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Through Great Excursions I have discovered the diversity, exoticism and magic of Saskatchewan

Through Great Excursions I have discovered the diversity, exoticism and magic of Saskatchewan.

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Arctic Safari



  • Aug 4, 2016 - Aug 15, 2016

Day 1 - Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Sondre Stromfjord is one of the longest fjords in the world and boasts 168 kilometres of superb scenery! Kangerlussuaq, the town at its eastern mouth, means 'the big fjord.' Although the fjord crosses the Arctic Circle, like the oceans here, it does not freeze. Locals can thank ocean currents for this, making this part of Greenland a centre for whaling and fishing all year. The United States built an air base at Kangerlussuaq in WWII due to the relatively mild weather and strategic proximity to Europe. Although the military base closed in 1992, the strip is now Greenland's main international and domestic airport.

The area is distinguished by fantastic nature and rich biodiversity. There is nowhere else in Greenland where it is so easy to go so far into the interior and the world’s largest ice cap can be reached in less than an hour. The landscape features enormous glacier formations, which have ploughed deep into the dramatic tundra. On the plain between the fjord and the inland ice you will may find Greenland's biggest herds of musk ox, reindeer, arctic foxes as well as the highest concentration of peregrine falcons in Greenland and more than 250 species of plants.

Day 2 - Itilleq

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.

Day 3 - Ilulissat

Venturing 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle we find the stunning coastal community of Ilulissat. Ilulissat translates literally into "iceberg", and there couldn't be a more fitting name. Our visit will include time in the colourful town and a chance to hike out to an elevated viewpoint where we can observe the great fields of ice. We will also cruise in our fleet of Zodiacs in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Ice fjord. The Ice fjord is where we find the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, one of the most active and fastest moving in the world at nineteen metres per day and calving more than thirty-five square kilometres of ice annually. The glacier has been the object of scientific attention for 250 years and, because of its relative ease of accessibility, has significantly added to the understanding of ice-cap glaciology, climate change and related geomorphic processes.

Day 4 - Uummannaq Fjord

Uummannaq Fjord in northwest Greenland is the country’s second-largest system of fjords. It empties into Baffin Bay and is characterized by its developed coastline and various bays, islands, and peninsulas. It is considered to be the sunniest spot in Greenland, and favourable weather—coupled with proximity to coastal travel routes—have made the fjord system a popular destination for Greenlandic Inuit. It has been settled and re-settled continually for the last 4,500 years.

Archaeological excavations at Qilakitsoq, due south of Uummannaq Island, revealed the existence of the ancient Saqqaq culture. Recent evidence indicates that these groups settled Greenland between 2500 BC and 800 BC, and further, that they migrated from Sibera to arrive in Uummaanaq. It is thought that this migration gave rise to both modern Native Americans and the Inuit.

Our time in Uummannaq will be spent cruising and exploring; our expert resource staff will be on deck to help spot wildlife and contextualize the dramatic scenery surrounding the Ocean Endeavour.

Day 5 - Karrat Fjord

Today we will cruise one of Greenland's most spectacular fjords, known for plentiful marine life and awe-inspiring landscapes. Seals use the long leads created by high winds in this region to hunt the rich waters of the fjord. The cliffs and talus slopes within the fjord should give us good opportunities to see colonies of dovekies. Time spent on deck today should result in some good wildlife sightings, not to mention unbeatable photographic opportunities of the majestic rock faces.

Day 6 - Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island)

Qikiqtarjuaq, a community located on Broughton Island, is known for its wildlife, whale watching, and as an access point for Auyuittuq National Park. It is one of the Nunavut communities closest to Greenland. Qikiqtarjuaq (fondly called “Qik”, for short) is known as the iceberg capital of Nunavut and was home to a NORAD military station that formed part of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) in the 1950s.

Qikiqtarjuaq also boasts a burgeoning traditional Inuit craft industry, and local craftsmen are eager to share their wares. Talented local artists produce Inuit carvings—with a particular focus on intricate ivory work and jewellery. The community is famously warm and welcoming of visitors. Our stop in Qikiqtarjuaq promises to be an exciting one. Carvings will be available for purchase on this stop.

