Labrador & Torngat Mountains Explorer
Remote coastal ports, soaring mountains, rich culture and history
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely
This voyage links numerous historic locations on Canada’s East Coast, including a known Viking settlement, a Frenchbuilt fortress, several remote mission locations and isolated fishing ports. We journey from the more temperate climate found in the Maritimes, northwards and into the higher Arctic latitudes. Subtle changes to vegetation and wildlife species can be noticed and our expert guides will interpret and explain these changes throughout the journey.The region features strong cultural diversity and we encounter the Nunatsiavut people in small communities along the coastline of Labrador. Numerous wildlife species are found along this coastline including bears, seals, whales and both migratory and resident birds. A particular highlight of our voyage is a visit to Torngat Mountains National Park – home to the highest mountains in Canada, east of the Rockies. This is one of the jewels in the crown of the Canadian National Park network. The Inuit have strong cultural and spiritual connections to the land which we learn about during our visit.Our expedition vessel is the perfect platform for exploring the remote bays and fjords of this spectacular wilderness as many locations can only be accessed by ship. A final highlight awaits as we venture across Frobisher Bay to Monumental Island. This is remote, small-ship expedition cruising at its best.
* All meals while on the ship
* 10 nights accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout and qualified Expedition Staff
- Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
- Visit remote ports and local communities along the coast of Labrador
- Inuit history and culture plus early European locations, including a Viking settlement
- Towering mountains and wilderness of the Torngat Mountains National Park
- Experience the transition from the Atlantic provinces into the Arctic
- Travel on a small expedition vessel
- Accompanied by extremely qualified Expedition Staff
Start Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island
Our adventure begins in the historic port town of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. First visited in 1597 by the English, the town was fortified in 1713 by the French in recognition of its strategic maritime location. During the 18th century, Louisbourg was the third busiest seaport in North America. We board the ship in the late afternoon in time for a dinner of fresh, local lobster as we sail out past the lighthouse, into the North Atlantic and on to Newfoundland and Labrador
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
This morning we are anchored off the tiny fishing community of Trout River, the access point into Gros Morne National Park. Our Zodiacs take us ashore and we are transferred by bus for a visit to the World Heritage-listed Tablelands. This incredible location is noted for its unique geology and exceptional scenery. Here, the Earth’s mantle is exposed on the surface – pushed up over millions of years by the movement of tectonic plates. We explore the boreal wetland landscape, featuring dramatic rock ridges, pitcher plants, White-throated sparrows and may encounter the iconic moose as we explore the park. Continuing north through the park we enjoy a visit to the Discovery Centre, before arriving at Woody Point located in majestic Bonne Bay. We meet the ship here, re-boarding in the afternoon and continue our voyage northwards.
L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland
Today tells a story a thousand years in the making. We board the Zodiacs for a short cruise to the rocky shoreline. A millennium ago, Viking long-ships would have been found along this same beach. L’Anse aux Meadows is one of Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is where Norseman, Leif Erikson, (son of Eric the Red) – is thought to have founded “Vinland” around 1000 AD. As we explore the reconstructed sod huts and Norse ruins with the site’s resident archaeologist, we see evidence that the Vikings discovered North America some five hundred years prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. This evening we leave the coastline of Newfoundland, crossing the Strait of Belle Isle overnight.
Battle Harbour, Newfoundland
Battle Harbour marks our arrival into the province of Labrador. The location was one of the first British settlements on the east coast of the Americas. It was an important gateway to the rich Labrador fisheries. We venture ashore to explore the restored fishing, whaling, commercial buildings found in this remote community. The colourful buildings make for fantastic photographic subjects amid the backdrop of breathtaking coastal views.
The ancient rocks of the Canadian Shield (the exposed portion of the Earth’s crust) cradle the small coastal hamlet of Hopedale. This remarkable geological feature, estimated to be up to 4-billion-years-old, greets us as we sail through narrow channels and weigh anchor off Hopedale. We venture ashore by Zodiac to visit the Hopedale Moravian Mission – built in 1782 and said to be the oldest building east of Quebec. It’s a fascinating place and we learn of the influence of the early Moravian missionaries on the Inuit people of Northern Labrador. This location has been designated a Canadian National Historic Site. We plan a visit to the local museum for a deeper insight. The local Inuit produce ornate carvings and other crafts which make wonderful souvenirs.
Today we enjoy a visit to the historic town of Hebron, once the northernmost settlement in Labrador. The Moravian missionaries established Hebron in the early 1830s and the Germanic influence is clearly seen in the architecture. The Mission was closed and the local Inuit families relocated in 1959 but the original buildings still stand today. This is another designated National Historic Site and is considered one of the most historically significant mission-built structures in the entire province. We will hope to meet the local caretakers, who manage this the very historic location. They have a fascinating story to tell.
Torngat Mountains National Park, Saglek Fjord, Labrador
We will sail into Saglek Fjord, the southern gateway to the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve, established in 2005. We are midway through our exploration of Labrador at this point and our attention turns from history – to the magnificent wilderness of the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve. The Park was established as recently as 2005 and covers almost 10,000 square kilometres of Northern Labrador. It is bordered by Quebec on one side, and the Labrador Coast on the other. It is home to Canada’s highest mountains East of the Rockies, and features breathtaking fjords, remnant glacial systems and stunning landscapes. The Inuktitut word Torngat means “place of spirits” and the Torngat Mountains have been home to Inuit and their predecessors for over 7500 years.These mountains represent a very spiritual connection to the Inuit spirit world. Polar bears hunt seals along the coast, and both the Torngat Mountains and George River caribou herds cross paths as they migrate to and from their calving grounds. Inuit continue to use this area for hunting, fishing, and travelling throughout the park during the year. There are some terrific hiking opportunities here as we explore the area on foot and along the shoreline in the Zodiacs. Wildflowers are spectacular when in bloom and bears feast on local berries found among the sedges and grasses on the raised beaches along the shores of the fjords.
