While the history of the 300-year search for the Northwest Passage which links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is well documented, travellers in search of a polar adventure may be less aware of the huge variety and numbers of wildlife to be enjoyed during a voyage through the Canadian High Arctic.
According to Aaron Lawton, a Northwest Passage Expedition leader, it is possible to be truly inundated and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of marine mammals, polar bears and birdlife that appear during such a voyage.
Lawton says: “One memorable day at Beechey Island last summer saw three polar bears; two white morph adult gyrfalcons taking turns feeding their chick; three beluga whales swimming along the shoreline; a bearded seal poking its head up from time to time; hundreds of harp seals, thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes, thick-billed murres and even a few black guillemots! Plus, about a dozen Arctic hares were easily visible even from the ship’s anchorage.”
This bombardment of wildlife sightings is by no means an isolated experience as passengers on board the impressive ice-strengthened Akademik Ioffe will discover. Using zodiacs (inflatable boats) with the quietest of motors, travelling upwind of a polar bear, it is possible to safely get within metres of these beautiful creatures as they stroll along the shoreline. And, with a real chance of seeing pods of beluga or bowhead whales, a raft of ringed, harp or bearded seals, a herd of walrus and staggering numbers of birds, many with chicks in various stages of fledging – it is certain to be a wildlife experience to remember.
Travelling along one of the most legendary shipping routes in the world also provides a fascinating opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a host of courageous polar explorers, including the ill-fated Sir John Franklin and Roald Amundsen, the first to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage.
Today’s adventurer will travel in much greater comfort than the remarkable polar explorers who went before them. Facilities on board include a bar and lounge, a library and media room, plus a theatre-style presentation room, gift-shop and wellness centre with massage, sauna and hot tub, as well as a dining room serving sumptuous meals throughout the voyage.
Additional highlights of the 14-night trip, which travels between Kangerlussuaq in Greenland and Coppermine in Canada, include majestic, steep-sided fjords and massive tabular icebergs; the chance to visit remote Inuit communities and meet traditional Greenlandic kayakers; and the opportunity to participate in hiking, kayaking, photographic and birding expeditions in the company of expert guides.
There is a choice of two voyages through the Northwest Passage this summer.