Day 7 - Niqinganiq (Isabella Bay)

Niqinganiq is a 336,000-hectare marine region on Baffin Island that is a crucial feeding area for threatened bowhead whales. This is the world's first Inuit-initiated and managed marine mammal sanctuary. The area includes two deep offshore troughs rich in copepods, which are a main food source for the bowhead whale.

Day 8 - Northeast Baffin Fjords

Today will be an expedition day in the truest sense as we navigate the multitudinous fjords of northeast Baffin Island. Baffin’s fjords are numerous and striking, their extreme depth and narrow width affording stunning perspectives on geological processes. The Ocean Endeavour is the perfect vessel for exploring these hidden treasures of the north, as her manoeuvrability allows her to access regions that would be impassable to larger vessels. We will be on alert for changing weather and ice conditions and use our judgement as to which route along the coast will be the most spectacular. As ever, our elite team will be on deck for the duration, searching for wildlife and contextualizing the mighty landscape through which we travel.

Day 9 - Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)

Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) is a bustling Arctic community surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes in the eastern Arctic. We will have a chance to explore the town, including its excellent library and other facilities, and meet many local citizens who will gladly share their culture. We will be treated to a cultural presentation at the Community Hall—arts and crafts may be available here. Mittimatalik is a famously excellent region for viewing marine mammals, including the elusive narwhal. After our time in the community we will cruise through the stunning Milne Inlet as we continue our journey.

Day 10 - Devon Island

The largest uninhabited island in the world—comprising over fifty thousand square kilometres—supports significant concentrations of wildlife, including twenty-six species of seabirds and eleven species of marine mammals. We follow the route of nineteenth-century explorers into Lancaster Sound, and on to the island.

The region supports significant concentrations of wildlife, including twenty-six species of seabird and eleven species of marine mammal. Polar bears and seals may be sighted among the ice floes. We'll journey to Radstock Bay and Caswell Tower at Devon Island—an important archaeological site. We'll then take the Zodiacs ashore to visit the remains of Thule winter houses located beside a nearby lake. These ruins are suspected to date back to 1200–1400 AD. Two of the more recent houses date back to the 1800s.

Day 11 - Prince Leopold/Beechey Islands

The tall cliffs of Prince Leopold Island are one of the top bird sites in the high Arctic both during the breeding and summering seasons. It is a breeding site for thick-billed murre, black-legged kittiwake, northern fulmar, glaucous gull, and black guillemot.

It was beneath these tall cliffs that Sir James Clark Ross, perhaps the greatest polar explorer of the nineteenth century, was based in 1848–49. Ross's 1848–49 expedition in search of the Franklin expedition was not successful; they spent a frustrating winter locked by ice in Port Leopold on the northeast coast of Somerset Island and returned to England the following summer. It was also from this area that Sir John Ross (James's uncle) escaped in 1833 after abandoning the Victory and spending four harrowing winters in the Arctic.

Day 12 - Quaasuittuq (Resolute)

Qausuittuq, or "place with no dawn” is truly the land of the midnight sun—daylight persists constantly from about April 29 to August 13 each year. Located on the south coast of Cornwallis Island, Resolute Bay is the "jumping off place" for expeditions to the North Pole. From archaeological excavations, it has been concluded that there have been at least three stages of occupation at Resolute Bay. The Dorset culture was the first, followed by an early phase of the Thule culture, in which the artefacts found show strong Alaskan affinities. These were probably both short periods of occupation, possibly by only a few families. A late or developed phase of the Thule culture was of longer duration, with a considerably larger population. Resolute Bay was named after HMS Resolute, one of the ships in the Franklin search expedition commanded by Captain H.T. Austin. An airfield was established at Resolute Bay in 1947 during construction of a joint US-Canadian weather station. In 1953, Inuit from Inukjuak, Que?bec, and Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) were relocated to Resolute by the Canadian government.

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