Baffin Island and Greenland
It was cool in the early morning of July 17th as I left my room in the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa and met up with the crowd of excited travellers that my colleague Sema, from our Victoria office and I would be travelling with. I was in great spirits and feeling very fortunate that Wells Gray Tours had arranged this familiarization adventure for us. The temperature in Ottawa would be in the high 20s today, but where we were going, it would be much colder with day time highs between 10-15 degrees Celsius. Knowing that my bag was packed with all the essential winter wear I would need, I was not concerned about the weather. I stepped onto the coach to take us to the airport for a short two and a half hour charter flight to Kuujjuaq. Kuujjuaq is the largest Inuit village in Nunavik, Quebec with a population of approximately 2500. Kuujjuaq borders the boreal forest with its marshy valleys and stands of larch and black spruce. Migrating caribou pass through the region throughout August and September. Once known as Fort Chimo, early European fur traders were always welcomed by the warm and friendly Inuit people just as they are today. It is, here in this village that we boarded zodiacs to travel out to our ship, The Ocean Endeavor for our adventure, a 13 day cruise expedition exploring the remote areas of Baffin Island and Greenland.
The Ocean Endeavour is an optimum vessel for expeditions like this with a limit of a 198-passengers. Supplied with twenty Zodiacs, leading edge navigation equipment and a top deck observation area, she is intended to bring passengers to remote environments. The Ocean Endeavour prides herself on having a 1B ice class, allowing her to explore this Arctic area throughout the summer months. And explore we did! Everyday brought with it a new adventure.
On Board Experience: The Ocean Endeavour’s crew is friendly and highly qualified, making the cruise a fun and highly educational experience. We had lectures and workshops with various experts such as a master Inuit carver, a prolific Arctic film maker, marine biologists, culturalists, musicians, a zoologist and a naturalist just to name a few. Canadian Geographic and a Japanese film crew were also on board.
Dining: The food on the Ocean Endeavor was excellent. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style and dinner was always a plated meal. Dinner each evening includes your choice of the following selections; healthy, vegetarian, fish and a meat/chicken dish.
Accommodations: There are a variety of cabins to choose from and of course price varies with your selection.
Scenery: As a passenger on The Ocean Endeavor your main interests naturally turn outward to the scenery and ever changing landscape. Most days we were zipping off in our zodiacs to explore and experience nature in all her ruggedness. We enjoyed learning about the culture and history of the remote Inuit villages along our route. Our cruising expedition would take us from Kuujjuaq, Quebec all the way to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland.
It is an emotional and physical connection you feel as you walk upon the rocks and natural topography of the regions. In remote Arctic waterways, weather, sea and ice conditions determine our daily schedule and as we are exploring one does feel that sense of adventure that anything can happen and the expedition does not disappoint.
This is a tour which takes you into the heart of the north. We travelled from the Inuit areas of Nunavik and Nunavut to the remote regions of Greenland. As we went, we immersed ourselves in the local culture and connected with the sea and all the marine animals. We saw polar bears off the coast of Akpatok Island and spotted a couple of fin whales in the Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord also known an as the Fjord of Eternity. At the end of the Fjord was a massive Glacier which sparkled with its blue colours from the glorious sun overhead. The expedition landings were always exciting as we anticipated new adventures; whether it be hearing throat singing by Inuit girls or seeing soapstone carvers and ink screen artists. Seeing Greenland in all its rugged glory was something I had often dreamed about in elementary school geography class as we had to learn the name of and information of this remarkable Island. It always seemed so large on the map compared to tiny Iceland. To be able to walk its rocky barren landscape, meet the local native population and to walk through and learn the history step by step as we strolled through Nuuk the capital was surreal. We were able to see the Qilakitsoq mummies in the local museum. I had seen this photo on the cover of National Geographic and it was amazing to witness it firsthand.
New experiences and vistas are out there beckoning all of us and I hope you join our Wells Gray Tours family of travellers and trekkers for your next travel adventure.
Written by: Darlene Berndt
Photos taken by: Darlene Berndt