Pathways to Franklin

Pathways to Franklin

Trip Highlights

  • Grave markers on Beechey Island
  • The historic site of Fort Ross on Somerset Island
  • Conningham Bay, a hot spot for Polar Bears
  • Travel through Peel Sound, the heart of the Northwest Passage
  • Visit numerous historic locations related to the Franklin expedition of the 1840s

Trip Summary

This journey following in the footsteps of Franklin will appeal to both lovers of wildlife and the dramatic history of early polar exploration. We will trace the routes of the early explorers who sailed, and perished, in these waters as they sought a way through the fabled Northwest Passage. Our itinerary includes a visit to one of the largest migratory bird sanctuaries in the world, and we hope to enjoy frequent sightings of seals as well as beluga whale. The mythical narwhal inhabits these waters, and we also hope to encounter polar bears at special locations that we have discovered over the years.

Suitability

Although there is no commitment to extended walking on this journey, we nonetheless want to keep the ‘accent on the active’. We therefore advise that any physical training you complete before undertaking the trip will be to good effect.

Itinerary

We depart Edmonton on our charter flight to Resolute, a remote outpost above the Arctic Circle. Located on the southern shores of Cornwallis Island, the town is named after the British ship HMS Resolute which was trapped in ice and abandoned here in 1850 while searching for the lost Franklin Expedition. A weather station and airstrip made it a strategic outpost during the Cold War. On arrival, we meet our expedition team and prepare for our zodiac ride to the ship. After a welcome cocktail, we weigh anchor and depart Resolute in the early evening.

Meals:  D

Beechey Island holds great historic importance in the story of the Northwest Passage. It is here that Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition spent its last ‘comfortable’ winter in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness, sparking an incredible series of search expeditions. The mystery of what happened to Franklin was partially solved in September 2014, when a joint Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expedition found the HMS Erebus in the Victoria Strait. One Ocean Expeditions played a vital role in the discovery by carrying underwater search equipment on our ship as well as scientists, historians, researchers, dignitaries and sponsors. A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach is a thrilling location for history buffs. An afternoon visit to Radstock Bay brings us to the imposing Caswell Tower - a huge rock headland and known archaeological site. Remains of Thule ‘qarmat’ homes, made of rocks, whale bones, rock and sod walls and skins for roofs can be found in the vicinity telling a story of over 800 years of human habitation.

Meals:  B,L,D

We cross the broad expanse of Lancaster Sound, spending time on the ship’s bridge, or outer decks looking for wildlife. The sound has been likened to the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. A massive confluence of water from the Atlantic to the east and Pacific to the west, and from the archipelago of islands to the north all mix here, combining to make a rich source of nutrients and food for an abundance of Arctic wildlife. Approaching northern Baffin Island we are in awe of the spectacular Arctic landscape that seemingly stretches on forever. Cape Charles Yorke offers several great walking opportunities and we may enjoy some sightings of polar bears along this coast. We navigate the ship into nearby Elwin Inlet, a breathtaking fjord which is well protected and great for a zodiac cruise or hike onshore.

Meals:  B,L,D

Having crossed Prince Regent Inlet overnight, we approach the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island in the morning. The island is home to thick-billed murres, black guillemots, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes. Numbering in the order of several hundred thousand birds, Prince Leopold Island is one of the most significant Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the whole of the Canadian Arctic and makes for fantastic zodiac cruising. The sea ice around Prince Leopold Island is a great place for spotting ringed seals and wherever we find ringed seals - we usually find polar bear. Nearby Port Leopold is an historic site where in 1848, English explorer James Clark Ross wintered here during the search for the missing Franklin expedition. In addition to Port Leopold’s historical attraction, the shallow gravel beds along the shoreline are attractive to the beluga whales who tend to moult in this part of the Arctic each summer.

