The Northwest Passage

Six months ago I travelled through the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada on a journey that took 16 days and covered more than 5,000 kilometres of Arctic waterways.  My reason for going was to see a remote part of my own country and to fulfill a long-held desire to see icebergs.  

We started from Kugluktuk, formerly known as Coppermine, travelling east and north through the islands, straits and bays in the Canadian territory of Nunavut and then across Smith Sound and Baffin Bay to Greenland.   

Each day we left the ship on zodiacs to explore the land and visit historic sites and communities. On board, talks and presentations were given by experts in their fields designed to give us a sense of the history and current reality we would encounter on the land.  There was so much to see and hear it was hard to take it all in.

 Two Inuit boys in Gjoa Haven

Two Inuit boys in Gjoa Haven

 Town of Gjoa Haven, population 1,200

Town of Gjoa Haven, population 1,200

The first community we visited was the hamlet of Gjoa Haven, the only settlement on King William Island.  There was a guided tour through the town and then a cultural presentation in the community centre.  

Sailing through Bellot Strait, a narrow passage only 2 km wide and 25 km long, with sharp rises on either side, that is locked in ice for much of the year was remarkable.  The strait separates Somerset Island on the north from the Boothia Peninsula in the south.  The opening to the strait could be seen for quite some time.  Standing at the front of the ship watching us draw closer was a slow and peaceful experience.

 Approaching Bellot Strait

Approaching Bellot Strait

Fort Ross

An outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company, no longer in use, and left as it was.   Looking at the buildings, so small on the land, it was hard to imagine people living there year round.  

 Small cabin at Fort Ross

Small cabin at Fort Ross

 Arctic Willow, slow growing and very old

Arctic Willow, slow growing and very old

 Willow and lichen growing on the rocks

Willow and lichen growing on the rocks

Beechey Island

Large, desolate, haunting, with graves and the remains of a settlement.

Walking along the edge of the island approaching the Franklin settlement at the far corner.

Devon Island, Croker Bay and Glaciers

Grise Fiord

Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island is Canada's most northern civilian settlement.  It has a population of 130 people.  The community welcomed us warmly, sharing stories about their lives and their culture. It was a privilege to be there.

And the Icebergs…..

They were everything I'd imagined them to be.  Majestic, mysterious and beautiful.

 Early morning among the icebergs

Early morning among the icebergs

 Sunrise on a stormy morning

Sunrise on a stormy morning

This Arctic journey was everything I'd hoped it would be.  I learned so much - about the far north, the land, its people, and the challenges that come with living in such an isolated and harsh climate.  It is also strikingly beautiful and easy to understand why the people who live there are so attached to it.  The icebergs were just one part of that beauty.  I gained much from the trip and plan on returning to the Arctic next year.