Northwest Passage East to West
Northwest Passage East to West 13 Days aboard Akademik Sergey Vavilov
This iconic voyage explores the stunning fjords of the Greenland and Baffin Island coastlines and remote Northwest Passage. Here, we follow in the footsteps of the early Arctic explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen and Larsen, exploring the archipelago of islands and channels that create Canada's High Arctic region. This is the home of the polar bear, the grizzly bear, musk ox, caribou and walrus and we journey through the wild Canadian north.
Namibia Birding and Photography GuideAn accomplished and experienced Namibia birding and photographic guide, Toni holds a Namibia Academy for Tourism and Hospitality Level 3 qualification (the highest level attainable in Namibia) and is widely renowned for her extensive knowledge of the cultures, ornithology, flora, astronomy and wildlife of the country. Read more >
Falklands Expert & GuideBorn in Chartres in the West Falklands, Jenny grew up on the family farm where her love for animals was nurtured by the25,000 sheep, horses and cows that lived alongside her. Forever a nature, conservation and wildlife enthusiast Jenny has travelled extensively throughout the Falkland Islands, visiting each and every wildlife island at least once, and even travelling around some by yacht. Read more >
- Polar bears and other animals
- Myriad birdlife
- Beluga and other whales and maybe narwhal
- Historical sites and associations
- Full board accommodation on board ship
- Programme of expert lectures
- Zodiac excursions and landings
- Loan of rubber boots
ITINERARY12 Nights 13 Days
- Day 1 | Ottawa to Kangerlussuaq
- Day 2 | Sisimuit
- Day 3 | Ilulissat and the Jacobshavn Icefjord
- Days 4-5 | Baffin Bay
- Day 6 | Pond Inlet
- Days 7-8 | Lancaster Sound and Devon Island
- Day 9 | Beechey Island
- Day 10 | Fort Ross and Bellot Strait
- Day 11 | Conningham Bay
- Day 12 | Victory Point, King William Island
- Day 13 | Cambridge Bay to Edmonton
Ottawa to Kangerlussuaq
We depart Ottawa this morning on our charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, situated on the west coast of Greenland. Upon arrival into Kangerlussuaq we enjoy a short tour before boarding our expedition ship in the afternoon and cruising along Sondre Stromfjord, bound for the fabled Northwest Passage.
Note: the cost of the charter flights from Ottawa to Kangerlussuaq and Cambridge Bay to Edmonton is US$1995
We will explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before going ashore to explore this beautiful location in the afternoon. Characterised by colorful local houses, the town features a towering granite peak as a backdrop. We hope to meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and to see a demonstration of ‘Eskimo rolling’ by one of the former Greenland kayak champions. A small museum is another interesting diversion.
Ilulissat and the Jacobshavn Icefjord
If one word could sum up today’s experience it would be 'ice'. Even our expedition team members, with years spent exploring both the Arctic and Antarctica, will take a moment to reflect on the awesome ice sculptures surrounding the ship in all directions. Truly one of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord – a UNESCO World Heritage site - spews gigantic tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The glacier that creates these stunning monoliths advances at over 40 metres per day, creating something in the order of 50 cubic kilometres of ice annually. Our approach to Ilulissat is always dependent on the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the fjord.
Leaving the rugged coastline of Greenland, our crossing of Baffin Bay is highly dependent on the extent of the so-called ‘middle ice’. We probe northwards seeking out the edges of the middle ice and plan to follow the line of ice until we reach the coast of Baffin Island. Our time at sea will be determined by the extent of the ice and amount of wildlife we encounter. As we transit Baffin Bay we are always on the lookout for fin, sperm, sei and humpback whales as well as the numerous species of Arctic seals and seabirds that inhabit these waters. Our onboard experts deliver fascinating presentations on board focusing on the wildlife, history, geology and culture of the Arctic.