Meals:  B,L,D

Continuing to the southern end of Prince Regent Inlet, we find the historic site of Fort Ross on Somerset Island. A former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost, fascinating archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors. A transit of Bellot Strait is a thrilling experience as the currents roar through this narrow channel. We are now in the heart of the Northwest Passage. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an abundant food source for numerous marine mammal species including harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. The skill of the Captain and Officers and capabilities of the ship becomes apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation.

Meals:  B,L,D

We cross the Franklin Strait and arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince Of Wales Island. This is a known hotspot for polar bears who come here to feast on beluga whales, often caught 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!

Meals:  B,L,D

Heading further south, the mystery of Sir John Franklin and his ‘lost expedition’ is beginning to unravel. Prior to the recent discovery of the HMS Erebus in September 2014, very little was known of how the Franklin Expedition spent its last months in the frozen Arctic. The vessels, abandoned in the ice of Victoria Strait are just coming to life thanks to the ongoing efforts of Parks Canada’s marine archaeological team and the recent Victoria Strait Expedition. On Victory Point a lifeboat left abandoned, bits and pieces of copper and iron, cutlery and buttons and a skeleton here and there - all tell a story of a desperate race south in search of rescue that never came. We hope to visit Victory Point as we transit Victoria Strait, travelling very near the actual location of the wreck of HMS Erebus, all the while, learning about the quest for exploration that eventually opened up the Arctic. One can only imagine the last desperate days of Franklin’s men as another frigid Arctic winter approached, supplies dwindling and health failing.

Meals:  B,L,D

This small non-descript group of islands is of tremendous historic importance. In this vicinity the wreck of HMS Erebus was found in September 2014. To bookend this remarkable find, the sister ship - HMS Terror was discovered nearby in the summer of 2016. It is profoundly moving to be in the location where Franklin and his men abandoned their ships knowing hope of rescue was virtually non-existent. We plan a shore landing on the islands to stretch our legs as we cross islands that may have felt the doomed footsteps of Franklin's men. Returning to the ship, we meet in the presentation room and enjoy a memorable voyage recap by our expedition leader. We celebrate with a special dinner, attended by the Captain of the ship reflecting on a wonderful expedition.

Meals:  B,L,D

By morning, we are at anchor in Cambridge Bay – our final destination. Today, this remote outpost on the southern shores of Victoria Island is a centre for hunting, trapping and fishing. We make our way ashore by zodiac and bid farewell to our crew. A charter flight returns us to Edmonton where our journey comes to an end.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • All meals aboard ship
  • Comfortable cabin accommodation and use of all public areas on cruise
  • Services of expedition leaders
  • Use of an expedition gear package free of charge, which includes a quality waterproof/windproof jacket and bib-pants as well as insulated, comfortable rubber boots. Also included is a waterproof day pack, a pair of binoculars and a trekking pole
  • All sightseeing and shore excursions from the ship including the use of Zodiacs
  • Lectures, videos, slide and film shows and guide services
  • Service charges and port fees
  • Pre-departure information
  • Compulsory Canadian GST 5% tax

What's Not Included

  • Charter Flights Edmonton-Resolute & Cambridge Bay-Edmonton plus GST
  • Sea kayaking plus GST
  • Additional expenses in the event of delays or itinerary changes
  • Visa, passport and vaccination charges, and airport departure taxes
  • Mandatory medical / evacuation insurance
  • Laundry, postage, personal clothing, medical expenses and items of a personal nature such as bar charges, wine and phone calls
  • Customary end of voyage tips for ship's crew

Upcoming Travel Dates

AT A GLANCE

Duration:10 Days
Province/Territory:Nunavut
Starting Point:Edmonton
Activities:Cruising
Wildlife Viewing
Sea Kayaking (extra cost)
Grade:Discovery and Cruising  Click for more information
Trip Code:PTF
Prices From:USD$7450
Twin Semi Private:USD$8500 
Twin Private:USD$10075 
Superior:USD$11330 
Shackleton Suite:USD$12805 
One Ocean Suite:USD$14590 
Kayaking:USD$730 
Charter Flights:USD$2095