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Northwest Passage Expedition

Aboard the Sylvia Earle


The icy and labyrinthine channels of the legendary Northwest Passage have enchanted explorers and adventurers for centuries. Get a glimpse into the world that captivated early explorers such as Franklin, Amundsen, and Larsen by exploring a portion of the fabled Northwest Passage from aboard a comfortable expedition ship. Visit the final resting places of some of the heroic explorers to have ventured here and experience the archipelago of islands and channels that form Canada’s High Arctic region. Along the way, you may meet local indigenous people who call this remote wilderness home, and encounter enigmatic Arctic wildlife, including walrus, beluga whale, polar bear, musk ox, and the elusive narwhal. Pack ice always threatens to halt your voyage through the passage, adding a compelling element of adventure that is integral to any genuine expedition.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.


Day 1
Toronto, Canada

Arrive in Toronto and check in at the group hotel located near the airport. Overnight at Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel (or similar).

Day 2
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland / Embarkation

After breakfast at the hotel, board a charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where the Sylvia Earle awaits. After boarding, there is time to settle into your cabin before important safety briefings. The sailling out of Søndre Strømfjord, with its towering mountains on both sides, is magnificent. This evening, meet your expedition team and crew at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner.

Day 3

Greenland’s second largest town, Sisimiut is located approximately 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle, meaning that during summer, you can experience the midnight sun here. The town is famous for the old blue church with a gate made of whale bone. In the cozy museum next door to the church, you will find an excellent reconstruction of an Inuit turf house as well as exhibits of local history and early life in Greenland. Approximately 4,500 years ago, the Saqqaq culture arrived from Canada and settled in the area. They lived here for approximately 2,000 years, after which they mysteriously disappeared from the area. The Dorset culture arrived around 500 CE and stayed until the 1200s until they were replaced by the Thule culture, and today, the majority of the population of Sisimiut are descendants of the Thule culture.

Sisimiut offers hiking trails with various degrees of difficulty. The easier trails take you through the town itself, its outskirts, and into the mountains, where you will find spectacular vantage points

Day 4

Known as the “birthplace of icebergs,” this region produces some of the most dazzling icebergs found anywhere on Earth. Hike to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Icefjord and stand in awe of its immensity. Sermeq Kujalleq, also known as Jakobshavn Glacier, is the most productive glacier—not only in Greenland but the entire Northern Hemisphere. It produces 20 million tons of ice each day, all floating into the Ilulissat Icefjord and Disko Bay. Conditions permitting, enjoy a Zodiac cruise at the mouth of the fjord and kayak through sea ice and icebergs. An optional 90-minute helicopter flight over the icefjord is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Optional helicopter flight (90 mins): this excursion is the only way you can get close to the gigantic glacier. The 12-seater helicopter departs from Ilulissat Airport sweeping over hills, lakes, and ice fjords. Land on the mountain at Kangia, in the middle of the preserved area, where you can revel in the incredible surroundings. On the return flight to Ilulissat, fly above the edge of the glacier with breathtaking views of the massive icebergs drifting in the fjord. The views of some of the largest icebergs that become stranded on a moraine underneath the water, just outside the town, offers a wonderful finale to this excursion. Please note that this excursion requires a minimum of 8 passengers to operate.

Day 5
Qeqertarsuaq (Disko Island)

This compelling island seems to have more in common with Iceland than Greenland. While most of the interior is mountainous and glaciated, its beautiful shorelines boast black sandy beaches, unusual basalt columns, hot springs, and dramatic lava formations. Zodiac cruise in Disko Bay, which features fascinating geology. It is also a hotspot for marine life including humpback, fin, minke, and bowhead whales.

Day 6
At Sea / Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island

The expedition team entertains you with informative talks about wildlife, geology, and epic tales of early explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen. Reaching the coast of Baffin Island, you may encounter Greenland’s famous icebergs. Keep watch for humpback, sei, sperm, and fin whales, as well as various species of seals such as ring and harp seal.

Days 7-9
Baffin Island

The east coast of Baffin Island features hidden bays that are feeding grounds for bowhead whales and where glaciers calve into the sea. Sail along inlets and fjords surrounded by towering mountains that feature impressive geology. Some of the places you may visit include Home Bay, Isabella Bay, Sillem Island, John Ford Fjord, Sam Ford Fjord, and Scott Inlet. Conditions permitting, you may go ashore at Pond Inlet and be treated to a warm welcome from the local community. Covered with mountains, icefields, steep cliffs, snowfields, and glaciers, Bylot provides nesting habitat for large numbers of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. A total of 74 unique species of arctic bird thrive on this island. Due to the richness of the wildlife and the beauty and diversity of the landscapes in the area, a large portion of the island was also included in the Sirmilik National Park, established in 2001. The plan is to sail along the coastline of Bylot Island, where you may enjoy the scenery and outstanding birdlife.

