than 2,000 residents. The biggest clue of the region’s hunting and fishing heritage is in its name. In the local language of Inuinnaqtun, Cambridge Bay is called ‘Iqaluktuuttiaq’, meaning a ‘good fishing place’. Fly-fishing for Arctic char in the nearby river remains a draw to this day. The abundant wildlife is also an obvious point of attraction for explorers. Others come to visit the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, a world-class center for studying climate change and all things Arctic. It’s only fitting for your expedition to start here, where Arctic explorers of old often sheltered while seeking the Northwest Passage. Now you can add your name to that illustrious list, which, of course, includes the legendary Roald Amundsen. After checking in and picking up your complimentary expedition jacket, you’ll have some time to settle into your cabin and explore the ship. There is also a mandatory safety drill held every 30 minutes before our departure, allowing you to pick a time convenient to you. The evening’s dinner—the first of many on board—begins with a toast by the captain, wishing everyone an enjoyable expedition. You’ll then meet the Expedition Team in a separate welcome session, where you’ll cover important health and safety information. They’ll review important information from AECO, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators. You’ll learn how you can help protect wildlife habitats, that you should keep a safe distance from animals, and how to visit Arctic communities in a proper and respectful way.

     

    Day 3-10: Northwest Passage Exploration

    We aim to head into the heart of the Northwest Passage. Since the late 15th century, the search for this fabled seaway through the Canadian Arctic was a holy grail for hardy adventurers. John Cabot led the first recorded voyage here in 1497. James Cook attempted but failed to sail it in 1776, and many may have heard about the ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1845. The first to conquer the Northwest Passage by ship was Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, on an expedition lasting from 1903 to 1906. Sea ice varies from year to year, making every expedition here unique. We hope to show you some of the following places: Gjoa Haven honors the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who wintered here in 1903 on the Gjøa expedition. He called the place ‘the finest little harbor in the world.’ He learned a great deal from local Netsilik Inuit people about survival and travel in the polar regions. These skills were instrumental in helping Amundsen become the first man to reach the South Pole, almost a decade later. Fort Ross was established in 1937. The Canadian Coast Guard maintains two small huts ashore, which are occasionally used by the local Inuit people for shelter. It was one of Hudson’s Bay Company’s few trading posts in the Canadian Arctic. Beechey Island is closely linked to the history of exploration of the Northwest Passage, particularly the voyage led by Sir John Franklin, whose two ships sailed into the passage in 1845 but never returned. The Franklin Expedition was known to have over-wintered here in 1845 and three of his men are buried here. Radstock Bay is dominated by the striking rock of Caswell Tower. The shoreline here is excellent for a short walk to a prehistoric Inuit site. Caswell Tower itself features a challenging hike to the summit for great views. Dundas Harbour is an abandoned settlement featuring an old Royal Canadian Mounted Police camp and an old Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, with several archeological sites from the Thule period. Set on the picturesque Eclipse Sound with Bylot Island in the distance, Pond Inlet, called ‘Mittimatalik’ in Inuktitut, is a traditional Inuit community on Baffin Island. Pond Inlet is surrounded by mountain ranges, where you can marvel at glaciers, scenic fjords, ice caves, geological hoodoos, and drifting icebergs. Throughout the journey, we’ll sail through spellbinding straits and be on a constant lookout for wildlife such as the mighty polar bear.

     

    Day 11: Baffin Bay and Davis Strait 

    It’s time to leave Canada behind and set our course for Greenland. While sailing across Baffin Bay, don’t miss the Expedition Team’s ongoing informative lectures. Their topics may include the wildlife you might see in Greenland, Greenlandic culture, expedition photography, geology, and famous explorers throughout history. Feel like being more active? Hit up the gym and get your blood pumping. Don’t forget you’ll have access to the sauna and two outdoor hot tubs. Drinks can also be enjoyed in the panoramic Explorer Lounge & Bar, where you can watch the rhythmic waves of the ocean roll by.

