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Sylvia Earle - 126 Guests

Northwest Passage

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. 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, we hope to 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 our voyage through the passage, adding a compelling element of adventure that is integral to any genuine expedition.


 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stand in awe of Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Hike on Devon Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island, which features 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

DATES / RATES

Rates are listed per person
Start DateEnd DateFrom EURFrom USD
Jul 27, 2023Aug 12, 202317,442 18,895
Aug 10, 2023Aug 26, 202317,442 18,895
Jul 20, 2024Aug 05, 202419,473 21,095
Aug 03, 2024Aug 19, 202419,473 21,095
Rates are listed per person
Start DateEnd DateFrom EURFrom USD
Jul 27, 2023Aug 12, 202317,442 18,895
Aug 10, 2023Aug 26, 202317,442 18,895
Jul 20, 2024Aug 05, 202419,473 21,095
Aug 03, 2024Aug 19, 202419,473 21,095


ITINERARY

Day 1: Kirkenes. Embark the Greg Mortimer
Arrive in Kirkenes, Norway, where you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions to commence a tour of Kirkenes prior to boarding the Greg Mortimer late afternoon.

The tour of Kirkenes starts with a drive to the Russian border to learn about the significant historical events that have occured in this area. Afterwards, continue to the mining community at Bjørnevatn, discovered in the 1860s and holding the largest iron reserve in Norway. The proliferation of mines in the area were home to many people during the fighting and liberation at the end of World War II. At Mount Storfjellet, enjoy marvelous views of the area before ending your tour with a visit to the Borderland Museum, different to traditional war museums by focusing on the effects of war on people rather than exhibiting war paraphernalia. Learn about the Soviet prisoners of war, deported teachers and many other fascinating, seldom-heard stories.

Transfer to the pier for embarkation, where you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings

Day 2: Murmansk
After sailing overnight into Russia, we stop in Murmansk to undergo formalities required to enter Russia. During clearance procedures, you will have the opportunity to go on a city tour of Murmansk, as well as the choice between visiting Lenin, the world's first nuclear icebreaker, or the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO).

Murmansk City Tour and the First Nuclear Icebreaker

Visit the Palace of Culture, Memorial of the Defenders of Kola Land, Savior-on-Waters Complex Memorial and a visit to the Orthodox Church. Continue to the icebreaker.

The historic icebreaker Lenin is the world’s first civilian nuclear-powered vessel. Built for use in waters that are continuously covered by ice, these ships are significantly more powerful than their diesel-powered counterparts. Lenin was launched in 1959 and served for 30 years plying the ice-covered waters of the Northern Passage. Converted to a museum, visitors are now able to experience a guided tour to see the inner facilities of the icebreaker including the bridge, where the nuclear reactor was kept.

Murmansk City Tour & Museum of the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO)

Murmansk is a unique and fascinating Russian city situated on the north coast of Kola Peninsula. Murmansk is the largest city in the world above the Arctic Circle with a population of approximately 350,000 people.

On this excursion, visit the Palace of Culture, Memorial of the Defenders of Kola Land, Savior-on-Waters Complex Memorial and a visit to the Orthodox Church. Continue to the Museum to the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO) for a guided tour.

The Museum was opened in 1977 and covers the history of Arctic exploration, particularly the development of the Northern Passage known in Russia as “The Great Northern Sea Route”. There are great exhibitions of historic photographs, a portrait gallery of polar captains, nautical devices, displays of ship bells, a model of a nuclear reactor and a fascinating collection of micro model ships.

Note: It’s recommended to wear comfortable shoes for the excursion. A reasonable level of fitness is required as some uphill walking, narrow stairs and 200 steps to climb at the Monument to the Defenders of the Kola land. Women are advised to cover their heads during the visit to the church.

