Located at the mouth of the Coppermine River, southwest of Victoria Island on the Coronation Gulf, Kugluktuk is the westernmost community in Nunavut. Coppermine reverted to its original Inuinnaqtun name—Kugluktuk, meaning “place of moving waters”—on January 1st, 1996. The Coppermine River itself is designated a Canadian Heritage River for the important role it played as an exploration and fur trade route. Copper deposits along the river attracted the first explorers to the area. Upon arrival on our charter flight to Kugluktuk, we embark the Ocean Endeavour.
Located between Victoria Island and the Arctic coast of mainland Canada, the Coronation Gulf is an extensive body of water that is linked to the Arctic Ocean via the Dolphin and Union Strait on the west and by the Dease Strait and Queen Maud Gulf on the east.
The gulf was named in 1821 by John Franklin in honor of the coronation of King George IV. The environment and Inuit cultural history of the region was studied by Rudolph Anderson and Diamond Jenness in 1916 as part of the Canadian Arctic Expedition. We will be exploring the area, and making an opportunistic expedition stop.
Sir John Franklin’s flagship, the HMS Erebus, was a Hecla-class bomb vessel built in Wales in 1826. She was named after the dark region in Hades of Greek mythology and weighed 372 tons. The ship took part in the Ross Expedition from 1839 to 1843, and was abandoned during the legendary Franklin Expedition after becoming icebound during an attempt to locate the fabled Northwest Passage. Her sunken wreck had actually been designated a National Historic Site prior to being located in September of 2014 by a Parks Canada underwater archaeology team. Two years later, Franklin’s other ship, Terror, was located, spurring further interest in one of the great mysteries of polar exploration.
In 1903, explorer Roald Amundsen, while looking for the Northwest Passage, sailed through the James Ross Strait and stopped at a natural harbor on the island’s south coast. Unable to proceed due to sea ice, he spent the winters of 1903–04 and 1904–05 at Usqsuqtuuq. While there, he learned Arctic living skills from the local Netsilik Inuit, skills that would later prove invaluable in his Antarctic explorations. He used his ship, the Gjøa, as a base for explorations in the summer of 1904, sledding the Boothia Peninsula and traveling to the magnetic North Pole. Usqsuqtuuq offers a lot to its visitors, including he Northwest Passage Territorial Historic Park, where visitors can learn about the voyages of explorers such as Frobisher, Ross, and Franklin. Also, there is a nine-hole golf course, known to be Canada’s most northerly. Although Usqsuqtuuq is becoming more modern, many traditional Inuit activities are still being enjoyed, including throat singing, drum dancing, and hunting.
As we head north up Peel Sound, we get into serious polar bear country and will be on the lookout for good spotting opportunities. Parry Channel is named after Arctic explorer William Edward Parry who got as far as Melville Island in 1819 before being blocked by ice at McClure Strait.
Depending on ice conditions, we may make expedition stops along the way among the spectacular landscapes, a perfect setting for hiking and exploring the geological diversity of the area. Our experts will interpret historical and archeological sites for us wherever we land!
In 1845 Sir John Franklin took his expedition of 129 men and two ships into the Wellington Channel. Not a soul returned from the fateful expedition. It was two years before search parties were launched. Aside from the bodies of three souls buried here, only relics were found as clues to the disappearance. The three graves found at Beechey Island left no indication as to the fate of the rest of the British party. A fourth grave, that of a sailor from a search party, completes a haunting historic site here. In the autumn of 2014, Canadian archaeologists discovered remnants of the HMS Erebus in the frozen waters of the Northwest Passage, and in 2015, her sister ship—the Terror—was similarly located.
We will spend two days exploring Lancaster Sound—a proposed Marine Protected Area, with large populations of marine mammals, including narwhal, beluga whales, and bowhead whales. There is a great selection of landing sites available. Weather, wildlife, and sea conditions will influence our choice of landing today.
Aujuittuq means ‘place that never thaws.’ It is an apt name for this peaceful hamlet, 445 mi. (1,150 km) above the Arctic Circle. Canada’s northernmost “civilian” community is a living reminder of the Cold War; residents were relocated to Aujuittuq in an effort to boost Canadian sovereignty. We’ll be welcomed by the population of about 165. Our activities will center in the village where we will have a chance to meet members of the community, learn about their way of life, and hear their poignant stories.
We will spend a day exploring this fabled body of water that served as the main route for explorers and adventurers searching for the North Pole. Adolphus Greely, Sir George Nares and Elisha Kent Kane all travelled these waters with varying degrees of success. The Sound was named by William Baffin after Sir Thomas Smythe, promoter of voyages to find a Northwest Passage. Between nineteen and twenty-eight mi. (48-72 km) wide, and thirty-four mi. (88 km) long—Smith Sound is often packed with ice and provides favorable conditions for wildlife viewing.
There are a number of charming fishing villages and majestic fjords along the west coast of Greenland. Depending on timing and sea conditions, we may call in at one of these communities to experience small town Greenlandic life, or explore the stunning fjords that line the coast. This is a day in the true spirit of expedition travel and we will avail ourselves of any and all opportunities that present themselves.
Ilulissat translates literally into “iceberg”, and there couldn’t be a more fitting name for this stunning coastal community, with its museums, cafes and craft studios. Our visit will include time in the colorful town and a chance to hike out along a boardwalk to an elevated viewpoint where we can observe the great fields of ice. We will also cruise in our fleet of Zodiacs through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord. The Icefjord is home to the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, the most active and fastest moving glacier in the world at sixty-two ft. (19 m) per day, calving more than fourteen sq. mi. (35 sq km) of ice annually. The glacier has been the object of scientific attention for 250 years.
The west Greenland coastline is a rich mixture of fishing communities, many islands and complex coastal waterways. We will be making an expedition stop here to explore the Greenlandic landscape.
We will make our journey down spectacular Sondre Stromfjord, and early risers will have a chance to experience its beauty. Sondre Stromfjord is one of the longest fjords in the world and boasts 105 mi (168 km) of superb scenery! Kangerlussuaq, the town at its eastern head, means ‘the big fjord.’
We will disembark the Ocean Endeavour and make our way to the airport to meet our charter flight home.
Note: This is our proposed itinerary. It is highly probable that weather, sea conditions, and unforeseen circumstances will not allow us to travel this exact route. Our expedition leader and the ship's captain will determine our exact route day by day.
* Itinerary may be subject to change