The Northwest Passage – In the Footsteps of Roald Amundsen
Duration: 24 days
Ship: MS Roald Amundsen
August 20, 2019
Price from: $ 24,190 per personCheck prices and availability Request a quote
- Sail the fabled Northwest Passage, one of the world´s most remote shipping routes
- Discover the magnificent Iluissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Explore Gjøahavn, where the Amundsen expedition spent two years and several members of the Franklin expedition team are buried
- Cruise from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the world´s most advanced Explorer ship
- Day 1 Copenhagen/Kangerlussuaq
- Day 2 Itilleq
- Day 3 Ilulissat
- Day 4 Sisimiut
- Day 5-6 At sea
- Day 7 Pond Inlet, Baffin island
- Day 8 Lancaster Sound and Devon Island
- Day 9 Beechy Island and Prince Leopold Island
- Day 10-11 Fort Ross, The Bellot Strait and Conningham Bay
- Day 12 At sea
- Day 13 Gjøa Haven
- Day 14 Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island
- Day 15 Coronation Gulf and Amundsen Gulf
- Day 16 Ulukhaktokk
- Day 17 Smoking Hills
- Day 18-19 The Beaufort Sea
- Day 20 Point Barrow, Alaska
- Day 21-22 At sea
- Day 23 Nome, Alaska / Vancouver, Canada
- Day 24 Vancouver, Canada
You will start your exploration with a flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq. The airport here dates back to the Second World War, when the US built this airstrip as a staging post for flights into Europe. Today, this is the main hub for international flights to Greenland’s scattered settlements. Kangerlussuaq means 'big fjord' and once on board, MS Roald Amundsen will sail almost the entire length of the fjord (118 miles) before reaching the open sea.
In the early afternoon, we reach the small settlement of Itilleq, translated as “the hollow". The settlement was founded in 1847 on another island, but was later moved one kilometre east to its present location, about 31 miles south of Sisimiut at the head of the Itilleq Fjord. Around 130 people live here, mainly engaged in hunting and fishing. The island has no freshwater source, so Itilleq makes use of a facility for creating freshwater from seawater. The church here has an interesting history: It was built in Thule (Umanak- North Greenland) in 1930 and was moved to Itilleq in 1963.
As its name suggests, the village is situated in a hollow, majestically surrounded by high mountains and glaciers. The settlement is also known as the Arctic Circle Village, with the arc of the Circle found only 650 feet to the south.
Ilulissat is set in the stunning scenery of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just outside the town, at the mouth of the fjord, you can often see enormous icebergs that have run aground that originate from the Jakobshavn Glacier, one of the most productive glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere.
The icebergs make their way down the 12-mile fjord before entering Disko Bay. Marvel at the changes in hue when the iceberg's surface is struck by the Midnight Sun. Listen to the iceberg's soundtrack of cracking and rumbling, as the sounds echo from one end of Ilulissat to the other.We offer a variety of excursions here: a short walk through town to a network of short trails that take you to the shores of the fjord. Or, get out on the water to get close to the ice and maybe whales on a local boat, or go high for an aerial view with a flightseeing trip by fixed wing aircraft or helicopter.
En route to Sisimiut, we encourage you to be out on deck to scout for whales. The waters close to the settlement are frequented by several species, such as humpback and fin whales. Harbor porpoise and minke whales can be encountered along the west coast of Greenland. If we are lucky, we might also see large numbers of seals, the most common being the harp seal.
Sisimiutis situated 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and is a modern settlement that maintains ancient traditions. Come ashore to explore the colourful town, visit the small museum, hike in the hills and shop for local handicrafts. Just across the bay is Disko Island and the settlement of Qeqertarsuaq. This is where the Gjøa Expedition and the second Fram expedition stopped to get dogs and other equipment on their way to the Northwest Passage.