Days 3-4: At Sea and Novaya Zemlya
Over the next two days at sea, enjoy informative and entertaining lectures from our expert expedition team including naturalists, historians and geologists. We will cruise along the coast of Novaya Zemlya to have our first glimpse of the tundra of the high Arctic. Novaya Zemlya was once an important nuclear research site during the cold war and today, only a few places in the north are accessible to visitors. These islands offer stunning rugged arctic landscapes - enormous extinct volcanoes, jagged cliffs and the most isolated mountain range in the Baltic Sea. Time and weather permitting, we will attempt to launch our Zodiacs to explore the Oransky Islands late on Day 4. Fingers crossed!

Just north of the northern tip of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago is Oransky, a group of several small inshore islands located within the Russian Arctic National Park established in 2009. The islands themselves are not inhabited by humans, but remnants of early hunting activity are visible. At the nearby Zhelania Cape, situated at the northeastern-most tip of the Northern Island, a manned weather station was operated as well as a military base, but both were closed in the 1990s. On Oransky Islands, Brünnich’s guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous gulls, black guillemots, Atlantic puffins and great skuas can be found breeding. You may get a chance to see a massive walrus rookery, various species of whale and the Novaya Zemlya reindeer. If we're very lucky, we may also see polar bear, and the ones found at Novaya Zemlya are considered to be a genetically unique sub-species.

Days 5-11: Franz Josef Land
Franz Josef Land is a stark yet beautiful world of glaciers, mosses and lichens. Approximately five million sea birds nest on the archipelago every year, with the thick-billed guillemot accounting for approximately 20%. Other seabirds such as fulmar, kittiwake, Brünnich's guillemot, black guillemot and little auk are common throughout the archipelago. On the flat tundra nest other species such as: common eider, purple sandpiper, Arctic skua, glaucous gull, ivory gull, Arctic tern and snow bunting. Franz Josef Land is home to two arctic giants – the polar bear and the walrus. There is also a population of Arctic fox, which typically have their territories near seabird habitats. The waters of Franz Josef Land are visited by whales, including humpback, bowhead, narwhal, and white beluga whale. Walrus, ringed seals, bearded seals and an amazing species of mammals, choose Franz Josef Land and the water areas around it as their home.

While there are many exciting places we can choose to visit over the following week, weather, wind, and sea-ice conditions will determine our itinerary in Franz Josef Land. A sample of some of the places where we may land, hike, photograph or view spectacular wildlife and scenery include:

Bell and Mabel Island
The remains of an empty cabin built in 1880 by British explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith can be found on Bell Island. On Mabel island offers an opportunity to get close to a little auk colony as the birds nest between the rocks on the slope above the beach where the Zodiacs land.

Cape Flora - Northbrook Island
Located in an unglaciated area in the Southwest of Northbrook Island, Cape Flora is one of the most famous historical site in Franz Josef Land because it is one of the most accessible locations in the archipelago and often served as a base for polar expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cape Flora features some of the most beautiful tundra in Franz Josef Land, but landings on the rocky beach, which is prone to swell from the Barents Sea can often be tricky. Cape Flora is where Benjamin Leigh Smith’s vessel Eira was shipwrecked in 1881, after being trapped in pack ice.

Geographers Bay (Prince George Land)
Prince George is the largest and longest island of the Franz Josef Archipelago. Most of the island is covered in large glaciers and ice domes, such as the Brusilov Ice Dome - the highest point of the island. A landing at Geographers Bay allows for a hike up one of the ice domes to stretch our legs and to enjoy the wonderful views over the archipelago, as Prince George Island is not fully glaciated. It’s also a great spot for enjoying the typical flowers of the north Arctic tundra.

Tikhaya Bukta (Hooker Island)
Tikhaya Bay was a major base for polar expeditions, and where a team of meteorologists from the Russian Sedov station were marooned at the beginning of the Second World War. It was also the location of a meteorological station between 1929 and 1963. The remains of the old Russian station is worth visiting and after thousands of rusting barrels were found and cleared here five 5 years ago, the station now resembles a ghost town or a living museum. You will also find here the world’s northernmost (Russian) post office!

Rubini Rock (Hooker Island)
The impressive basalt cliffs create the best bird cliffs in the archipelago housing more than 100,000 birds comprising of mostly Brünnich guillemot, but also kittiwake and little auks. The bird cliff lies just off Calm Bay and is perfect for Zodiac cruises. The island is a volcanic plug, the central remains of conical volcano.