     

    Day 12: Ilulissat, Greenland 

    Ilulissat (translated simply as ‘Icebergs’) is set in the stunning scenery of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This gem of a town stands out for its colorful houses sitting along the fjord, which features an ever-changing gallery of icebergs. This place is truly picture perfect. It’s also a vibrant hub for adventure seekers who head out onto the polar ice sheet. There are almost as many sled dogs living here as people. Each spring, one of the world’s greatest dog sled races takes place here, with 100 sleds participating. Just outside the town, you can often see enormous icebergs floating in the deep blue waters. They originate from the Jakobshavn Glacier, which calves some 35 billion tons of icebergs each year. The icebergs make their way down the 12-mile fjord before entering Disko Bay. They are a nature photographer’s dream. You won’t just see these chiseled masses of ice up close, you’ll also hear them. Their cracks, rumbles, and creaks echo throughout the fjord as they bump into one another and into the shores. If those noises are drums, the crumble, crash, and splash of ice calving from the icebergs into the waters below are the cymbals. Take a moment to sit, watch, and listen to the icebergs in these beautiful surroundings.

     

    Day 13: Sisimiut, Greenland 

    Located in a spectacular letting, Greenland’s second-largest city, Sisimiut, sits 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the central coastal area of the Davis Strait. It’s a modern settlement, but its roots stretch far back, with some estimates dating more than 4,500 years. Sisimiut’s name translates into ‘the people at the fox holes’, a reference to the Arctic fox many burrows that lie near the city. Another local animal is the musk ox, whose wool is used to make a local fabric called qiviut—said to be 10 times warmer than sheep wool. You might like to pick up a qiviut scarf, hat, or mittens while you are here. With a population of around 5,500, Sisimiut is an important regional hub. Boats heading between Nuuk and Disko Bay area frequently use it as a stopover point, with many coming here to enjoy backcountry sports like skiing or dog sledding on the Greenland ice sheet. The small museum here houses artifacts from excavations of ancient Saqqaq settlements near the town, some up to 4,000 years old. You can also visit the Taseralik Cultural Center, the perfect place to learn about the area’s cultural heritage. If you’re fit and healthy, join an optional 4- to 5-hour hike up Palaasip Qaqqa, a steady but steep climb to over 1,640 feet above sea level. The effort on the way up is well rewarded with unique views of Greenland’s exceptional scenery.

     

    Day 14: Nuuk, Greenland 

    Nuuk was settled in 1728, making it the oldest settlement in the nation. Although Greenland’s capital is classed as a city, fewer than 17,000 people call it home. ‘Nuuk’ means peninsula, as it is located at the mouth of a system of spectacular fjords and mountains. The first thing you’ll notice about this low-rise settlement is its colorful houses. The red, green, blue, and yellow buildings are a striking contrast to the icy black and white backdrop of the mountains. Today, Nuuk combines old and new traditions. The old picturesque buildings dotting the fjord’s edge give way to ultra-modern architecture in the Greenlandic Parliament and the wave-shaped Katuaq Cultural Center. Visit the oldest building in Greenland at Hans Egede’s House, constructed in 1721 by the Norwegian missionary who is credited with founding the city. As you roam the city, keep an eye out for a statue and the church bearing his name. The red-painted Nuuk Cathedral and its typical Lutheran clock tower and steeple is worth a visit, too. Drop by the Greenland National Museum to see the Qilakitsoq mummies or admire local paintings at the Nuuk Art Museum. We’ll also be offering a long hike through Paradise Valley and around Mt. Lille Malene as part of an optional excursion. As you follow a path formed by old reindeer tracks, you’ll bask in splendid views of the Greenlandic coast and pass by a small lake and natural springs. There are also a range of restaurants in Nuuk to satisfy all tastes, some of which feature local delicacies such musk ox, seal soup, and snow crab. Rather just have a coffee? There are several excellent cafés serving hot drinks and snacks like burgers and Danish pastries.

     

    Day 15: Kvanefjord, Greenland

    The Kvanefjord is a fjord stretching 30 miles along the west coast of Greenland in the Sermersooq district, which means ‘place of much ice’. The fjord extends over six miles inland before branching into three smaller channels, each with a glacier at its head. Today, we’ll explore this amazing fjord and the captain will search for places to drop anchor and head ashore. There will be plenty of opportunities to watch for wildlife, either from the deck or on land, or perhaps you’d just like to stretch your legs and enjoy the stunning scenery. Then Kvanefjord is also close to Kvanefjeld, an area with one of the largest concentrations of rare-earth mineral deposits in the world. Recent surveys even estimate that a quarter of the world’s rare-earth minerals lie within these hills. The Kvanefield site is particularly noteworthy for its concentrations of uranium and the fabled Greenlandic ruby, the tugtupite (meaning ‘reindeer blood’). Cerium, lanthanum, and other precious metals are also found here, which are crucial to modern technology like smartphones, electric cars, and MRI machines.