Torngat Mountains National Park, Nachvak Fjord, Labrador
Nachvak Fjord is exceptionally beautiful. The fjord is deep and narrow and stretches more than 20 kilometres. The rocky walls of the fjord soar almost 900 metres above us at several points. Many species migrate through the area during the short boreal summer. Numerous seal species may be encountered including Ring, Hooded, Harp and Harbour seals. Minke whales have been known to linger in the fjords, while larger species, including Fin and Humpback, tend to stay offshore. This is an outstanding location for landscape photography with endless subjects, a dynamic colour range and interesting lighting.
Button Island, Nunavut
As we reach the far northern stretches of coastal Labrador, we learn of the remarkable events at Martin Bay. Here a German U-boat made the only known armed landing in North America during WWII. In 1943, U-537 sat at anchor here, while the crew man-handled ashore and established an automated weather station. This station remained undiscovered until the late 1970s when a German historian came across a reference to it in the German naval archives. The equipment was collected by the Canadian Coast Guard in the early 1980s and is on permanent display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Later in the day, we visit the Button Islands before sailing into southern Davis Strait. Named after Thomas Button who explored the area in 1612, the islands are in the middle of the upwelling of nutrients on the edge of the continental shelf. This action makes it a magnet for thousands of seabirds and other marine mammals.
Monumental Island, Nunavut
Today we will sail across the mouth of Frobisher Bay and make landfall on Monumental Island, a small, steep-sided outcrop off the southeast coast of Baffin Island. Here we are on the lookout for both Polar bears and walruses that live around the island in an uneasy truce. While Polar bears have been known to attack and kill young walruses they are no match for a fully-grown male walrus, especially in the water. We enjoy our final Zodiac cruise here and tonight we reflect on the last 10-days of exploration while enjoying a sumptuous farewell dinner, attended by the Captain of the ship. During the night the ship will negotiate the narrow channels of Frobisher Bay on the way to our disembarkation point, Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut.
Disembark and end Iqualuit, Nunavut
We bid farewell to our crew and disembark the ship by zodiac and after a short tour of Iqaluit (if time and tides permit) we transfer to the airport for out flight back to Ottawa. On arrival an airport transfer is provided to a central downtown location.
The Labrador & Torngat Mountains Explorer voyage is offered on the Akademik Ioffe and the RCGS Resolute which are Polar Adventure Ships. Full board accommodation on the ship, generally on a twin share basis in a variety of cabin types, all with shared or en suite facilities.
Polar Adventure Ships:
These are small ice rated vessels well qualified for Polar waters. Intimate adventures are always more enjoyable with like-minded passengers and staff, so these voyages are for people who like flexible itineraries and plenty to keep them busy. Activities include frequent Zodiac excursions, trekking and many hours on deck in areas that other ships only dream about accessing. Food and staff are superb and every guest benefits from the technical advances of this superb fleet. Rest assured our Polar Adventure Ships enable any traveler to maximize their experience sensitively in the Poles.
All meals while on the ship included.
The ships galley offers good quality service and cuisine throughout, with excellent chefs preparing international menus including vegetarian dishes, accompanied by a wide variety of drinks from around the world on sale.
Breakfast: Buffet style – unlimited tea and coffee, a selection of fruit juices, hot options including bacon and eggs or omelettes, a selection of bread and toast and jam/honey/marmalade, fruit and cereal.
Lunch: Three course set meal or buffet, or the occasional BBQ.
Dinner: Three or four courses with a starter of soup and/or salad, a choice of mains with at least one vegetarian option and a dessert, with tea and coffee.
The voyages are designed to be as flexible as possible, taking advantage of circumstances and events as they occur, as well as passengers’ wishes and particular interests wherever possible. The atmosphere onboard is relaxed and friendly with expedition staff, including naturalists and polar experts, on hand and the opportunity to mingle with people from all over the world. The ship is kept warm, clean and comfortable with a wet / mud room in which to hang gear and store boots ready for the next adventure.
On the Zodiac cruises you are sitting still for most of the time with the potential for some sea spray and a cold headwind – if you are not dressed appropriately you will get cold. On the shore excursions, the majority of landings are ‘wet’ which means that the Zodiacs beach and you are helped to slide into the ankle deep shore break before walking up onto dry land (wellington boots are issued to all passengers).
There are, of course, no paths, so be prepared for slippery, rough terrain and sometimes fairly deep snow. Back on board the cozy ship after each adventure, you can have a sauna and/or a hot shower and then relax with a tea, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger from the bar.
On some occasions, space is limited on the optional activities and needs to be booked in advance. Please ask our Sales team for more information if you are interested in one of the options below.
Sea kayaking option
On many of our voyages there is the chance for some members of the party to take regular sea kayak excursions in place of the Zodiac excursions. There are a limited number of kayaks on each ship, and you must book and pay for this option in advance. All kayak trips are guided, and are subject to suitable locations and weather conditions. Should the kayaking not be possible, a place on a Zodiac is always available.
Basic kayak competence is required. You will need to complete a special questionnaire outlining your previous kayaking experience – please ask for a copy of this document if you are interested in joining the sea kayaking program.
All Polar itineraries should be treated as a guide only – it is possible that, among other things, the capricious nature of wind, visibility and ice, intelligence from previous sailings, changes in local landing regulations or the expert opinion of the crew onboard may lead to adjustments to the route published.
Following a review of all our trips we have categorized this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveler on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.