Nearing the far north of Baffin Island, we enter a broad channel which is home to the remote Inuit community of Pond Inlet. A highlight is a visit to the Natinnak Centre, where a fascinating cultural exhibit showcases aspects of daily life, culture and history of the people of the north. Inuit carvings, jewellery and other traditional craft is on display and purchasing such items from the local artisans is a great way to support the community. We enjoy meeting the local children of Pond Inlet and marvelling at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate the skills and challenges of traditional Inuit games. Skills and physical agility developed by such games were often those necessary for everyday survival in the harsh Arctic environment.
Lancaster Sound and Devon Island
Leaving the wild landscapes of Baffin Island, we cross Lancaster Sound to Devon Island. We are now at almost 75⁰ degrees north of latitude. This broad channel of water has been likened to the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. Massive volumes of water from the Atlantic to the east and Pacific to the west, and from the archipelago of islands to the north all mix here, combining to make a rich source of nutrients and food for an abundance of Arctic wildlife, living both above and below the water. We plan to visit the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour, situated on the southern shores of Devon Island. Musk ox and Arctic hare are sometimes sighted in the vicinity and there are some great hiking options in the area.
Beechey Island holds great historic importance on our journey through the Northwest Passage. It is here that Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition spent its last 'comfortable' winter in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness, sparking an incredible series of search expeditions that last almost three decades. The mystery ofwhat happened to Franklin was partially solved in September 2014, when a joint Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expedition, found the long lost Franklin shipwreck, HMS Erebus in the Victoria Strait. One Ocean Expeditions played a vital role in the search by carrying underwater search equipment on our ship as well as scientists, historians, researchers, dignitaries and sponsors of this history defining mission.
A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach, is a thrilling location for history enthusiasts and for many will be the defining moment of our expedition. We cross the Barrow Straight into Prince Regent Inlet, stopping to view of the bird cliffs at Prince Leopold Island. This is an important migratory bird sanctuary, home to thick-billed murres (Brunnich's guillemots), black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. Numbering in the order of several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the whole of the Canadian Arctic. Given the abundance of food in this vicinity we often sight beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales here, several species of seal as well as polar bear.
Fort Ross and Bellot Strait
Continuing to navigate the ship south into Prince Regent Inlet, we approach the eastern end of the Bellot Strait. The historic site of Fort Ross, located at the southern end of Somerset Island, is a former Hudson's Bay Company fur trading outpost. Fascinating archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors. Having explored Fort Ross, we attempt a transit through the narrows of Bellot Strait. The aim is to enter at low tide if possible, in order to avoid a current that roars through the passage at more than seven knots during the peak flow. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an abundant food source for marine mammals and we keep our eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears.
Having emerged from Bellot Strait, we cross the Victoria Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince Edward Island. Here, in the heart of the Northwest Passage we hope to encounter one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. This is a known hotspot for polar bears who come here to feast on beluga whales, often caught in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons - and very healthy looking polar bears!
Victory Point, King William Island
Heading further into the Northwest Passage, the mystery of Sir John Franklin and his 'lost expedition' is beginning to unravel. Prior to the recent discovery of the HMS Erebus in September 2014, very little was known of how the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait are just coming to life thanks to the ongoing efforts of Parks Canada's marine archeological team and the recent Victoria Strait Expedition. On Victoria Point a lifeboat left abandoned, bits and pieces of copper and iron, cutlery and buttons and a skeleton here and there - all tell a story of a desperate race south in search of rescue that never came. We hope to visit Victory Point and the Victoria Strait, travelling very near the actual location of the wreck of HMS Erebus, all the while, learning about the quest for exploration that eventually opened up the Arctic.
Cambridge Bay to Edmonton
Our journey through the Northwest Passage is all but complete as we approach the community of Cambridge Bay and drop anchor offshore. This remote outpost on the southern shores of Victoria Island, is a centre for hunting, trapping and fishing. The Inuit have had summer camps in the vicinity for hundreds of years.
What Our Customers
Superlatives abound – a truly amazing experience...awesome. Thanks to all for making it such a memorable experience.
We have just returned from our Spitsbergen trip with Wildfoot and had to tell you what an amazing time we had! We saw 6 polar bears including a mother with 2 cubs as well as whales, walruses and lots of birds. The ship (Expedition) was really comfortable and the guides were so helpful and friendly. Thank you so much for making it all so easy.
