Into the Northwest Passage

About the Experience

Follow the sea route of fearless early Arctic explorers as we navigate one of the world’s most historic waterways, the Northwest Passage. This western corridor slices through Canada’s Arctic frozen archipelago and hugs the northern coast of North America. European explorers searched in vain for this vital passage for 300 years, intent on finding a commercially viable western sea route between Europe and Asia.

This carefully curated itinerary begins in Greenland, navigates the Ilulissat Icefjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Davis Strait; crosses the imaginary Arctic Circle and includes remarkable hikes and unforgettable Zodiac cruises.

History unfolds in museum and cultural centre visits through traditional art, throat singing, drumming and storytelling. We’ll also explore the abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police post and Hudson’s Bay Company site at Dundas Harbour. In between, sea days aboard the Ocean Endeavour allow for educational and engaging onboard workshops and lectures on Arctic exploration, birding, climate change and Inuit life.

On this small ship expedition, the experience is multi-layered with extreme Arctic wildlife and avian encounters, an unforgettable immersion in Inuit culture and resilience, early explorer history and an introduction to the modern day Guardians of Terror Bay program in conjunction with Parks Canada. This is the first national historic site (home to the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) to be co-managed by Parks Canada and Inuit in Nunavut.

From Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), and onward to Kugluktuk, Nunavut (Canada), this signature voyage travels through one of Canada’s most culturally and historically significant landmarks, the Northwest Passage.

 

 

 

 

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Into the Northwest Passage

About the Experience

Follow the sea route of fearless early Arctic explorers as we navigate one of the world’s most historic waterways, the Northwest Passage. This western corridor slices through Canada’s Arctic frozen archipelago and hugs the northern coast of North America. European explorers searched in vain for this vital passage for 300 years, intent on finding a commercially viable western sea route between Europe and Asia.

This carefully curated itinerary begins in Greenland, navigates the Ilulissat Icefjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Davis Strait; crosses the imaginary Arctic Circle and includes remarkable hikes and unforgettable Zodiac cruises.

History unfolds in museum and cultural centre visits through traditional art, throat singing, drumming and storytelling. We’ll also explore the abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police post and Hudson’s Bay Company site at Dundas Harbour. In between, sea days aboard the Ocean Endeavour allow for educational and engaging onboard workshops and lectures on Arctic exploration, birding, climate change and Inuit life.

On this small ship expedition, the experience is multi-layered with extreme Arctic wildlife and avian encounters, an unforgettable immersion in Inuit culture and resilience, early explorer history and an introduction to the modern day Guardians of Terror Bay program in conjunction with Parks Canada. This is the first national historic site (home to the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) to be co-managed by Parks Canada and Inuit in Nunavut.

From Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), and onward to Kugluktuk, Nunavut (Canada), this signature voyage travels through one of Canada’s most culturally and historically significant landmarks, the Northwest Passage.

 

 

 

 

DAY 1: KANGERLUSSUAQ, GREENLAND

We will start our adventure with boarding our northbound charter flight in Toronto and head to Kangerlussuaq.

Kangerlussuaq is a former U.S. Air Force base and Greenland’s primary flight hub. Cue up the Top Gun soundtrack, right? Your first lesson begins with the pronunciation of Kangerlussuaq, which is kaˌŋɜˈɬːusːuɑq in Greenlandic (part of the Inuit family of languages spoken by less than 50,000). Maybe you should try on ‘hello’ for size first. “Aluu!” Or, ‘goodbye,’ which is simply “baaj.”

West Greenlandic is the official language that all children learn in addition to Danish and English. After a few stumbly aluus and a baaj we will be transferred by zodiac to the Ocean Endeavour. With 190km of OMG! scenery to stare at, we will begin travelling down the longest fjord in the world, Kangerlussuaq Fjord (Søndre Strømfjord), crossing the imaginary but remarkable Arctic Circle on our way.

 

DAY 2: SISIMIUT COAST

West Greenland’s complex coastal waterways include sculpture-like glaciers, islands and fjords with a towering mountain backdrop for good measure. The waters are relatively warm here (not bathtub warm), due to the West Greenland Current and the subarctic location (40km north of the Arctic Circle). 

