The Northwest Passage – In the Wake of Great Explorers (Westbound)
Duration: 14 days
Ship: MS Fram
August 19, 2019
- Sail into the fabled Northwest Passage
- Discover the Illuissat 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
- Trace history as we sail the route of famous expeditions vessels of the past
- Day 1 Copenhagen/Kangerlussuaq
- Day 2 Sisimiut
- Day 3 Ilimanaq / Ilulissat
- Day 4-5 At Sea
- Day 6 Pond Inlet, Baffin Island
- Day 7 Landcaster Sound and Devon Island
- Day 8 Beechy Island and Radstock Bay
- Day 9 Fort Ross And The Bellot Strait
- Day 10 At Sea
- Day 11 At Sea
- Day 12 Gjøa Haven
- Day 13 Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island
- Day 14 Edmonton, Canada
Starting with a flight from Copenhagen, you arrive late in the evening in Kangerlussuaq. The airport in Kangerlussuaq dates back to the Second World War. The Americans built this airstrip as staging post for flights into Europe. Today, this is the main hub for international flights into Greenland’s scattered settlements. Kangerlussuaq means 'big fjord' and once on board, MS Fram will sail almost the entire length of the fjord (190km) before reaching the open sea.
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. Sisimiut is situated 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It is a modern settlement that maintains ancient traditions. Come ashore to explore the colorful town; visit the small museum, hike in the hills and shop for local handicrafts. Just across Disko Bay is the Disko Island and settlement 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 explore Ilimanaq in the morning, before heading to Ilulissat in the afternoon.
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. They originate from the Jakobshavn Glacier, one of the most productive glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere. The icebergs make their way down the 20 km fjord before entering Disco Bay.
Marvel at the changes in hue of the ice when the iceberg surface is struck by the Midnight Sun. Hear the icebergs’ soundtrack of cracking and rumbling, as the sounds echo from one end of Ilulissat to the other. We offer a variety of options for viewing the Icefjord. A short walk through town will bring you to the head of a network of short trails that take you to the shores of the fjord. There are also options to get out on the water to see the ice and maybe whales from local boats, or to get high up for an aerial view with flightseeing trips by fixed wing aircraft or helicopter.
We cross the Davis Strait, a northern arm of the Labrador Sea. This strait was named after 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, and discovered the Hudson Strait. Davis was the first to draw attention to seal hunting and whaling possibilities in the Davis Strait, 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. 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, only 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 that you have seen in Greenland. Pond Inlet has a small visitor center, 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 shore to see the ruins of some of these buildings, along with an impressive Thule site. The Thule people were the ancestors of the Inuit. Further west is Croker’s Bay, a large fjord with two tidewater glaciers at the head of the bay. The area is rich in wildlife and as with any expedition in the Arctic, the search for natural encounters is part of the experience. We may see several seal species such as walrus, beluga or even narwhal. Polar bears are frequently seen 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 see marine life and glaciers up close.
Our first stop today is Radstock Bay, which is dominated by the striking Caswell Tower – a prominence of sedimentary rock rising from the sea. The shoreline around Caswall Tower is a good location for short walks to a prehistoric Inuit dwelling site, annd Caswall Tower features a challenging hike to the summit for great views over the surrounding area. The summit is actually the location of a small station used seasonally for polar bear research. Next up 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 neither the ships nor any of the 129 crewmembers were ever seen again. It is known that the Franklin Expedition spent the winter of 1845–1846 on Beechy Island. Three graves on the shore (plus another from one of the search parties) is proof of the unfortunate outcome for the expedition members.
As you go ashore, you will see the graves and the remains of Northumberland House, a 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.
Bellot Strait is a narrow passage serving as the route from Prince Regent Inlet to Peel Sound and Franklin Strait. To the south of the channel, you find the Boothia Peninsula – the northernmost point in mainland North America. The strait, only about one-mile wide, has fierce currents that can run up to 9 miles per hour. And there may be the added navigational challenge of ice in the water. As a result, a careful assessment of the conditions of the day is required and traveling through it must be timed to avoid the strongest currents. No need to worry, though. MS Fram was purpose-built as an expedition vessel with a 1B ice class, 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 that are occasionally used by the local Inuit for shelter during hunting trips. After exploring Fort Ross, we will attempt a trip through the narrows of Bellot Strait. This strait is where the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans meet, and crossing the passage means we will be leaving the Atlantic Ocean and enter the Pacific Ocean. We will continue looking out for wildlife. Remember the more eyes keeping watch, the better the chance of spotting the polar bear, often seen in this area.
After the safe emergence from the Bellot Strait we cross Victoria Strait and arrive at Coningham Bay. We will launch our small boats and explore the bay. We hope for wildlife sightings, as this shallow, broad bay is a known hotspot for beluga whales and polar bears.
Enjoy being navigating through the 112-miles long and 31 to 40–mile wide James Ross Strait. It is named after British Polar explorer James Clark Ross, and Roald Amundsen sailed here on the Gjøa expedition. The strait runs between King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula, and based on the 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 Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who wintered here during the Gjøa expedition. He called the place 'the finest little harbor in the world'. Amundsen and his men spent two years at Gjøa Haven, and they were busily engaged in collecting scientific data. Hunting caribou and exploring the surrounding area varied their work routines. When Amundsen arrived, there was no European settlement here. But he was in contact with the local Inuit and he learned a lot from them about survival and travel in polar regions. The local Inuit people, the Netsilik Inuit, are direct descendants of the ancient Thule people, and they have lived in the area for over 1,000 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 are famous for their renderings of shamanistic faces and talented seamstresses produce beautiful articles 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 live 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 all over 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 called the Maud.
The Hudson Bay Company purchased this vessel as a fur trading supply ship, arriving in Cambridge Bay in 1921. The Maud was used for years before it sank in the harbour. Its exposed hull has been a Cambridge Bay landmark for 80 years. An attempt 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. This is where the expedition ends.
After disembarkation in the morning, we will transfer you to the airport for your flight to Edmonton, followed by a transfer to your hotel and overnight stay.
Fly home or extend your experience with more days to explore Edmonton. The contrast to your recent expedition through the Northwest Passage will provide a delightful and striking ending note to your journey. Edmonton is the capital city of the province of Alberta.
Located on the North Saskatchewan river, provides it a wide range of cultural, sporting and tourist attractions. Stroll through the Fort Edmonton Park, Canada's largest living history museum, discover the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America and enjoy the longest stretch of urban parkland in North America, the Edmonton's river valley.
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
- Transfer from the airport to the ship in Kangerlussuaq, and from the ship to the airport in Cambridge Bay
- Coach-class flight from Cambridge Bay to Edmonton
- Transfer from the airport to the hotel in Edmonton
- Overnight hotel stay in Edmonton after the cruise, 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.
|Year of refurbishment||2020|
|Passenger capacity||318 (200 in Antarctica)|
|Length||114 m / 374 ft|
|Beam||20.2 m / 66 ft|
The original Fram was the most famous explorer ship of its time, and the achievements of her expeditions are unparalleled. MS Fram honors the heritage of the original Fram, using the most advanced technology and making her exceptionally well suited for expedition voyages in polar regions.