I came to Wildfoot because a friend had booked with you when you were Antarctica Bound and they were right. Everything went perfectly, even when our flight was cancelled, you made sure we still made it to the ship with time to spare. L’Austral is a beautiful ship with first class service and food and the guides looked after us well. Very happy to recommend Wildfoot and L’Austral...
We had always wanted to see the Arctic and travelling all the way from Australia needed lots of information. After getting nowhere, we came across Wildfoot and found people who knew what they were talking about! Sara and John were so helpful and made the process easy, suggesting Iceland Greenland and Spitsbergen. This was perfect for us – amazing scenery and lots of wildlife, especially the polar bears in Spitsbergen. Thanks for everything. Ps, the ship was great too!
Just wanted to say thank you for suggesting a trip to Franz Josef Land as something different for the Arctic. We had a super trip and really enjoyed the Sea Spirit. Galapagos next!
Standing on the North Pole has been an ambition of mine since childhood and now I have done it! Thank you for making the process so easy - seeing polar bears and whales too was a real bonus.
The Sea Spirit expedition was excellent and the team organising it all were extremely good. 10 out of 10. Everything went very smoothly. The Iceland extension worked perfectly, all the organisation, connections etc. were excellent
The cruise was beyond my expectations. Got to see everything the captain wanted, even a polar bear mother with three cubs. Coal Miners Cabins were smashing. I did loads of birding and exploring over three days. All the people were great from the expedition leaders down to the passengers. So glad to have achieved my ambition of some 50 years standing and got amongst the ice of the Arctic, walked amongst it’s islands and witnessed the antics of its wonderful wildlife. What’s next??? I’ll need to speak with Sara again.
Thanks so much for enabling me to get to places I had always wanted to see from a very young age. “Ace” as my boys used to say!
Just wanted to send a quick note to say thank you very much for all your help in arranging our recent trip to Svalbard. Everything ran smoothly and the trip was a great success. Unfortunately I had to flew back a few days early and missed out on Isfjord Radio, which the rest of the team said was a brilliant place with amazing food, still the Basecamp Hotel and Nordenskiold Lodge were pretty amazing places, so I’m not complaining!
Writing back to tell you that the trip to the Arctic was all that it promised and more. It was a great wild-life sightseeing opportunity and the staff were really good.I had an excellent trip and have thousands of photos to go through.
I had an absolutely fabulous time won the Sergey Vavilov, it is an excellent ship. Sara was indeed right in her recommendation that they would be the most likely to push north into the ice to find the polar bears. We even circumnavigated Spitsbergen which was awesome and not o n the itinerary.It is such a wonderful way to take a trip when you are on your own – so if any of your potential single clients are unsure, definitely recommend it – I didn’t feel alone from the moment I stepped on board. I will be at the Birdfair next weekend and so will catch up with whoever is there – regarding this trip, and potentially my next!
Great cruise, staff and expedition team. Had a great trip.
Great cruise, staff and expedition team. Had a great trip.
We had a wonderful time, even though we didn't do all the places we were supposed to but we all felt were we went instead couldn't beaten. Saw animals I wanted to see. Bit worried what the food was like as some of the ships cooking leaves something to be desired, but food was very good. We thought all the guides were brilliant and informative, friendly and knowledgeable It was far better than we expected and even my husband thoroughly enjoyed it!
I wanted to let you know that I had a wonderful cruise in the Russian Far East. The landscape and destination were inspiring, we had some excellent wildlife sightings (sea otter, grey whale, Steller's sea eagle, snowy owl and Arctic fox were all firsts for me), and the Heritage team were superb. Rough seas forced a few changes to the itinerary but we also had some fabulous weather. All in all, a thrilling travel experience.Thanks once again for all your efforts
I thought you might like to know that this was an excellent holiday. Our guide, Brad, was absolutely wonderful, his enthusiasm and knowledge made the holiday even better. All in all the whole trip was excellent and we saw lots of bears, 24 on the first day. Fewer on the second and third days but still plenty, as well as arctic foxes,silver foxes and snowy owls. Even on the last day near the town we saw a bear on rocks by the beach.
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