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Heart of the Arctic



  • Jul 17, 2015 - Jul 29, 2015
  • Jul 11, 2016 - Jul 23, 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 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 - West Greenland

There are a number of charming fishing villages along the west coast of Greenland—depending on timing and sea conditions, we will call in at one of these communities to experience small town Greenlandic life, or we may navigate into 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.

Day 3 - Nuuk

Welcome to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland! Nuuk means 'the headland' and is situated at the mouth of a gigantic fjord system. Established as the very first Greenlandic town in 1728, Nuuk remains the bustling centre of the country today. We have the chance to spot Humpback whales in the fjord, reindeer roaming the land, and birds soaring in the sky. The town itself is home to Greenland's University, a cathedral dating back to 1849 and Greenland's National Museum. We will visit some of the city's most important sites, before free time to explore on your own.

Day 4 - At Sea - Davis Strait

Our presentation series will kick into full swing as we steam across the Davis Strait towards landfall in Canada. While out on deck, keep your eyes peeled for minke and humpback whales and other marine mammals, as well as the seabirds that are sure to mark our passage.

Day 5 - Pangnirtung

Pangnirtung—"the place of the bull caribou" in Inuktitut—is located on a narrow coastal plain against a spectacular backdrop of high mountains and a winding river valley. Legend says a hunter named Atagooyuk gave the place its name well over one hundred years ago when caribou had not yet changed their patterns as a result of the incursions of man. Pangnirtung, or ‘Pang’ as locals call it, is a small community bordered by snow-capped mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.

Pangnirtung has a long history of whaling in Cumberland Sound, where commercial whaling originated in 1820. In 1838 a Scottish whaler named William Penny, along with an Inuk travelling guide, rediscovered Cumberland Sound, which was rich in Bowhead whales. By the late 1850's, many Inuit left their camps to work at the whaling stations in Nuvuyen (located on the southern coast) and to Kekerten Island (located on the northern coast). In the mid 1860's, Cumberland Sound was showing sign's of being "fished out". By 1870 Nuvuyen was in ruins, hardly any more ships came to hunt whales and the Inuit returned to life in camps scattered throughout the sound. On April 1, 1973, Pangnirtung was incorporated as a hamlet.

Pangnirtung is famed for its art and one of the great attractions is the Uqqurmiut Inuit Arts Centre. The Artist Association of the Centre welcomes visitors to see to the print and weave shops, where local artists create beautifully woven tapestries and prints. Artists from Pangnirtung are known around the world and are exhibited widely across Canada and beyond. The acclaimed “Pang” hats, colourfully patterned crocheted toques, can also be purchased at the centre’s gift shop.

Day 6-7 - South Baffin

We will spend two days exploring the southern coast of Baffin Island, the fifth largest island in the world. Our objective is to spend half the time out on the land—hiking, exploring, and taking in the sights—and the remainder cruising the shoreline in our fleet of Zodiacs. We will have to be adaptable to both weather conditions and the possibility of wildlife sightings, as our expeditions to Baffin have proven unpredictable in both respects. The island is home to a wide variety of life, including a notable bear population, and we will be on alert for these kings of the north.

Our two days at Baffin will be exploratory in every sense, and we look forward to seeing what the island has to offer us.

Day 8 - Kimmirut (Lake Harbour)

Located on the southern portion of Baffin Island, the scenic oceanside hamlet of Kimmirut is considered one of the most charming communities in the region. Kimmirut means “the heel” in Inuktitut, and refers to an outcrop of marble across the bay from the community that holds a striking resemblance to a human heel. Art has played a major role here and the newly renovated Dewey Soper Building is home to a gallery of outstanding works of art.

Day 9 - Kinngait (Cape Dorset)

Along the northwest shore of Dorset Island, surrounded on one side by rocky hills and on the other, by Hudson Strait, lies the community that art built. Between 1950 and 1962, Kinngait (Cape Dorset) hosted a historic collaboration between James and Alma Houston and local Inuit—the collaboration that launched Inuit art onto the world stage. In 1959, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative was established: it remains the oldest arts organization in the Canadian Arctic and the oldest professional Inuit printmaking studio in Canada.

In the distance are the jagged outlines of islands, and the inlets of Baffin Island’s southern coast. Like most other settlements in Nunavut, Kinngait is a modern community, with winding gravel roads, small wooden houses, schools, stores, hotels, a nursing station, government offices and churches. But it is their outstanding artists, printmakers, and carvers that have made Kinngait the Inuit art capital of the world.

Day 10 - Digges Island

We will visit the great bird cliffs of Digges Island, located in Digges Sound. In season, these sheer rock faces, rising hundreds of feet into the air straight from the water, are home to great multitudes of thick-billed murres and a wide array of other seabirds. There are estimated to be a staggering 287,000 breeding pairs, approximately 3% of the global —and almost 20% of the Canadian—thick-billed murre population.

On the other side of the island lies the ruin of an ancient Thule site. Ancestors of the present Inuit eked out a life on the shoreline and from the sea. The stone foundations of their meeting place and their dwellings can still be seen amongst the rocks and boulders along the shoreline, and the bones of whales, seals and walrus still lie where they were dropped so many years ago.

Day 11 Kangiqsujuaq (Wakeham Bay)

Kangiqsujuaq, which means “the large bay” occupies an exceptional site, where the village is snuggled in the hollow of a splendid valley surrounded by majestic five-hundred-metre high rocky hills: a landscape of remarkable beauty. The bay takes its name from Captain William Wakeham who, in 1897, led an expedition to determine whether the Hudson Strait was safe for navigation. In a rocky pinching of the bay, known as “the narrows”, we will have an opportunity to examine the base of what were, 1.8 billion years ago, Himalayan-scale mountains.

Day 12 - Akpatok Island

The uninhabited Akpatok Island features soaring bird cliffs and small rocky beaches. Indeed, the island is named for the akpat—the thick billed murres—that live on the ledges of the limestone cliffs that surround it. Here we’ll use our Zodiacs to scout the beaches in search of walrus and polar bears.

Day 13 - Kuujjuaq

Kuujjuaq lies approximately forty-eight kilometres upstream from Ungava Bay, and is the largest village in Nunavik, the Inuit homeland within Que?bec. The community is located on the western shore of the Koksoak River, and daily life is closely tied to its ebb and flow. The tidal action continually reshapes the landscape and imposes its rhythm upon the lives of Kuujjuaq’s inhabitants. The boreal forest is present around Kuujjuaq and patches of black spruce and larch stand in marshy valleys. Kuujjuaq also witnesses annual migrations of the George River caribou herd that passes through the region throughout August and September.

The first Europeans to settle in the region were Moravian missionaries who arrived in 1811, followed by the HBC in 1830. Like Iqaluit, Kuujjuaq was home to a US air base from 1942 and played a key role in Cold War Arctic monitoring. Today Kuujjuaq is a community that combines traditional Inuit culture with the conveniences of modern day life.

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