We cross the Davis Strait, a northern arm of the Labrador Sea. This strait was named for the English explorer John Davis, who led three expeditions in the area between 1585 and 1587. He was looking for a route through the Northwest Passage, discovering the Hudson Strait in the process. Davis was the first to draw attention to seal hunting and whaling possibilities in the area, and to show that the Newfoundland cod fisheries extended this far north.
Explorer Sir John Ross named Pond Inlet in 1818 for John Pond, a renowned British astronomer. Today the picturesque hamlet of Pond Inlet, also called 'Mittimatalik' in Inuktitut, is a traditional Inuit community, located on the northern tip of Baffin Island, near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage. Pond Inlet is surrounded by mountain ranges, with several dozen glaciers, scenic fjords and inlets, ice caves, geological hoodoos and drifting icebergs nearby.
As we arrive, we sail through a pretty channel flanked by the peaks and glaciers of Baffin and Bylot Islands. At these latitudes the sea is frozen for most of the year, opening up in July for a short late-summer season. This is where the search for High Arctic wildlife, such as polar bears, can begin. Pond Inlet is also a great place to see large pods of narwhal, signalling the start of our Arctic safari.
When you come ashore, you will have your first chance to compare life in a settlement in the Canadian Arctic with your experience of Greenland. Pond Inlet has a small visitor centre, and the cultural performance by the local community will be a highlight. In the evening, we will cruise the spectacular Arctic landscape of Eclipse Sound.
Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on Earth (Antarctica is counted as a continent).
On the south coast of Devon Island lies Dundas Harbor, an abandoned settlement with an old Royal Canadian Mounted Police camp and several archeological sites. Come ashore to see the ruins of some of these buildings, along with an impressive site that traces back to the ancestors of the Inuit, the Thule people. Further west is Croker’s Bay, a large fjord with two tidewater glaciers at the head of the waterway.
The area is rich in wildlife; we hope to see seal, walrus, beluga whales or even narwhal. Polar bears are frequently sighted in the area and the tundra around the shore supports small populations of Arctic hare and musk ox. This is a perfect place for small boat excursions to get close to rich marine life and beautiful glaciers.
Our first stop today is Beechy Island. This place is closely linked to the history of exploration of the Northwest Passage. The most famous voyage, one surrounded in mystery, is the British expedition led by Sir John Franklin. Two ships sailed into the passage in 1845, but the ships with their 129 crew members vanished into the wilderness.
It is known that the Franklin Expedition over-wintered on Beechy Island in 1845-1846. Three graves on the shore (plus another from one of the search parties) is proof of the unfortunate outcome for the explorers. The wreckage of the two ships has only been located in recent years. As you go ashore, you will see the graves and the remains of Northumberland House, built by the rescuers searching for Franklin and his men. The desolate location of the graves and the ruins of Northumberland House create a haunting reminder of the incredible challenges faced by explorers in this powerful wilderness.
Next is Prince Leopold Island. With sheer cliffs rising high above sea level, this oval isle is home to almost 200,000 pairs of sea birds.
The Bellot Strait is a narrow passage serving as the transit from Prince Regent Inlet to Peel Sound and Franklin Strait. To the south of the channel is the Boothia Peninsula - the northernmost point in mainland North America. The strait, about 1.25 miles wide, has fierce currents that can run up to 10 miles per hour. There may be the added navigational challenge of ice in the water. As a result, a careful assessment of the conditions on the day is required and the transit must be timed to avoid the strongest currents. No need to worry, though.
MS Roald Amundsen is a purpose built as an expedition vessel with ice strengthening, ship-depth sounding database, extractable forward-sounding sonar and iceberg search lights – and the Captain and his crew are experienced in sailing treacherous waters. At the eastern end of the channel is historic Fort Ross, a trading post established by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1937. There are still two small huts ashore that are maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard, occasionally used by the local Inuit for shelter during hunting trips. Having explored Fort Ross, we attempt a transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. This strait is where the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans meet.
