(Baffin Bay Cruise)
The Arctic has an allure that grips many adventurers. Whether it’s the Inuit culture of the Canadian North, the incredible wildlife along the fringe of the ice, or the riveting history of exploration that captivates many a reader, one thing is for sure- there is a magnetizing force which draws those in search of adventure. Over the course of this expedition voyage you will cross the highly anticipated Arctic Circle at least twice aboard your polar-outfitted ship, as you venture and explore the frontier territory of the Eastern Canadian Arctic. A parallel of latitude located at about 66 degrees and 33 minutes North, the Arctic Circle marks the southernmost latitude where the sun stays above the horizon for 24-hours on the Summer Solstice. By ship, zodiac and land, discover Inuit culture, search for polar bears, seals, walrus, whales and arctic fox, and uncover the majesty of the Canadian Arctic around Baffin Island.
Cruise Departures (2014):
Iqaluit, the capital and largest community of Nunavut, is located at the head of Frobisher Bay, on Baffin Island. With an average monthly temperature below zero degrees for eight months of the year, the permafrost inhibits the growth of large trees and shrubs. One might see a low to the ground Arctic willow, however, keep your eyes open, they don’t typically stand higher than 6" from the ground. Following a group walking tour of Iqaluit, your water-based adventure starts when you board your expedition vessel by zodiac.
Welcome aboard!Take some time to get settled in to your stateroom, and to explore the length of your ship. You'll be setting sail shortly.
Akademik Ioffe was designed and built in Finland for the Russian Academy of Science, to travel quietly, during hydro-acoustic research. The vessel carries a maximum of 107 guests in a variety of cabin configurations. This Polar Adventure Ship is exceptionally maneuverable and quick. External stabilizers and a built-in trimming system provide exceptional stability. Akademik Ioffe, sister ship to Akademik Sergey Vavilov, has an ice-strengthened hull and a cruising speed in open water of 14.5 knots. All cabins have exterior views. Cabins have either shared, semi-private or private facilities. One dining room with unreserved seating. Lounge and bar, open afternoon and evening. Theater-style presentation room.
At the mouth of Frobisher Bay and the southeast tip of Baffin Island, the Lower Savage Islands are an archipelago of islands that look like they have been split apart by a large hammer. A maze of channels and small islets, this is a fantastic place to explore by zodiac. You'll be dropped off by the ship, and will begin to walk across this intriguing landscape. The mixing of waters offshore makes it quite rich in marine life and you'll be looking for the first polar bears of the voyage on this excursion.
Today you'll anchor at Kimmirut (Lake Harbour) and transfer ashore by zodiac. A beautiful town awaits your visit, with community members providing a warm welcome. Here you'll have an opportunity to hike and tour the town. Later in the day, you'll aim to land at High Bluff Island for a nature-based excursion. Walking, hiking, photographic and kayaking opportunities abound, as you make your way ashore. An inuksuk (man-made stone marker shaped like a human) can be seen along a hike to the high point on the island, for anyone looking for a more challenging option.
The largest island in Ungava Bay, Akpatok Island is home to one of the great seabird colonies of the Arctic. The limestone cliffs rising up to 800 feet above sea level are home to thick-billed murres (also known as Brunnich's guillemots), black guillemots and black-legged kittiwakes. Where there are sea bird colonies, you may also find peregrine falcons and Arctic fox. Given appropriate sea conditions, plan to explore the base of these cliffs by zodiac.
Named for the wife of Sir John Franklin, the explorer of Northwest Passage note, Lady Franklin Island bears an interesting resemblance to Lady Franklin herself. From a distance, the island is not imposing and doesn’t stand out however, as you approach there is an appearance of something formidable. And, as you really start to explore it, you realize that it is a force to be reckoned with. All much like Lady Franklin who almost single-handedly kept the search going for her missing husband for years if not decades after his disappearance. In fact, only recently, in August 2012 the Canadian government launched its latest search for Franklin and his ships.
More than just for its intrinsic value, Lady Franklin Island is also a good spot to find polar bear, caribou and gyrfalcons. You'll slowly approach by ship and drop the zodiacs for cruise and possible landing on this island.
While the expedition crew cannot be certain where the ice edge will be, you'll sail for the ice in Davis Strait in order to experience this dramatic transit zone. Much of the Arctic sea life seems to be interested in this transit zone as well, keeping your eyes peeled for bearded, hooded and ringed seals as well as polar bears and walrus. Who knows, perhaps a bowhead whale will be cruising the ice edge. Spotting scopes and binoculars will be in use as everyone scans the ice looking for wildlife. If conditions permit, you will even launch the zodiacs so that you can get into the ice and explore.
Sunshine Fjord straddles the Arctic Circle. Who knows, on this day, you might cruise across the Circle on the ship, zodiac cruise across it in the zodiacs and even hike across it on shore. A beautiful place to hike, there will be various groups going for elevation as well as traversing the shoreline of the fjord. The sea kayakers will take advantage of often-sheltered conditions for a paddle here.
We turn back south away from the Arctic Circle and sail toward the mouth of Cumberland Sound. Protecting the northern entrance to Cumberland Sound, Cape Mercy is an exposed headland jutting out into Davis Strait. As the Baffin Bay middle ice recedes throughout the summer, the stretch of Baffin coast from Cape Mercy to Cape Dyer is a great place to find polar bears coming ashore. All eyes will be searching as you sail this region.
Nestled in the heart of Cumberland Sound and the gateway to Auyuittuq National Park, Pangnirtung is beautifully situated between the mountains and the sea. This town is known for its arts and crafts and a visit to the art gallery is a must. In addition, the Angmarlik Visitor Centre has a wonderful interpretive display featuring the lifestyle of the Thule and of the modern Inuit.
Leave Cumberland Sound behind as you sail south through Davis Strait and back towards Frobisher Bay. Your last excursion is to visit Monumental Island. An offshore island in Davis Strait, it is a known spot for finding walrus. You'll launch the zodiacs and search the shoreline for them. When seen up close, the sheer size of these creatures creates the impression they would be slow and slovenly, however in the water their dynamic ability to twist and turn is inspiring to even the fastest swimmer. Watchful eyes may locate smaller pups within the masses. Taking your time in the zodiacs at this site allows for nature to take its course and our small group to witness the brilliance of it. Polar bears are often found here and have been known to chase the walrus off their haul out and into the water.
Arriving back into the capital of Nunavut, you disembark here and take a transfer to the airport for your flight home.
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