Sisimiut means “the people living in a place where there are fox dens.” How magical is that? For the first 2,000 years, the people of the Saqqaq culture occupied the area until the Dorset culture was introduced 2,500 years ago. Dorset culture pulsed strong for 1,500 years and was followed by the people of the Thule culture—the ancestors of Canada’s modern-day Inuit population. 

Sisimiut is the second largest city in Greenland (population: 5,600) and has been dubbed as the adventure hub. While we won’t have time to squeeze it in, the 160km Arctic Circle Trail begins here and snakes from the coast to the fabled Ice Cap along routes followed by locals for millennia. You may be surprised to learn that this cool and contemporary Arctic Circle community has a city bus and skate park where lanky teens show off their best ollies and BMX wheelies.

 

DAY 3: ILULISSAT

Ilulissat literally translates to “iceberg”—it’s easy to see why. Located at the open mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fjord is the main artery of the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. Much like a giant Matryoshka doll (Russian nesting doll), it’s the source of countless icebergs in the mighty North Atlantic. Atlas Obscura suggests that if all the icebergs in Ilulissat were melted on a really big stovetop, they would provide enough drinking water for everyone in the United States for an entire year. 

The 55 km-long floating “natural sculpture park” is  jammed with surreal icebergs and we will cruise in our fleet of Zodiacs and learn about growlers, bergy bits and calving (of icebergs, not cows!). 

We’ll take a walk along the boardwalk of Iluslissat’s buzzy fishing harbour and view the icebergs from shore. In town, you can choose your own adventure. Try wolffish at a local resto or howl with the local motley crew of Greenland sled dogs. Museum nuts will want to check out the namesake Ilulissat Museum and its tribute to Danish explorer and hometown hero, Knud Rasmussen.

 

DAY 4-5: WESTERN GREENLAND

Greenland’s west coast is simply stunning—it’s one big panoramic postcard of superlatives. 

Hikers, birders, poets, photographers, daydreamers and self-proclaimed philosophers will all fall under the coastal spell. Upon landing on Greenland’s stunner of a west coast, we can choose to pursue whatever activity makes our hearts pound harder. 

We can take a hike or a casual walk; stop to photograph or sketch the tiny, resilient tundra flowers or contemplate evolution as we take in the mighty mountains.

 

DAY 6: AT SEA—DAVIS STRAIT

The daily onboard presentation series continues as we steam across the Davis Strait towards Nunavut. Find a seat in a workshop, watch a documentary or take advantage of the ship’s amenities! Hang out in the gym, library or lounge areas–you’ll have your built-in crew of Wild Women to keep you company if you want to chat or chill out!

Here, the strait splits between southeastern Baffin Island and southwestern Greenland. Grab binoculars and get out on the deck to scout for pop-up whales, seabirds and marine wildlife.

Narwhals, bowhead and pilot whales cruise through the Strait in the company of little auks (dovekies) though sightings are always dependent on zooplankton and schools of fish like the Arctic cod. While you may fish for compliments, the auks and whales have another agenda. Inuit fishermen have also relied on these shallow waters for an abundant Arctic char supply.

For the trivia buffs out there: Baffin Bay’s estimated population of 50,000 narwhals accounts for 80 to 90% of the world’s population. The ‘unicorns of the sea’ are playful year-round residents of Baffin Bay, feeding and mating in the winter. Fun fact: The narwhal tusk (most commonly found on males) is actually an enlarged tooth with up to 10 million nerve endings. If they were to promote a toothpaste, it would be Sensodyne! Their tusks can grow to 10 feet in length and some narwhals can have two spiral tusks while others have none!

 

DAY 7: MITTIMATALIK (POND INLET), NU, CANADA

Mittimatalik is a tight Arctic community located on the tip of northern Baffin Island. In the winter months (mid-November to mid-January) there is no sun, just a chandelier of stars, moonlight and the mystical choreography of the northern lights. The average temperature of -40°C indicates that this is NOT the place to try and stick your tongue on a metal pole. 

