What will I do?
While no two days are alike, typically each day onboard splits into two key parts - an off-ship excursion lasting approx. 5-6 hours and ship-based activities while the vessel is under sail.
- By zodiac, on foot or from the bows of the ship, spotting Arctic wildlife is a core focus at all times of day
- Going ashore to explore places of historic interest - including former trading outposts and Franklin expedition sites
- Exploring the tundra on foot with field classes in local geology and flora led by Arctic experts
- Community visits are a highlight - life is tough in the far north, but a warm welcome is always guaranteed
- Between fascinating lectures, scanning for wildlife & socialising, there’s rarely a dull moment on ship
Top landing sites in The Northwest Passage
The eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, Lancaster Sound’s is renowned for both its bountiful wildlife and importance as a sanctuary. Described as an Arctic wildlife ‘superhighway’, the areas statistics speak for themselves:
- Canadian Arctic’s largest density of polar bears
- 75% of the world’s population of narwhal
- 20% of Canada’s beluga population, along walrus & bowheads
- 35% of Canada’s colonial seabirds breed here
The recent establishment of Tallurutiup Imanga - Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area - as Canada’s largest marine protected area at 109,000 square kilometers underlines its importance, while safeguarding its future.
Named after Frenchman Joseph Bellot, one of the many adventurers who set out in search of the missing Franklin Party in the 1850’s, this narrow channel divides Somerset Island from the northernmost point of continental North America.
Only half a mile wide, Bellot Strait is notorious for its strong tides which can prove challenging even today, let alone for the early explorers. These currents throw up plankton attracting fish, and as a result it’s a good place for wildlife: seals, polar bears, arctic fox and musk ox.
Beechey Island & The Franklin Graves
Standing sentinel on a windswept beach are the three graves of John Torrington, John Harnell and William Braine, the earliest casualties in what turned into that infamous, tragic opera. As the most tangible clues to what happened, their exhumation played a pivotal role in the unmasking of lead poisoning as a key contributor to the demise of Franklin's party.
Standing next to the lonely graves of these lost Englishman, more famous in death than when alive, is certainly sobering. All Northwest Passage cruises make a stop at this site.
The only settlement on Prince William Island, any ships putting into Gjoa Haven are guaranteed a very warm welcome. A leisurely stroll through the friendly nearly 1,200 strong community will lead you to the monument of Roald Amundsen. Finding ice blocking his path in his ship Gjøa in October 1903, he made this natural harbour his base for two years.
The town really knows how to turn up a square dance giving visitors the opportunity to engage with community members, while the income from locally made handicrafts can really help to make a difference.
Franklin’s Ships - HMS Erebus & Terror
The discovery of HMS Erebus in 2016 and the solving of a 168 year old mystery has cast the whole saga of the Franklin Expedition back into the limelight, bringing with it renewed interest in The Northwest Passage. The subsequent discovery of HMS Terror, the sister ship, just two years later was nothing short of extraordinary.
The wrecks have been designated National Historic Sites of Canada with their precise locations near to Prince William Island closely guarded. While the first commercial expedition ship was granted permission by Parks Canada to visit the site of HMS Terror in 2016, access is likely to remain tightly controlled.
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Northwest Passage Landing Sites: FAQs
You can typically expect one 5-6 hour off-ship excursion a day, which may take the form of either some land-based exploration, a zodiac cruise or a community visit.
Yes, definitely. Some landing sites offer better opportunities than others. During all land-based excursions you’ll be accompanied by members of the expedition team, who will also act as ‘bear guards’ keeping a sharp eye out for polar bears, as this is bear country.
Absolutely. At the heart of every expedition cruise is the team of Arctic specialists, each with their own chosen field of expertise.
As well as collectively delivering a programme of set lectures and workshops during the voyage, they will also accompany you on all landings to help narrate and answer your questions.