One of the highlights of the new edition of The Great Canadian Bucket List, if not my entire journey, was crossing the mythical Northwest Passage. A fantastic company named
One Ocean Expeditions, operating out of Squamish BC charters a Russian expedition ship for summer journeys into the high Arctic. Dedicated to science, nature and history (as opposed to leisure and decadence), it is a journey one hemisphere and several worlds away from your typical cruise ship. As we followed in the footsteps of the doomed Franklin Expedition (OOE was instrumental in the discovery of the Franklin ships), the landscape, culture and magic of the Arctic revealed itself.
Joining me was one of Canada’s best photographers,
Jeff Topham, who captured many of the incredible images I will share with you below.
All aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov in Kangerlussuaq Greenland, to sail across the Baffin Sea.
Sea ice comes in many forms. Sometimes you can brush it aside, sometimes it stops you in your tracks. One thing was immediately obvious: the sea ice in the Arctic is melting at an astonishing rate.
After a smooth sailing, we arrived in the remote Arctic community of Pond Inlet.
Pond Inlet locals demonstrate throat singing and various Inuit games and customs.
84 passengers and 66 crew sail into Lancaster Sound tracing the Franklin Expedition. Each evening we are shown satellite sea ice charts and track our progress.
There is an opportunity for passengers to book kayak expeditions.
On Devon Island, the starkness, beauty and remoteness of the Arctic rattles your bones.
Sea ice on the shore
While the passenger crew are mainly North American, the ship crew are all Russian.
Hiking on the tundra, we encounter ancient Thule sites. The sun never sets, and you can see forever.
A zodiac expedition to see the cliffs of Prince Leopold Island, where tens of thousands of sea birds migrate.
Beechey Island, a rocky wasteland, brings home the history and horrors of the Franklin Expedition. Three crew members remain buried in the permafrost.
A Zodiac excursion to see the glacier in Sirmilik National Park. We had to turn back because of rough seas.
In the lounge, with views on all sides, guests gather to share stories, listen to lectures, music, and sample the best and most affordable Scotch Bar this side of the Arctic!
Hitching a ride from a remote outpost was famed Arctic painter Cory Trepanier, working on a new exhibition.
Raw baby beluga skin, known as muktuk, is offered as an Inuit delicacy. Best chased down with a single malt.
Our onboard Inuit interpreter, Leslie, demonstrate how to communicate with your eyes, vital during the freezing winter months.
In Conningham Bay, a polar bear feasts on the remains of a baby beluga whale. Wildlife is scarce and skittish, but you don’t see moments like this anywhere else.
Will you see icebergs? Oh boy, will you see icebergs!
The crew do an amazing job of providing delicious, fresh meals throughout the journey. Nobody goes hungry, and a hot meal in these surroundings is particularly appreciated.
A shore briefing from Nate, our co-expedition leader for the trip. Everyone is kitted out in survival suits and safety is paramount. With photographer Jeff Topham, at an abandoned RCMP post on Devon Island.
Tick this one off your own Bucket List with Great Canadian Trails.