The views of nearby Bylot Island are stunning. Bylot Island has the largest breeding colony of greater snow geese in the Canadian High Arctic with 74 unique species of Arctic birds that thrive here in deafening colonies. Fun fact: Lawren Harris, a member of Canada’s famed Group of Seven, painted this very startling landscape in the 1930s. Bylot Island I (an oil-on-canvas) sold for $2.8 million at an auction in 2010. Perhaps you should create your own Bylot sketch for future prosperity and posterity?

We will have the opportunity to explore Pond Inlet’s town which has evolved dramatically over the last century. Early visitors included whalers, failed gold prospectors and Anglican and Catholic missionaries. Long before the bounty hunters, Dorset, Thule and Inuit Culture followed the migratory paths of caribou, seal, fish, walrus, ptarmigans, hare and polar bear. Some still live traditionally on the land in outpost camps.

We’ll attend a vibrant cultural performance by the talented Tununiq Arsarniit Theatre Group. There will be drum dancing, unforgettable throat singing and storytelling by the Mittimatalik and those who proudly call this frozen scape home.

 

DAY 8–10: TALLURUTIUP IMANGA (LANCASTER SOUND) & DEVON ISLAND

We will spend the next three days exploring Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound), one of Canada’s newest National Marine Conservation Areas. Narwhal, beluga, and bowhead whales frequent this area. We’ll cruise by ship and Zodiac in search of wildlife so make sure you’re well-rested and caffeinated for this sub-zero safari! We should also be on high alert for polar bears from the ship and onshore!

Devon Island lies on the northern border of Tallurutiup Imanga. It’s the largest uninhabited island on Earth at over 50,000-square-kilometres. The island’s geology is a showcase of flat-topped mountains, spectacular glacial valleys and a substantial ice cap. 

We’ll visit a number of the silent bays, hike across the tundra and actually stop to smell the flowers. The island’s growing season is short and sweet (40-55 days) and is characterized by “cushion plant” (polar semidesert) vegetation that collared lemmings go bonkers for year-round. Muskoxen prefer the sedge-moss tundra for their buffet of choice.

Once home to Inuit and their irrepressible ancestors, we will visit sacred archaeological sites to dive into the human history of this now-abandoned island. We’ll also visit the remains of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police post and Hudson’s Bay Company site at Dundas Harbour.

It’s a big dose of nature, history and wow today.

 

DAY 11: BEECHEY ISLAND

In 1845, Sir John Franklin set out from England with HMS Erebus and the aptly-named HMS Terror, attempting to sail through the Northwest Passage. 

Beechey Island Sites is a testament to the resilience of several ship crews who had winter encampments here, beginning with Franklin’s team in 1845-46. Three of his 130-person crew are buried here: John Torrington, William Braine, and John Hartnell. They were exhumed in the 1980s as part of an anthropological examination, their bodies essentially mummified by the Arctic’s barometer. They were later reburied and the memorial at the Franklin Expedition Historical Site provides instant time capsule access to the mission’s demise.

Franklin’s crew wintered on Beechey Island during its search for a Northwest Passage, but became icebound off King William Island the next year. The death of these three men is still an unresolved Nancy Drew mystery. Was it really lead poisoning from their canned food diet? (The rest of the crew resorted to cannibalism, so whose fate was worse?)

Numerous search parties later used Beechey as a depot and rendezvous point. Legends like Amundsen, Bernier, and Larsen all visited Beechey but didn’t think it was peachy enough to stay. It’s windswept, barren and there’s not a single Tim Horton’s to be found.

Thomas Morgan of the HMS Investigator was buried here in 1854 alongside Franklin’s men. The graves and the ruins of nearby Northumberland House are a haunting memorial to the expedition that went sideways in a valiant attempt to make history (preferably living, not posthumous).

 

DAY 12 – 13: PRINCE REGENT INLET

We’ll spend our days around Prince Regent Inlet scanning this biodiverse area for life above and below the surface. Twitchers can check off  thick-billed murres and ivory gulls!  Beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales  reside in these ice-strewn waters as well–so keep your binoculars on swivel for spouts and murre dives.

Our expert guides will share an even deeper dive (no wetsuit required) into the ambitious exploration of the Northwest Passage and the mercantile efforts of the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company on our expedition landing sites.

