South Baffin Explorer – Art, Culture & Wildlife
Experience Inuit culture, witness epic scenery and enjoy abundant wildlife
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely
All over the world, for countless millennia, indigenous people have expressed their unique cultural heritage through art, keeping precious folklore, stories and traditions alive, so they might be handed down from one generation to the next. Since the mid-1980s with the establishment of numerous art co-operatives in the North, there has been a concerted effort to preserve and promote the beautiful and distinctive sculptures and artworks created by the Inuit people on Baffin Island, many of which are inspired by – and reflect – the wild and craggy environment in which they live and work.Numerous fissures and fjords indent the southern coastline of this substantial island (the fifth largest in the world), which also boasts a mountainous backbone containing peaks up to 2000 metres in height. Waters flow from the Atlantic into the vast expanse of Hudson Bay, passing through the Hudson Strait, which separates southern Baffin Island from northern Quebec. The waters are rich in marine life and support a staggering abundance of Arctic wildlife. Some of the largest bird colonies on Earth can be found here and several sites are estimated to be home to more than a million nesting birds in the summer months.This expedition offers a chance to explore the spectacular land and seascapes of the Canadian Arctic. Observe an outstanding variety of marine birdlife and sea mammals and take time to visit indigenous art galleries that showcase the talents of these remote peoples, whose rich output is a major focus of this highly unique and engaging expedition.
* All meals while on the ship
* All accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout and qualified Expedition Staff
* Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
Fly from Ottawa, Ontario to Iqualuit, Baffin Island and embark
We depart Ottawa this morning on our scheduled flight to Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut, situated on the south-eastern coast of Baffin Island. Upon arrival we enjoy a walking tour of this historic settlement before boarding our expedition ship, RCGS Resolute, in the afternoon. After settling into our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off to explore one of the most remote regions on Earth.
Monumental Island, Frobisher Bay
Located in the Davis Strait, the rocky dome of Monumental Island can be clearly seen as we approach. We travel by zodiac to explore the rocky shoreline and hope to encounter Polar bears in this vicinity. In good weather a complete circumnavigation of the island is possible, and we should see our first large icebergs as they drift south towards Labrador and Newfoundland on the currents of the Davis Strait. Walruses have also been encountered in this area, so we keep a close look out on the shoreline for this iconic species. Over the next few days, and throughout the voyage, our onboard experts educate and entertain us with a series of presentations about Inuit culture and traditions, as well as the environment, wildlife and history of Baffin Island.
The tiny community of Kimmirut is home to just 400 people and was once a Hudson’s Bay Company Trading post. A particular focus of our visit is the local art scene and after cruising into a narrow channel we travel ashore by zodiac, where we enjoy a warm welcome from the locals. This community is well known for its arts and crafts including stone carvings, sealskin clothing, jewelry and fine bead work among other items. Many of Kimmirut’s residents are renowned carvers whose art is collected worldwide. The small Soper Gallery is housed in an old wooden cottage and run by the Quliruakut Arts and Crafts Society. But it’s not all art: among the animals native to the area are caribou, Arctic wolves, walruses, seals, Arctic hare, and whales, as well as numerous bird species including Peregrine falcons, ptarmigan, Snow bunting and Snowy owls.
Cape Dorset offers so much for visitors, no matter what their interest, and two-days allows time for a thorough exploration of the hamlet and surrounding areas. The community is home to more than 1,300 residents and is Baffin Island’s best-known art centre, referred to as the ‘Capital of Inuit Art’, with almost a quarter of the hamlet’s residents actively engaged in the visual arts. Much of their artwork reflects the wilderness and environment of Baffin Island, with objects such as whales, Narwhals, seals, walruses, bears, wolves, foxes and more providing a focus for artistic expression. These artworks reflect the deep connection the Inuit people have to one another, past generations, the land and nature, as well as a spiritual connection to the Earth. The celebrated Art Co-operative is the best place to view these striking works and observe the artists at work.Cape Dorset is also blessed with superb Arctic landscapes, home to migratory caribou, seabirds, whales, seals and walruses which can be found in the vicinity. There are some excellent hiking opportunities through rolling hills to secluded waterfalls and lakes, providing great views and chances to observe the local wildlife or watch ice floes drift slowly by.
