By Jennifer Hartley
Nothing can prepare you for a trip like this one. The desolate, spectacular beauty overwhelms. There are vast ice floes, polar bears, floating icebergs the size of hotels, glaciers and fjords that are over 100 kilometres long. The sunsets at 12:30 a.m., the sunrises that greet you just three hours later and the aquamarine hue of the water are all astounding. Truly, you must witness these marvels first-hand to experience the full impact and there is nobody better to offer the experience than Adventure Canada. Since 1987, this family-run business has specialized in bringing passengers to remote and hard-to-reach parts of our world.
The High Arctic Explorer, a 12-day voyage with an itinerary from Resolute Bay to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, is a never-ending feast for the senses from the minute you board the Ocean Endeavour. The mid-sized ship, carrying 198 passengers and 124 crew members, is warm, comfortable and has amenities such as a sauna, a library and a hot tub on deck. The usual cruise activities—bars, dancing, live music, movies and delicious meals—will keep you entertained. But along with that, onboard experts provide in-depth programming in geology, archeology, Arctic history, culture and the environment. Over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, they help you make sense of everything you see off the ship. Onboard TV monitors display fun facts about where you are going and highlight an Inuktitut word of the day, such as imarjuaq (ocean) or nanuk (polar bear).
Zodiac on the Sea
Each voyage is different. Adventures pop up and organizers grab them. You may go gliding through the sea in a Zodiac to get close to glaciers or go zig zagging through sea ice to get to shore, observing sea birds as you go along. Watching polar bears hopping across chunks of ice brings home the reality of climate change. They rely on sea ice as a platform to fish. It is heartbreaking to think human activity changes that. Actually, this trip will make an environmentalist out of anyone.
Ice packing can change everything on a dime, limiting ability to go to shore. Weather, ice conditions and the fierceness of the seas can also upend plans. But one of the impressive things about travelling with Adventure Canada is the company’s ability to amend itineraries on the fly to ensure a meaningful and breathtaking experience no matter what.
And you will love every minute of it. In 12 days, you can soak up mountains, experience the peace of quietude or feel the sea’s fury, as we did. While it was both compelling and slightly unnerving, we were safe every step of the way. The Adventure Canada team takes safety to the extreme, but it is critical. The power of nature is humbling.
Here are some highlights of the trip:
The largest uninhabited island in the world, Devon is haunting and beautiful with its glacial valleys and substantial ice cap. You will experience it in a Zodiac. If you are lucky, you will see the cap calving an iceberg and hear its roar as the ice falls into the water with dazzling power.
Devon is a hiker’s heaven. The range of vegetation hugging the ground is incredible. Life is everywhere. History buffs will love visiting the archaeological sites, especially since expert interpretation is provided.
There is a sense of calm and wonder here and the natural magnificence evokes a deep sense of awe. However, the temperature and weather can change with dizzying speed. It has been said that Devon is the closest you can come to visiting another planet, and in some ways it is. NASA and the Canadian Space Agency use Devon as a Mars stand-in for training. Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen did a stint here to learn.
Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), Nunavut
Pond Inlet is on the northeastern shore of Baffin Island. The Inuit are renowned for their hospitality and the people here are no exception. Adventure Canada has been building relationships with them for over 30 years and the positive vibe is palpable. The tour company organizes fundraisers onboard for the local food bank that raise tens of thousands of dollars each sailing.
Pond Inlet cultural ambassadors will regale you with their stories, songs, throat singing and dancing. Take the opportunity to learn about these people by asking questions and walking around town.
Eighty percent of Greenland, the largest island in the world, is covered in ice. Its ice sheet is second only to that of Antarctica and it’s larger in size than Alberta. There are glacier-fed waters, mountain landscapes, rugged coastlines and glaciers dripping down like candle wax between steep-sided fjords. Some villages are only accessible via boat. Depending on your voyage and weather, you may end up exploring the towns of Sisimiut and/or Ilulissat or Disko Island. Everyplace you go is quaint and encompasses a mix of European (Danish) and Inuit (cousins to Canadian Inuit) influences.
Sisimiut, a fishing town, is the second largest community in Greenland with a population of just over 5,500. It’s reminiscent of St. John’s, Newfoundland, with its jelly bean-coloured houses, but it has a Euro feel.
Ilulissat is the third largest community, with just over 4,600 residents and thousands of sled dogs. It’s also home to Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn glacier), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s known as the world’s fastest moving glacier. The expanse of ice is mind-boggling; it is thought the iceberg that sank the Titanic originated here.
Sondre Stromfjord is one of the longest fjords in the world and boasts 168 kilometres of superb scenery that you experience while sailing up to Kangerlussuaq, from where you fly home. Even if passing in the night, it is visible because of the midnight sun.
Without exception, the Greenlanders and Inuit are kind. They have deep respect for the land, sea and majesty that envelop them. Then there are the people you meet onboard. The Adventure Canada staff and the crew are outstanding. And, if you are lucky, you might click with other travellers and make new friends. That is another bonus of sharing this kind of experience.
Adventure Canada provides a transformative glimpse of our world’s magnificence. It is the opportunity of a lifetime. If you can, grab it. adventurecanada.com