Cape Tegethoff (Hall Island)
The place of the first landing in 1873 by Austro-Hungarian expeditioners Julius Von Payer and Karl Weyprecht after the Tegethoff sunk in 1873. Beautiful basalt rocks and bird cliff rookery of guillemot, gulls, kittiwake and little auks.

Cape Triest, Champ Island
Champ Island is famous for the incredible stone spheres (geodes), commonly called “Devils Marbles” with sizes ranging from tennis balls to boulders that are three metres in diameter! These rocks are a unique geological feature that can be found only in the Arctic regions. Keep a look out for walrus in the water or hauled out on the beach.

Sarko Passage - Newcombe sound (Nansen archipelago)
Beautifully glaciated landscape featuring an enormous glacier front with a lot of sea Ice. It’s one of the best spots to marvel at glaciers, ice and perhaps polar bears!

Cape Norway (Jackson Island)
The place where the famous Norwegian explorers Fritjoj Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen spent the winter of 1895-96 after returning from their attempt to reach the North Pole. We can see the remains of the stone hut built by the men including a big log that was used as a makeshift roof. A commemorative plaque provides marks this event where the men survived the winter until the following summer, when they resumed their journey southwards.

Cape Fligely (Prince Rudolf Island)
At 81° 51’N, this is the northernmost point of Eurasia, where we can cruise along the ice edge and perhaps get a glimpse to the North Pole in clear weather conditions.

Teplitz Bay (Prince Rudolf Island)
An old abandoned Russian meteorological station is located here – it was once the northernmost weather station in the world. The bay is often chock full of ice but provides a marvellous opportunity to enjoy the northernmost zodiac cruise!

Walrus Haulout at Stolichky (Stoliczka) or Apollonov Island
Walrus can be found everywhere on the sea ice in the Franz Josef archipelago. We hope to visit one of the established haul-out sites to observe them on land. Polar bears can be seen almost everywhere on, or between the islands. We may see some on land but we hope to find them on the pack Ice, their natural habitat. Seeing polar bears is a highlight of a voyage to Franz Josef Land and can happen at any moment. We will change the itinerary in case we encounter one or more bears, maximising every opportunity spending time observing the king of the Arctic!

Days 12-13: At Sea
The return crossing of the Barents Sea offers some good opportunities to encounter whales, perhaps the elusive bowhead whale if we’re lucky, and certainly plenty of opportunities to photograph sea birds.

Day 14: Murmansk
Back in Murmansk for clearance procedures before continuing to Kirkenes.

Day 15: Disembark Kirkenes
Arrive in Kirkenes in the morning, farewell your expedition team and fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature. A transfer to the airport is included in the cost of the voyage.Day 1 Arrive Toronto
Having made your way to Toronto Airport, check-in at Westin Toronto Airport Hotel for an overnight stay. At our welcome briefing this evening, enjoy a drink and meet fellow expeditioners. A representative from Aurora Expeditions will provide you with important information about biosecurity and also about the charter flight to Kangerlussuaq tomorrow. You will receive Aurora Expeditions cabin tags for your luggage. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number.

Accommodation: Westin Toronto Airport Hotel (or similar)

Day 2 Embarkation, Kangerlussuaq
Please ensure that your luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. Any valuables or personal items should be kept on you throughout the day. Your luggage will be delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board.

After breakfast at the hotel, board our charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where our vessel Sylvia Earle awaits. After boarding, there is time to settle into your cabin before our 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 Sisimiut
Greenland’s second largest town, Sisimiut is located approximately 54 kilometres (33.5 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 the gate made of whale bone. In the cosy 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.. 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.

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.

Day 4 Ilulissat
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 tonnes 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 and sweeps 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. (Additional charge applies). Please note this excursion requires a minimum of 8 people 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. On a guided hike, enjoy a diversity of arctic flora. Zodiac cruise in Disko Bay, a hotspot for marine life including humpback, fin, minke and bowhead whales.