Walrus Island & Coral Harbour
During the night we sail into the western reaches of Hudson Strait and today promises some exciting excursions. A zodiac cruise at the small outcrop of Walrus Island allows a close encounter with these fascinating animals. Returning to the ship we make our way north to the small hamlet of Coral Harbour, situated on Southampton Island. This area has a fascinating history. In more recent times, early whalers plied the nearby waters hunting for Bowhead whales and in the 1920s, the Hudson’s Bay Company established an outpost here.Today the island is an important migratory bird flyway, visited by species including the Common eider and Lesser Snow goose. ptarmigans, Snowy owls, Peregrine falcons and gyrfalcons are also spotted in this vicinity. On land, caribou are abundant and both the Red fox and Arctic fox are sometimes spotted. The hamlet is also known for the production of intricate wall hangings, each telling a unique visual story.
Digges Islands, Cape Wolstenholme & Erik Cove
Located at the north-western tip of the Ungava Peninsula, the Digges Islands mark the juncture of the Hudson Strait and north-eastern Hudson Bay, and their rocky cliffs are ideal for seabirds. Just to the east is the headland at Cape Wolstenholme, located at the most northerly point of the Province of Quebec. Here the cliffs soar to some 300 metres and are home to one of the largest colonies of Thick-billed murres on Earth. There are also a number of walrus colonies in the area. Polar bears can be found throughout this region and we will hope to encounter them from a safe distance while cruising in the zodiacs. We continue sailing east, around the northern tip of Quebec, and enter the very remote Erik Cove for an afternoon excursion. The remnants of a Hudson’s Bay Company store lie on the southern shore and we enjoy a walk with our guides along the waterfront, soaking up the beautiful scenery and learning something of the area’s early history.
During the night we sail north-east across the Hudson Strait and this morning we find ourselves once again on the southern shores of Baffin Island. Shaftesbury Inlet is a narrow and strikingly beautiful fjord and we’ll likely be on deck as the Captain navigates our ship into this narrow channel. This inlet is characterized by steep shorelines and high tides, with tide height changing as much as 10 – 12 metres daily. We will plan to visit ashore at the mouth of a small river and hike up the river valley, eventually reaching a lake. This is a wonderful place to get out and stretch our legs as our naturalists and guides share their love of the Arctic with you.
Akpatok Island & Lower Savage Islands
Akpatok Island is a large uninhabited island situated in Ungava Bay, off Quebec’s northern coastline. Ringed by steep cliffs, it is home to a staggering abundance of birdlife. Thick-billed murre, Black guillemot, Glaucous gulls and Peregrine falcon all nest here. It’s also a well-known location for walruses and Polar bears, the latter often observed climbing the steep cliffs. Ice floes often surround parts of the island, and these attract both seals and walruses, making this a popular hunting ground for Polar bears. In the late summer the bears retreat to the land, scavenging whatever protein source they can find, until the ice re-forms, and the more abundant food sources return. The island has historically been a traditional hunting ground for Inuit people, also attracted by walruses, Polar bears and whales. We plan to cruise along the shore line in zodiacs, allowing close-up views of the huge numbers of birds nesting on the cliffs, and we’ll hopefully spot some Polar bears scouting the landscape.
Lower Savage Islands
To the north of Akpatok, the extraordinary Lower Savage Islands are bisected by narrow channels that provide spectacular zodiac cruising opportunities. The islands are ideally situated between the dynamic flow of the Hudson Strait, and this mixing of nutrient rich waters makes for a diversity of marine life. We rejoin our ship on the other side of the island group and tonight, as we near the end of our journey, we enjoy an entertaining voyage recap from the Expedition Leader. We celebrate with a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship and reflect on the culture, art and landscapes of this inimitable region.
Disembark Iqualuit, Nunavut and fly to Ottawa, Ontario
This morning we find ourselves anchored off Iqaluit. We say goodbye to our crew, make our way ashore in zodiacs and are then transferred to the airport for our scheduled flight to Ottawa. On arrival in Ottawa our journey comes to an end. A transfer is provided to a downtown location.