Visit towering fjords, historical sites and Inuit communities as you follow in the footsteps of famous explorers from long ago in the Canadian High Arctic.
The picturesque Inuit hamlet of Pangnirtung, nicknamed the Switzerland of the Arctic, is nestled beneath the jagged peaks of Mount Duval. An artist’s hub, Pang is renowned for its traditional Inuit arts and crafts, especially lithographs and intricate tapestries. At the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts & Crafts, watch craftspeople in the tapestry studio if they’re working and pick up a limited-edition print. A must for visitors, a colorful Pang hat will keep you warm during the remainder of your Arctic voyage. You might visit nearby Kekerten, an uninhabited island that was a major whaling destination in the 1800s.
At the southern tip of the Cumberland Sound, Cape Mercy was named by British explorer John Davis (yes, he of the Davis Strait), who sailed through it in 1585. This is the site of an old Distant Early Warning Line installation, dating back to the Cold War. These and many other stations were set up to detect Soviet bombers. It’s an ideal spot to go ashore for a hike.
As icebergs travel down the Davis Strait, they’re naturally trapped at Qikiqtarjuaq (formerly known as Broughton Island). The icy waters here are sometimes also home to beluga and bowhead whales, and ring and harp seals. A hike up to the hilltop inuksuk rewards with spectacular views of the community. Inuksuks are stone figures or cairns that traditionally call attention to the location for navigation, abundant harvesting or spiritual significance.
Cruising further north along the mountainous east shore of Baffin Island, we’ll approach Isabella Bay, an important summer and fall feeding area for the largest concentration of bowhead whales in Canada. Bowheads are a truly a remarkable arctic leviathan that research has revealed may live more than 200 years of age - the oldest mammal.
At the northern tip of Baffin Island, near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, is the Inuit hamlet of Pond Inlet, surrounded by scenic mountains, fjords, glaciers and icebergs. Many in the community still follow a nomadic lifestyle and hunt for their food.
At the top of Baffin Island sits Lancaster Sound, a true arctic oasis. Known by the Inuit and their predecessors for thousands of years, this channel and the surrounding lands are extremely rich in wildlife and history, both indigenous and European.
The area around Lancaster Sound affords several hiking opportunities. At Dundas Harbour, on Devon Island, you’ll visit an abandoned beachside outpost of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. At nearby Croker Bay, cruise in a Zodiac (at a safe distance) along the face of an actively calving glacier. Your Expedition Team will also keep its eyes peeled for walrus that are known to visit the bay. Farther west, some of the best ancient Thule remains in the Arctic are at Radstock Bay, beside the soaring Caswell Towers.
At the western end of Devon Island, the windswept Beechey Island is steeped in history. Named after famed British explorer Frederick William Beechey, it’s a Canadian National Historic Site. You’ll visit the small marked graves of three crew members who died during Sir John Franklin’s tragic 1845–46 expedition. Over 150 years later, Roald Amundsen
landed here in 1903, during the first successful voyage by ship through the Northwest Passage.
Sailing down the east coast of Somerset Island, you may be fortunate to spot beluga whales and if you’re very fortunate, narwhals, as they feed at Creswell Bay. An Important Bird Area, the bay also attracts such species as black-bellied plovers, king eiders and white-rumped sandpipers. You’ll also have time to explore Fort Ross, where the Hudson’s Bay Company established a now abandoned trading post in 1937. At the midpoint of the Bellot Strait, the narrow channel that separates Somerset Island from mainland North America, you’ll reach the northernmost area of the continental landmass, Zenith Point.