     

    Day 16: At Sea 

    Relax, get to know your fellow travellers, and make full use of the facilities on board. Meanwhile, the Expedition Team will hold lecture programs on Artic wildlife and ecosystems in the Science Center. We also support a number of Citizen Science projects that you can join. These projects include Happywhale, where your photographs help identify and track the movement of specific whales across the planet, identified from their distinguishing characteristics. You may also join the GLOBE Observer project, which combines your observations of clouds and sky conditions with satellite data. By participating in these projects, not only will you be supporting the scientific community, you’ll also be gaining a better understanding of the world around you.

     

    Day 17: Red Bay, Canada 

    Red Bay is a former Basque whaling settlement on the coast of southern Labrador in the Strait of Belle Isle. You might catch a glimpse of humpback or minke whales, which first drew Basque whalers to this harbour back in the 17th century. For about 70 years, these fishermen hunted whales and exported their refined oil back to Europe. But not all the whaling ships were able to reach Red Bay’s shores. Wrecked chalupas and galleons are just some of the ships that have been found preserved in the surrounding ice-cold waters. These discoveries make Red Bay one of the most important underwater archeological sites in the world. On your visit to this fascinating town, make sure to visit the local museum, which is part of the Red Bay National Historic Site. Here, you can see an 26-foot chalupa (a small whale-hunting boat) and imagine life as a Basque whaler on the Labrador Sea. You can also look for whale bones in the protected National Historic Site, or even search for the buried treasure of pirate Captain Kidd around Tracey Hill. You might not find any gold doubloons, but you’ll certainly be rewarded with a fantastic view.

     

    Day 18: Corner Brook, Canada 

    As you sail into the Bay of Islands, surrounded by the jagged slopes and dense forests of the Long Range Mountains, you’ll chart the same course as Captain James Cook over 250 years ago. Our next stop is Corner Brook, at the mouth of the Humber River. This is the second-largest city in the Newfoundland and Labrador province, after St. John’s. While St. John’s is trendy and international, Corner Brook is definitely traditional and local. The Corner Brook Museum will give you a sense of the regional history. There are a number of artifacts that illustrate the indigenous cultures of the region, the logging industry here, and of course, Captain James Cook. One particularly fascinating exhibit is on World War II brides from England and Scotland. We offer an optional excursion up to Crow Hill, home of the Captain James Cook National Historic Site. Standing where the famous British Explorer once stood to survey the area, you’ll have pleasant views over the city. Make sure to grab a photo with the statue of the man himself. Other optional excursions include a guided hike along a portion of the Corner Brook Stream Trail. Or get your adrenaline flowing by zip-lining high up over the scenic Humber Valley while admiring views of Marble Mountain and Steady Brook Falls. When the time comes to set sail again, a local band might just come aboard and treat us to a performance, sending us off with true Corner Brook hospitality.

     

    Day 19: At Sea 

    It’s our final day at sea and your expedition cruise is drawing to a triumphant close. You might like to spend this day at sea just fully unwinding from the excitement of the past two weeks. Your thoughts might naturally turn to home, or maybe you’ll find that you’ll have already left a piece if your heart back in one of the special places you visited. Spend some time reflecting on and taking stock of all the wonderful experiences you’ve had. The Expedition Team will likely be in a similar mood. Join them as they fondly recap the highlights of the thrilling cruise we’ve shared together. You’ll probably have a few hundred photos to sift through of the scenic landscapes, activities, and memories you’ve experienced!

     

    Day 20: Halifax, Canada

    Your exciting, epic journey from the heart of the Northwest Passage ends triumphantly in Halifax. This cosmopolitan capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia sits in the center of the region’s east coast. This important seaport looks out over one of the world's largest natural harbors. With its red-brick heritage buildings, the landmark Citadel Hill National Historic Site, a historic 1820 brewery, and the epic 2.5-mile seafront boardwalk, Halifax has plenty in store if you feel like extending your trip. Near our docking site, you’ll find Pier 21, the ‘Ellis Island of Canada,’ where thousands of immigrants arrived from all over the world. It’s the perfect place for Canada’s Museum of Immigration. You can also visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which contains a large exhibit on the notorious Titanic disaster. Not far from downtown Halifax is the Halifax Common, which is Canada’s oldest park. It opened in 1763. If you enjoy art, don’t miss the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s extensive collection. We recommend spending a few extra days here on our Post-Program before heading back home. You’ll visit the historic community of Peggy’s Cove and see its iconic lighthouse. And pay your respects at Halifax Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the solemn burial place of 121 tragic passengers of the Titanic.