Follow in the Wake of Legendary Explorers on a Voyage to Remote Icebound Realms
Please note: 2018 departures will begin and end in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, rather than Reykjavik, Iceland. The 2018 itinerary will thus be one day shorter — 14 days rather than 15 days — but the remainder of the itinerary will be the same.
Days 1 & 2: Fly to Keflavik, Iceland / Reykjavik
Depart on an overnight flight to Keflavik, Iceland, where the international airport lies about 45 minutes outside
Reykjavik. Arriving on Day 2, transfer to our hotel in Iceland's compact capital, then choose between two afternoon activities: a guided overview of the historic Old Town at the heart of this lively seaside city, which includes a visit to Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral with its imposing Art Deco spire, or an excursion to the famous Blue Lagoon for a soak in the geothermal waters, with the option to add the signature spa treatment, a floating massage.
Day 3: Reykjavik / Kangerlussuaq, Greenland—Embark
Depart this morning from Reykjavik’s domestic airport near the city center for our chartered flight to Greenland. From the air, the world's second-largest ice cap stretches as far as the eye can see, covering 660,000 square miles—about 80 percent of Greenland's land mass. We land in Kangerlussuaq, the gateway to western Greenland. This small town sits on an alluvial plain at the head of a 118-mile
fjord near the edge of the Greenland ice sheet. On arrival, we board our expedition ship, the National Geographic Explorer
. Sailing the length of Kangerlussuaq Fjord, the Explorer
enters Baffin Bay
and turns north to follow Greenland's crennelated
Day 4: Greenland’s West Coast—Sisimiut
Dozens of deep fjords cut into Greenland’s west coast, many fed by glaciers winding down from the enormous ice cap that crowns the world's largest island. As we trace this ragged coastline, search for humpback, minke and fin whales that flourish in these frigid waters. Our first port of call is Sisimiut, a former whaling port on the Davis Strait that is now Greenland's second-largest town. The site has been inhabited for 4,500 years, and most of the current population is descended from the Thule people, the most recent iteration of Inuit culture. Danes arrived in the area in the 1720s, and contemporary Greenlanders in Sisimiut are typically a mix of Inuit and Danish heritage. Like many settlements in Greenland, Sisimiut's wooden houses in bright primary colors tumble down the hillside overlooking the harbor. We pass under a large arch made of bowhead whale bones to visit the historic district and museum housed in 18th-century colonial buildings. The collection showcases Sisimiut's trade and shipping history and its many layers of cultural tradition.
Day 5: Disko Bay / Illulissat Icefjord
We sail into Disko Bay, littered with massive icebergs, and continue up the Illulisat Icefjord to explore a tongue of the Greenland ice sheet. When Viking mariners under Erik the Red established a settlement on Greenland's more hospitable west coast in 985 AD, they discovered Disko Bay during a summer thaw. Rich in animal resources, including whales for oil, walruses for ivory and seals for their pelts, the region provided abundant products for early Norse settlers to trade with Iceland, the British Isles and mainland Europe. The Inuit later moved into the previously uninhabited region, and their traditional villages dot the shores today.
Located 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Illulisat Icefjord is the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the few glaciers via which the Greenland ice cap reaches the ocean. It is one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world, moving as much as 60 feet in a day. The glacier annually calves 35 billion tons of ice, draining 6.5 percent of the ice sheet and spawning 10 percent of all icebergs in Greenland. Studied for more than 250 years, this glacier—previously called Jacobshavn— has helped to develop our understanding of climate change and icecap glaciology, and its significance has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition. The dramatic sounds of a rapidly moving glacial ice-stream calving into the fjord provides a thrilling natural phenomenon. We listen and observe from Zodiacs as we approach the glacier's face, though giant icebergs often crowd our path. Some are so huge—more than a half-mile high—that they lie stuck on the bottom until they are broken up by the force of other icebergs that float down the fjord to collide with them. We also explore the archaeological site at Sermermiut, where Inuit history dates back millennia.
Day 6: At Sea in Baffin Bay
A relaxing day at sea crossing Baffin Bay
allows time for leisurely activities aboard. Take in talks from our expedition staff about the riveting history of polar exploration, as well as the natural history of our High Arctic environs. Head up to the bridge to chat with the ship's officers and watch for whales off the bow. Tuck in to
the library, where a collection of titles on the Arctic environment, wildlife
and polar exploration invites settling in to
a comfortable chair. Enjoy the sauna or opt for a rigorous workout in in the fitness center, with its “million-dollar views.” Or simply relax in the observation lounge and watch the passing tableau.
Days 7–10: Exploring Canada’s High Arctic
Carved by Ice Age glaciers, Lancaster Sound is the eastern gateway to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. This group of more than 36,000 islands lies off the northeast edge of North America, sprawling over 550,000 square miles and including Nunavut and part of the Northwest Territories. English claims on the islands were based on the explorations in the 1570s by Martin Frobisher, and English navigator and explorer William Baffin later ventured here in the early 17th century to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, lending his name to the bay and island that dominate this Arctic landscape.
Lancaster Sound has been a favorite Inuit hunting and fishing location for centuries. Our days in the area are spent searching for ringed seals, Arctic fox, walrus and polar bear, as well as beluga and bowhead whales. We may even spy the elusive narwhal, an Arctic whale known for the long, spiraling tooth that projects up to 10 feet from its upper jaw.
Days 11–13: Cruising Eastern Baffin Island
Drawing upon Lindblad's decades of experience in judging ice conditions in polar waters, we make the most of our opportunity to explore the wild eastern shores of Baffin Island. With our daily itinerary determined by weather, tides and always, the ice, we go ashore to hike over the tundra in search of caribou and Arctic fox,
or follow our botanist to learn more about the hardy miniature plants that cling to the exposed rock. As we cruise along the coastline, look for walrus and other wildlife icons of Canada's Far North.
Off the northern end of Baffin Island, we visit Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, harboring large populations of thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes
and greater snow geese. Three areas on the island are classified as Important Bird Areas in Canada and are protected within the bounds of Sirmilik National Park, one of Canada's newest parks established in 1999. We also stop at the Inuit community of Pond Inlet, a small town with a picturesque setting ringed by mountain ranges.
Days 14 & 15: Kangerlussuaq—Disembark / Reykjavik / Keflavik / Depart
After a return voyage across Baffin Bay
, we reach Kangerlussuaq once more. Here, we'll disembark and return by chartered
flight to Reykjavik where we spend a final night in a comfortable hotel. The following morning, a transfer is included to the international airport in Keflavik for departing international flights.