After crossing the Passage, we will leave the Atlantic Ocean and enter the Pacific. We will continue looking out for wildlife, of course. Remember, the more eyes keeping watch, the better the chance of spotting polar bears, which are often seen in this area.
After our safe emergence from the Bellot Strait, we cross Victoria Strait and arrive at Coningham Bay, where we launch our tender boats to explore. We hope to see a lot of wildlife, as this shallow, broad bay is a known hotspot for belugas and polar bears.
Enjoy navigating through the 112 miles long and 31-40 miles wide James Ross Strait, named after British polar explorer James Clark Ross. In addition, Roald Amundsen sailed here on the Gjøa Expedition. The strait runs between King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula. Based on conditions at hand, we will conduct landings for hikes or small boat cruising.
Gjøa Haven is a popular destination for fans of arctic history. The name honors the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who wintered here on the Gjøa Expedition. He called the place 'the finest little harbour in the world.' Amundsen and his men spent two years at Gjøa Haven, where they collected data and hunted for caribou. When Amundsen first arrived, there were no European settlements here, so the Norwegian spent time learning about polar survival from the local community. The local tribe, the Netsilik Inuit, are direct descendants of the ancient Thule people and have lived in the area for over a thousand years.
The John Ross expedition of 1829-1833 had previously visited this region and the ill-fated John Franklin expedition of 1845 perished nearby, so Gjøa Haven is often visited by Arctic history buffs. Today the settlement is known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, where carvers render fine shamanistic faces and talented seamstresses produce beautiful examples of Inuit clothing. It is also home to excellent cultural venues, including the Heritage Center, the Hamlet Center and the Northwest Passage Territorial Trail.
In the warm months, when the tundra is covered with flowers and the sea is open, numerous Arctic birds nest nearby, including loons, geese, ducks, terns, jaegers, plovers, snow buntings and snowy owls. A handsome herd of musk oxen lives on the island and there are some caribou too. When we arrive, we will be warmly welcomed to 'the finest little harbor in the world.'
The community of Cambridge Bay is located on the southeast coast of Victoria Island. In Inuinnaqtun it is called 'Iqaluktuuttiaq', meaning a 'good fishing place.' The hamlet is located close to the Ekalluk River, which is famous for giant char. It is rich in archaeological history and blessed with abundant fish, seals, geese, muskoxen and caribou.
Archaeological sites found throughout this enormous island prove that indigenous peoples have been living in this part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago continuously for the last four thousand years. Roald Amundsen visited the Cambridge Bay in 1905. In 1918 he traversed the same route back from west to east in his new ship Maud. The Hudson Bay Company then purchased this vessel as a fur trading supply ship, arriving in Cambridge Bay in 1921.
The Maud was used until she sank in the harbour in 1930 and her exposed hull served as a Cambridge Bay landmark for 80 years. A project is currently underway to re-float the vessel and return her to Norway. Wildlife abounds in this area with caribou, muskoxen and seals. In August, when the tundra is brilliant with wildflowers, it is also teeming with birds.
We sail first through Coronation Gulf and then, no doubt with some celebration, enter our namesake: the Amundsen Gulf. Here we leave behind the series of islands and maze of channels that perplexed early explorers. The next section of the transit features an unobstructed ocean between us and the North Pole!
Spend your time enjoying some illuminating lectures, sampling the fitness suite and swimming pool on board, or organizing your photographs. There will also be gatherings with the Expedition Team to summarize the voyage so far, and present the plan for the days to come.
Ulukhaktokk, formerly known as Holman, is a settlement on the west coast of Victoria Island, in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Due to the remote location, the people of Ulukhaktokk have had little to do with the rest of the world and remain traditional in many aspects of their daily life. Around 460 people call this remote village home.
The area is known for slate and copper unearthered in the region, which is used for "ulus" – traditional semi-lunar shaped knives. Local artisans are also internationally famed for traditional Inuit Art and Print Making. This remote spot is also known for having the world's most northerly golf course, where they host an annual tournament for 4 days every summer.
