Travelling to the Northwest Passage is only for the most adventurous explorers. Previously an inaccessible destination, only a few cruise lines are able to offer full Northwest Passage crossing attempts.
What to see: Destinations in the Northwest Passage
Here are some of the highlights you can experience on an expedition cruise through the Northwest Passage:
2/7Photo: Andrea KlaussnerPhoto
3/7View of Inuit settlement surrounded by mountains and sea, Pond Inlet, Northern Baffin IslandPhoto: Andrea KlaussnerPhoto
4/7Photo: Andrea KlaussnerPhoto
5/7Polar-bear on an ice flake, Beaufort SeaPhoto: NOAA National Ice CenterPhoto
6/7Snowy Dundas Harbour. Together with the expedition team, you will attempt to explore legendary inlets and channels and go on exciting small boat cruising and landings.Photo: Andrea KlaussnerPhoto
7/7View of Cambridge Bay, Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, CanadaPhoto: Alan SimPhoto
1. Cambridge Bay The Nunavut community here has 1,477 inhabitants. This charming hamlet is located close to the Ekalluk River, which is famous for giant char. The surrounding terrain is dotted with innumerable lakes and ponds.
2. Gjøa Haven Living at the heart of the Northwest Passage, the locals of this port are known for their historic acts of kindness to intrepid explorers. The Inuktitut name for the hamlet translates to “Place of Plenty Blubber”. The hamlet is situated on flat coastal terrain, and in summer the tundra is dappled with colourful wildflowers.
3. James Ross Strait This 180-km long channel is named after British polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross (1800-1862). We usually sail through James Ross Strait to avoid the ice of Victoria Strait, but you will still see plenty of ice in the sea.
4. Fort Ross This uninhabited and former trading post was founded in 1937. It was operational for only eleven years before the severe ice conditions rendered it uneconomical and difficult to reach. The two store buildings are still used as a shelter by Inuit hunters.
5. Beechey Island Beechey Island is perhaps best known for being the burial site for three members of the Franklin expedition. There are memorials to Franklin and other polar explorers on the island, including French explorer Joseph René Bellot. In 1903, paying his respects to Franklin, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen stopped at the island at the beginning of his successful expedition in search of the Northwest Passage.
6. Dundas Harbour This abandoned settlement contains the ruins of a few buildings as well as the northernmost cemetery in the world. It is a tranquil place, with a stone beach and meadows reaching all the way to the mountains in the back.
7. Pond Inlet Situated on the northern tip of Baffin Island near scenic fjords, glaciers and icebergs, this traditional Inuit community of 1,300 inhabitants is also a great place to see large pods of narwhal.
Wildlife in the Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage is known for its largely untouched landscape. This is one of the reasons why there is such a wide array of wildlife here. There are many amazing animals both on land and below the surface of the water.
Among the animals you'll find the polar bear, narwhal, beluga, muskox, caribou, walrus, seal, bowhead whale, and over 100 bird species.
Small boat cruising: Cruising in one of the most remote parts of the world, your ship will not be able to dock everywhere and anywhere. That's why each ship has explorer boats (zodiacs) to take you ashore or on ice cruising excursions.
Hiking is another popular activity. This could be at places of historical/biological/geological interest, small settlements, cities, or places that offer stunning natural beauty.
Lectures and onboard activities: When the ship is at sea, there’s plenty happening on board as well. Join in-depth lectures on a variety of topics, Science programmes or become a great photographer.
Wearing clothes in layers is the best way to dress. We advise bringing light jumpers, a woollen jumper, warm socks, a scarf, mountain/winter boots, warm and waterproof trousers, a jacket, a woollen hat, and gloves. When going ashore, mosquito repellent might also be handy.
No promises except an amazing experience The landscape of the Northwest Passage will leave you speechless. While a lot of ice remains in the sea, there is no snow here during the summer, uncovering a beautiful landscape of rocks, mountains, lakes, rivers, grass and wildflowers.
As for wildlife, keep your eyes open for fur, feathers, and fins. You might see majestic polar bears out hunting, different species of whale breaching, walruses relaxing by the shore, and a variety of birds. Remember that these are natural Arctic habitats, so we can’t guarantee that certain animals will appear during your expedition.
The same applies to ice conditions, as well as wind and weather; all are unpredictable, especially in the vast, uninhabited territories that these are.
See what it's like to go on an expedition cruise to the Northwest Passage with Hurtigruten
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