 

DAY 14 – 16: KITIKMEOT REGION, SAIL THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

This is the pinch-me part! We’ll navigate the glacial waters of this historic waterway in search of wildlife. This is Nunavut’s least-populated region but wildlife thrives here both in the sea and on land.

We will call in at Uqsuqtuuz (Gjoa Haven), home of the Guardians of Terror Bay. Twenty-one Inuit guardians were hired and trained by Parks Canada to patrol the national historic site 24-7 and report any unauthorized vessels. This is the first national historic site (home to the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) to be co-managed by Parks Canada and Inuit in Nunavut.

Here, we’ll gather ‘round to hear the tall tales shared by locals of Norwegian seafaring legend, Roald Amundsen. He became the first European to cross the Northwest Passage thanks to the intel of the Inuit. Amundsen overwintered in the bay for two years during his search. The Passage was successfully navigated in 1903-06 by Amundsen in his tiny ship, Gjoa.

We’ll have time to visit the Nattilik Heritage Society Cultural Centre. Since 2013, the centre has facilitated workshops and mentorship programs in sewing, appliqué needlework, carving and various crafts to inspire economic self-sufficiency and sustainability of community members. The centre is also known for its precious collection of carvings and intricate wall hangings.

 

DAY 17: KUGLUKTUK, NUNAVUT

Our time in the Arctic will draw to a nostalgic close in Kugluktuk, the westernmost community in Nunavut. Located at the mouth of the Coppermine River, the community decided to revert to its original Inuinnaqtun name which means, fittingly, “place of moving waters” in 1996.

From the “the people living in a place where there are fox dens” to the “place of moving waters” we have navigated a culturally deep and historically remarkable part of Canada.

After big hugs and even bigger sighs, we’ll disembark the Ocean Endeavour and transfer by zodiac to shore for our charter flight southbound to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Note: Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay), Nunavut will be our alternate disembarkation point if necessary. This decision will be made based on sea, ice and weather conditions at the time.

 

OCEAN ENDEAVOUR

The Ocean Endeavour is an opulent 137-metre (450-feet), 198-passenger ice-strengthened vessel with twenty Zodiacs, advanced navigation equipment and stabilizers. A doctor, paramedic and medical clinic offer complete peace of mind. The ship has several lounge areas, a library (Compass Room) and multiple viewing decks to totally chill out by yourself or with your newfound crew!

Please note: This is not an exclusive Wild Women Expeditions or 100% women-only trip. The Wild Women group size can range from 10 to 40 women. In addition, the ship’s staff and crew will also be co-ed.

 

MAP

 

*Adventure Canada itineraries may be subject to change without notice due to weather, ice, and sea conditions.

Click here to see upcoming trip dates to book your spot!

KAYAKING PROGRAM

The Qajaq program provides a quiet, fun and relaxing way to reconnect with the marine environment. The Qajaq (the proper phonetic spelling of “kayak”) was invented by Inuit and is a feat of engineering whose design remains unchanged after thousands of years.

Join us in a unique way through our qajaq program. Kayaking has become an increasingly popular mode of exploration. Paddling in pristine waters, near marine life, in the wilderness, or along a historic coast will overwhelm even the most seasoned adventurer.

It is a rare opportunity, for few have experienced these magical places by qajaq. We offer safe, fun and unforgettable moments at water level.

Limited space is available per departure and an application process is required for this activity. Cost for 2024: $800USD
If you’d like to add on this program, please book as soon as possible. Contact support@wildwomenexpeditions.com to apply.

*Fitness Level: Moderate, some kayaking experience required. A minimum of two kayak excursions will be experienced throughout the voyage.

 

BICYCLE RENTAL PROGRAM

There is a fleet of thirteen Kona mountain bikes, available for rent during set times throughout each expedition.

This unique opportunity allows passengers to explore and discover the landscape on two wheels. Cycling excursions are only available in pre-determined community visits and may be modified at any time at the discretion of the Expedition Leader.

Passengers will be notified when excursions will be available, one to two days in advance of the excursion at the daily recap. Details on difficulty level, distance, and guides will be provided at this time.

For more information, please visit the Program Director Office once onboard.


Subject to Availability, Upon Request