Day 6 At sea, Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island
Our team of experts entertain us with informative talks about wildlife, geology and epic tales of early explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen. Reaching the coast of Baffin Island, we 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.

Day 7 Isabella Bay
Farther north along the east coast of Baffin Island we visit Isabella Bay, an important summer and autumn feeding ground for a large population of bowhead whales.

Day 8 Sillem Island
We sail around Sillem Island, with glacial features on all sides. A slow cruise offers the chance to see many glaciers as well as a variety of seals and other arctic wildlife.

Day 9 Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), Bylot Island
The picturesque hamlet of Pond Inlet, overlooking Eclipse Sound, is surrounded by scenic mountain ranges and numerous glaciers and fjords. Travellers come to marvel at the abundant wildlife hoping to see narwhals, beluga and orca whales, ringed and harp seals, caribou and the occasional polar bear. Explore churches and visit the Natinnak Center to see exhibits showcasing the culture and history of the local Inuit people.

In the afternoon, sail along coastline of nearby Bylot Island. 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.

Day 10 Devon Island, Lancaster Sound
At a latitude almost 75° degrees north, we 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. We may explore Croker Bay or Maxwell Bay, both offering great opportunities for Zodiac cruising. Dundas Harbour offers walks on undulating tundra and the area is great for birdwatching. 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.

Day 11 Beechey Island, Lancaster Sound
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 died 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, our 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 moult in this part of the Arctic each summer.

Cunningham Inlet
On the north coast of Somerset Island, when factors such as weather and whale behaviour 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 characterised 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, we hope to 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, farewell the crew, expedition team and fellow travellers before a Zodiac shuttle whisks you ashore. Transfer to the airport for a charter flight to Calgary, where you will stay overnight.

Accommodation: Delta Calgary Airport Hotel (or similar)

Day 17 Depart Calgary
Check out of your room and continue your journey.

Sylvia Earle (Luxury Expedition, 126-guests)

Due to sail in October 2021 our new ship honours the highly accomplished marine biologist, oceanographer and explorer, Sylvia Earle. As the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998 - this vessel pays tribute to Sylvia's long standing conservation efforts for marine protected areas and ocean wildlife. Sylvia Earle will be actively involved in the development of her namesake.

(Click image to view Ship details)

WHAT'S INCLUDED

  • All transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Welcome reception / pre-embarkation briefing on Day 1.
  • One night's hotel accommodation including breakfast, in Toronto on Day 1.
  • One night's hotel accommodation including breakfast, in Calgary on Day 16.
  • Charter flight from Toronto to Kangerlussuaq on Day 2.
  • Charter flight from Cambridge Bay to Calgary on Day 16.
  • Departure transfer from the pier to airport on Day 16.
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service.
  • All meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage.
  • Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner.
  • Captain's Welcome and Farewell receptions including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises.
  • Educational lectures and guiding services provided by Expedition Team.
  • Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consultation).
  • One 3-in-1 waterproof polar expedition jacket.
  • Complimentary use of Muck Boots during the voyage.
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information.
  • Port surcharges, permits and landing fees.
  • Gratuities for ship's crew.
Exclusions
  • International or domestic flights – unless specified in itinerary.
  • Transfers – unless specified in itinerary.
  • Airport arrival or departure taxes.
  • Passport, visa, reciprocity and vaccination fees and charges.
  • Travel insurance or emergency evacuation charges.
  • Hotels and meals – unless specified in the itinerary.
  • Optional excursions and optional activity surcharges.
  • All items of a personal nature, including but not limited to alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, wi-fi, email or phone charges.

ADVENTURE OPTIONS
  • Sea Kayaking: USD 1,190 per person
  • Photography: FREE
  • Bird watching: FREE
  • Lectures on wildlife, our environment, history and destinations: FREE
  • Trips ashore: FREE
  • Walking: FREE
  • Whale and mammal spotting: FREE
  • Zodiac cruises: FREE

 

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DISCLAIMER: Rates are per person and subject to change.