Days 10-11
Devon Island, Lancaster Sound

At a latitude almost 75° degrees north, you are now truly in the High Arctic. Here, nutrient-rich waters support an abundance of wildlife, giving the area the moniker “wildlife super highway” of the Arctic. Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on Earth and features stunning geology, with flat-topped mountains and glacial valleys giving Devon Island its unique character. You may visit Dundas Harbor to enjoy walks on undulating tundra, and perhaps some birdwatching. Other possible places that you might visit include Croker Bay and Maxwell Bay. A dilapidated Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost and remnants of a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post can be found here. In the bay, walruses are often present.

At the western end of Devon Island lies Beechey Island. Named after Frederick William Beechey, the island is one of Canada’s most important arctic sites and is a designated Canadian National Historic Site. During the Franklin expedition of 1845–46, Franklin attempted to sail through the Northwest Passage with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with perilous results—three of his men are buried here. Roald Amundsen landed at Beechey Island in 1903, during the first successful voyage by ship to fully transit the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Days 12-15
Expedition Cruising

Note: In true expeditionary style, the itinerary for the following days is heavily dependent on unpredictable sea ice. The following places are where we hope to visit.

Prince Leopold Island
On the southern side of Lancaster Sound from Beechey Island lie the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island, a historic site where in 1848, English explorer James Clark Ross overwintered during the search for the missing Franklin expedition. Prince Leopold Island is the most important bird sanctuary in the Canadian Arctic, with approximately 500,000 birds nesting here in summer. Ringed seals are often spotted on the sea ice around the island and polar bear often lurk nearby. The shallow gravel beds attract beluga whales, who come to molt in this part of the Arctic each summer.

Cunningham Inlet
On the north coast of Somerset Island, when factors such as weather and whale behavior align, you might see the amazing spectacle of hundreds of beluga whales shedding their skin on shallow sandy banks. The local scenery makes for excellent guided walks, where waterway trails lead to waterfalls and higher ground.

Prince Regent Inlet, Fort Ross
Sailing down the east coast of Somerset Island, you might spot beluga whales and narwhals as they feed on the large numbers of arctic char that enter Creswell Bay in late summer. An important bird area, the bay also attracts such species as black-bellied plovers, king eiders, and white-rumped sandpipers. At Fort Ross, see an abandoned Hudson’s Bay Company trading outpost founded in 1937, which closed in 1949 because supply ships could not get through the thick sea ice. Enjoy guided walks on the tundra.

Bellot Strait
A deep and windy waterway bordered by steep slopes, Bellot Strait is characterized by strong, swirling, tidal currents that require navigation to be undertaken close to times of slack water (four times a day). Point Zenith, the most northern continental point of the Americas is located in the strait. Note: Due to swirling currents up to 10 knots, Bellot Strait is better transited during eastbound voyages because if it is blocked, there is the alternative to continue north through Peel Sound. On a westbound voyage, it would be necessary to make a long detour back north through Prince Regent Inlet.

Coningham Bay
Across from Victoria Strait, Coningham Bay lies on the shores of Prince of Wales Island. This is a polar bear hotspot where the majestic creatures come to feast on beluga whales often trapped 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!

King William Island
In 1859, a Franklin expedition tent camp was discovered at Cape Felix. Remains attributed to the Franklin expedition have been found at 35 locations on King William Island and on nearby Adelaide Peninsula. South of Cape Felix, in Victoria Strait, you may visit Victory Point and get close to where the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were abandoned in 1848.

Day 16
Cambridge Bay

In Cambridge Bay, bid farewell to the crew, expedition team, and fellow travelers before a Zodiac shuttle whisks you ashore. Transfer to the airport for a charter flight to Calgary, where you will overnight at a hotel.

Day 17
Calgary / Depart

After breakfast, check out of your room and continue your journey.

Calgary to Toronto Itinerary

Days 1-2: Calgary / Fly to Cambridge Bay / Embark
Days 3-6: Expedition Cruising
Day 7: Lancaster Sound, Beechey Island
Day 8: Devon Island, Lancaster Sound
Day 9: Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), Bylot Island
Day 10: Sillem Island
Day 11: Isabella Bay
Day 12: Qikiqtarjuaq (Baffin Island) / At Sea
Day 13: Qeqertarsuaq (Disko Island)
Day 14: Ilulissat
Day 15: Sisimiut
Days 16-17: Disembark in Kangerlussuaq / Fly to Toronto / Depart



Marvel at Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hike on Devon Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island, with its stunning geology, fjords, and glacial valleys to explore
On Beechey Island, visit memorials and graves of explorers from John Franklin’s expedition
Keep watch with the hope of spotting iconic Arctic wildlife including musk ox, polar bears, beluga whales, walrus, and perhaps narwhal


Length: 17 days
Cost From: $18,895  
Arrive: Toronto, Canada
Depart: Calgary, Canada
Lodging: 14 nights aboard an expedition vessel, 2 nights hotel
Meals: All meals aboard ship, including wine, beer, and soft drinks with dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking, Walking, Wildlife and Natural History, Special Interest, Photography, Hiking / Trekking, Whale Watching, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

14-day cruise, nature walks, Zodiac cruises