Having been burning for centuries, the Smoking Hills are a remarkable sight, with smoke billowing from the cliffs on the east coast of Cape Bathurst. Local Lignite - a combination of shale and pyrite – spontaneously ignites when exposed to air, due to the erosion of the hills. In 1850, a search party was sent to the area to locate the lost Franklin expedition. Having spotted the smoke, a team was sent ashore to investigate, believing it to be the campfires of the missing expedition team, only to discover billows of smoke coming from the cliffs, leaving them no closer to finding the lost Franklin team.
The name of the nearby settlement of Paulatuuq translates to "place of coal".
Lazy days at sea are yours to enjoy. We sail through the Beaufort Sea, named for Sir Francis Beaufort who in 1805 developed his eponymous wind scale for describing the force of the wind. He later directed operations to search for Franklin in the Northwest passage. On board, you can take advantage of the facilities and treat yourself to some genuine relaxation. There will be plenty time to get to know the other explorers on board, and we will invite you to spend time out on deck to fully enjoy the experience of being at sea.
As well as being the northernmost point of Alaska (and therefore the USA), Point Barrow also marks the end of our navigation of the Beaufort Sea and our entry into the Chukchi Sea. We will keep a sharp eye open here for bowhead and grey whales. The near-by settlement of Barrow is a city when compared to our previous landings, and indeed despite a population of just 4,000, enjoys full city status. The Inupiat Heritage Center offers visitors the opportunity to purchase arts and crafts such as local carvings, masks, parkas and fur mittens.
Vitus Bering first sailed this strait in 1728, without any of the comforts found onboard today. Our last sea days are a chance to organise your photos, dash off some postcards or simply lounge in the pool. We will sail around the westernmost point of the north American continent, Cape Prince of Wales at 168°W.
Our epic voyage comes to an end at Nome, where Roald Amundsen finished the first crossing of the Northwest Passage in 1906. In 1898 three lucky Swedish men discovered gold in the nearby Anvil Creek, and within a year, 10,000 men had arrived desperate to repeat the feat. In the winter of 1925 Nome suffered an outbreak of diphtheria whilst cut off from the rest of the world by snow and sea ice. The only way to get the serum to treat the disease from Anchorage, 1,000 miles away, was by a relay team of dog sledges. This colourful local history is on display at the Carrie M. McLain Museum.
Disembarkation and transfer to the airport for your flight to Vancouver takes place in the morning, and after arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel for an overnight.
Vancouver ranks among the most sustainable cities in North America. Take time to enjoy the culture, restaurants, shops, art and music scenes in a stunning natural setting. Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before your departure home.
Included in Your Expedition
- Hurtigruten expedition in the cabin grade of your choice on a full board basis
- Coach class flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq
- Excursion to the ice cap with lunch, before the cruise
- Transfer from the airport to the ship in Kangerlussuaq
- Transfer from the ship to the airport in Nome
- Coach-class flight from Nome to Vancouver
- Transfer from the airport to the hotel in Vancouver
- One overnight hotel stay in Vancouver, including breakfast
- Wind- and water-resistant jacket
- Landings with small boats and activities on board and ashore
- Professional English-speaking expedition team that gives lectures as well as accompanies landings and activities
- Complimentary tea and coffee
Not Included In Your Expedition
- International flights
- Travel protection plan
- Luggage handling
- Optional excursions and gratuities
This cruise is not suitable for guests using wheelchairs due to the possibility of using tender boats during embarkation or disembarkation.
MS Roald Amundsen
In 2019, Hurtigruten will add a brand new ship to its fleet: MS Roald Amundsen. This state-of-the-art vessel will feature new and environmentally sustainable hybrid technology that will reduce fuel consumption and show the world that hybrid propulsion on large ships is possible.