On this expedition cruise aboard the Sea Explorer we are likely to encounter plenty of iconic Arctic wildlife including polar bears, walruses and a variety of whales, seabirds and seals while also taking time to visit Inuit settlements and small fishing villages and learn about life in the Far North.
PLEASE NOTE: The August 11, 2014 voyage operates in the reverse and includes an overnight in Toronto at the beginning of the trip and an overnight in Reykjavik at the end. Embarkation is in Churchill; disembarkation is in Kangerlussuaq. Charter Flights are Mandatory on these cruises for the cost of $1750.
Your Arctic adventure begins with an overnight stay in Reykjavik. You may want to arrive early for some pre-expedition touring around Iceland, including a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon.
Today's charter flight will take you from Iceland to Greenland. When you land in Kangerlussuaq you'll be landing at Greenland's largest commercial airport, which was once a U.S. military base. You'll be transferred to the port and then take your first Zodiac ride out to the ship, which will be anchored off shore.
Icy fjords, colorful communities and a historical UNESCO World Heritage Site await you in Greenland. You'll explore by land and sea, first at Sisimiut; which is the second largest settlement in Greenland. Even so, this town has the feel of a small fishing village with a great harbor for walking around and a number of original 18th Century colonial buildings.
Located 75km/46miles north of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut is the most northern ice-free port in Greenland. You'll get to watch a demonstration of traditional kayaking, the form of transportation first developed by the Inuit more than 4,000 years ago. From Sisimiut, you'll venture further north to Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This community is home to fewer than 5,000 people and more than 6,000 sled dogs. Ilulissat is home to the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world. As well as some spectacular zodiac cruising, there is also a refreshing longer hike in Ilulissat.
Turning west, most of your day will be spent at sea. This will give you plenty of time to hang out on deck, searching for cetaceans or watching the seabirds glide along above the Arctic Ocean. This Arctic waterway, which separates Greenland and Baffin Island in Canada, is called the Davis Strait. Your expedition team will happily recount the story of John Davis, an English explorer who crossed this waterway many times in search of the Northwest Passage.
Before reaching Baffin Island, you'll head to the small island with a big name—Monumental Island, which was named as a tribute to Sir John Franklin. This is a well-known island for potential close encounters with some of the Arctic's most iconic creatures. Settle in for a Zodiac ride around the island, in search of a walrus haul-out. These haul-outs are places where walrus congregate in great numbers and can provide you with some exceptional photographic opportunities of these tusked pinnipeds.
The walrus often aren't alone here either, so be sure to keep your eyes on the horizon looking for spots of white roaming along the shorelines. Polar bears are often also seen around Monumental Island.
Continuing along the eastern edge of Baffin Island in an area called Ungava Bay, your next landing is all about birds and bears. The word Akpat is the Inuit name for the thick-billed murre, or Brünnich's guillemot. These birds nest on the tall limestone cliffs found around the island. This is one of the largest colonies in the world and a favorite spot for polar bears.
Stepping foot on Baffin Island at the tiny community of Kimmirut, you'll have a chance to see how people here still live a traditional Inuit lifestyle. This southern part of Baffin Island has an interesting mix of historical sites to visit or explore while hiking. While the traditional Inuit culture holds strong, you'll also see an Anglican Church that dates back to 1909. This was also once an important trading post, with the Hudson's Bay Company setting up here in 1911.
Kimmirut will be your first good chance to have a chat with some Canadian Inuit, fewer than 500 people live here and many of them are artists who are happy to show you their impressive indigenous artwork and sculptures. Enjoy time wandering around the settlement, or purchase some Inuit art if something catches your eye.
This little hamlet is dubbed the "Capital of Inuit Art." Since the 1950's art has been the primary source of income for this small, local economy. You'll find plentiful Inuit carvings, lithographs, sculptures and drawings here. The settlement itself has an interesting history, dating back more than 3,000 years.
That ancient Dorset culture gave way over the years to the Thule Culture, of which today's inhabitants are related. As with most communities here in the north Anglican faith dominates, despite decades of efforts from the Catholic Church.
As your expedition heads into the second largest bay in the world, the focus turns back to wildlife watching. There are numerous landing site options in the Bay, including Zodiac excursions around Walrus Island and shore excursions and hiking at Digges, Coats and Marble Islands. The relatively shallow waters of Hudson Bay create a rich marine environment where you may spot a wide variety of animals. The big cliffs at Digges Islands attract black guillemots and Iceland gulls. On the ground you may spot caribou and polar bears. Both bearded and ringed seals are known to frequent this area as well, as are beluga whales.
If you're anxious for more walrus encounters then Coats Island, and the aptly named Walrus Island, should provide the best opportunities for good viewing in this part of Hudson Bay. Hiking enthusiast and history buffs will enjoy time here as well. You'll have the opportunity to hike around Eric's Cove, Zodiac cruise the bird cliffs at Digges Islands and explore part of Coats Island, which has been a caribou reserve since 1920.
Over at Coral Harbour, a small settlement of Inuit people live on the shores of Southampton Island. This area was home to one of the last Thule Inuit settlements in the Arctic, with Sallirmuit people living here until the 20th Century.
Get ready to get active by hiking on Marble Island. You'll gain a whole new perspective on life in the Arctic as this part of Hudson Bay has a lengthy list of expedition mysteries and tragic stories. A number of shipwrecks happened around here and even those who survived and sought help from the Inuit died from scurvy in the 1700's and 1800's. Failed expeditions to the Northwest Passage and a troubled whaling history helped give Marble Island its nickname of Deadman's Island.
Beluga whales are often seen around the ship. If time allows, we'll launch the zodiacs for a closer look. It will be time for you to say goodbye to the ship and crew today. You'll be transferred to the airport for your flight to Toronto and one final night together with your new travel friends.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the nature of expedition cruising, itineraries are subject to change due to weather, ice conditions, natural and cultural events, wildlife viewing opportunities and other logistical considerations. In general, a ship's crew will endeavor to complete the itinerary provided, but the ultimate decision lies with the ship's captain and expedition leaders.