Baffin Island and Greenland Expedition Review
My trip started in the beautiful Canadian capital of Ottawa which in August was basking in hot sunshine. It’s a lovely , compact city which exceeded my expectations as a pleasant and interesting place to explore with a relaxed vibe.
Everything is within a short walking distance and I was staying right in the centre at the famous Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel so as I left the hotel on my first morning I stumbled across the marching band making its way to Parliament Hill for the daily summer changing of the guard Ceremony. It’s a popular sight with tourists gathering around the green to watch the ceremony unfold with plenty of pomp, pageantry and music.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Afterwards as it was such a hot day I decided to take a boat trip – you can choose between trips on the Ottawa River or the canals – I decided on the River and this was a pleasant way to see a bit of the city from the cool of the water.
Then I decided to take in a number of the excellent museums the city has to offer from the small Bytown (Ottawas original name) museum by the UNESCO World Heritage site Rideau Canal , the excellent Nature Museum and The Canadian War Museum and nearby Holocaust Memorial.
Rideau Canal Locks in Ottawa
However, Ottawa whilst providing a pleasant city break, was not the main reason for my being in Canada. On my second night in the city I joined a welcome party & pre-trip briefing at the Fairmont, hosted by One Oceans Expeditions who I was joining on a voyage up into the Arctic.
After a fine dinner at Wilfrids Restaurant at the Fairmont, the next morning we headed back out to the airport to catch an early morning charter flight up to Iqualit the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut.
RCGS Resolute, One Ocean Expeditions
On arrival we enjoyed a short tour in an old school bus taking in a few small museums highlighting the local Inuit culture and crafts before we donned our lifejackets for our first zodiac experience out to our home for the next 10 nights, the beautiful One Ocean Expedition ship RCGS Resolute which was moored out in the bay awaiting our arrival.
For the next 11 days we were going to explore Baffin Island and Greenland taking in the stunning fjords and soaring peaks of Baffin Island before crossing the Davis Strait to witness the glaciated landscapes and colourful fishing villages of western Greenland.
Alison on board RCGS Resolute, One Ocean Expeditions
Once on board we quickly set about exploring the ship and checking out the excellent leisure facilities with a quick sauna before having welcome drinks as well as enjoying an excellent first dinner, which gave an insight into the quality of cuisine and service we were to experience throughout the voyage.
We were kept busy with the various safety drills, kitting out for the Arctic with our jackets, bib trousers and boots as well as briefings on the correct Health & Safety and environmental procedures to be followed in the Arctic as well as the “Vacuum Party” to make sure there were no seeds or anything alien on our belongings we might be bringing into the fragile Arctic eco-system.
Unfortunately this afternoon was to be the only real disappointment of the trip as we found ourselves anchored up off Monumental Island in Frobisher Bay. Unfortunately the rocky domes of the island were shrouded in fog and only barely visible, and with choppy sea conditions it was decided that our zodiac cruise couldn’t safely go ahead. A real shame as the area is known for good wildlife sightings including both Polar Bears and Walruses.
Alison and iceberg, RCGS Resolute, One Ocean Expeditions
However, setting aside this early disappointment as best we could, the staff of the RCGS Resolute quickly endeavoured to lift our mood with the first of many excellent on-board lectures and an impromptu 360 degree circumnavigation of a stunning Iceberg – the colours against the choppy turquoise waters were mesmerising!
Iceberg, RCGS Resolute, One Ocean Expeditions
Waking up the next day the bad weather was a thing of the past and we found ourselves moored up in a bay in the heart of Cumberland Sound at the village of Pangnirtung. It’s a centre for traditional arts and crafts and it has an excellent visitor centre. The afternoon was rounded up by a display of Inuit culture and games in the community centre where local delicacies could be sampled by those who cared to!
The next day we arrived at Cape Mercy by now the weather had set into a pattern of beautiful sunshine and blue skies which were to remain with us throughout the voyage. The Cape has dramatic cliffs it’s a great place to find Polar bears coming ashore as the ice recedes during the summer and on this occasion it didn’t disappoint. We spotted “our” bear walking along the cliffs and it provided plenty of distraction whilst we dined on the deck by the Bistro restaurant.
Deck BBQ, RCGS Resolute, One Ocean Expeditions
The bear had disrupted our plans for a hike in the area that afternoon but quickly made up for this with a fine swimming display in the bay – he really seemed to be enjoying swimming quite close to our zodiacs looking over at us with an air of curiosity.
The next day was our final one in Canada and we spent the morning at Sunshine Fjord, which on this occasion lived up well to its name as we hiked up to a ridge with a fine view (this time with no bears appearing to alter our plans!) we all began to feel the warmth of the sun as we stripped off the many layers we had started out in. It proved to be a beautiful place for a walk and we even tasted the sweet Arctic blueberries growing on the slopes.
In the afternoon, fun was had as we crossed the Arctic Circle, and a small celebration with warm Gluweins was enjoyed on board the ship to mark this momentous moment as we sailed North. The scenery was stunning and the on board artists were busy on deck sketching happily away!
As we sailed into the evening however the sea conditions got a bit rough, and as we started out across the Davis Strait we feared the worst as this passage can be notoriously rough. I made it through the evening and into my bed where I enjoyed a good nights sleep being gently rocked like in a cradle. The next morning however on waking I was surprised to feel the motion had abated during the night and opened my curtains to reveal a lovely sunny morning and near glassy calm waters.
The conditions were so good that we had made much faster progress than expected across the strait and were already viewing the many huge Icebergs visible as we approached Greenland. We had time to spare and by popular suggestion two further Icebergs were picked out by passengers for a spin around – each one is different and unique in its beauty and throughout the voyage we never tired of the different forms of Icebergs and Glaciers we encountered.
Then as an added treat we found ourselves sailing down a long fjord to glimpse our first view of the vast Greenland Icecap.
Next day we awoke to my favourite stop of perhaps the whole trip at Qeqertarsuaq on the wonderfully named Disko Island – one of the 10 largest islands on Earth! We had a wonderful hike through the village with the finest view ever out across the bay, where if you were tired of it there was the option to turn around and watch the many Icebergs floating in the bay. The views of this colourful village and the small museum and little craft stalls were all delightful but the highlight for me was my “unofficial” first Polar Plunge running in off the beach amongst the Icebergs - the conditions were decidedly bracing but I soon warmed up in the sun on brisk walk back to the village.
In the afternoon we were treated to a stunning zodiac cruise amongst the Basalt cliff and rock formations nearby and around some of the many Icebergs.
Humpback Whales, Disko Bay
Next up was one of the undoubted trip highlights Ilulissat and the Jacobshavn Icefjord with its awesome ice structures. It is a world renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site which projects gigantic icebergs out into Disko Bay. In the morning we went ashore and hiked up to a viewpoint high above the Glacier for stunning views and walking. In the afternoon we experienced the ice from a different vantage point with a zodiac boat cruise through the Icebergs. Here we came across maybe as many as 12 Humpback Whales noisily and seemingly happily feeding along the edge of the huge bergs in the bay. The sound of their happy noises and the images of their flukes as they dived with the backdrop of the bergs made for a truly breath taking experience. This was coincidentally the only time on the whole trip when I felt truly cold despite the 7 layers of clothing I was wearing. I was certainly glad to be back on board the warmth of the Resolute and to dive into the sauna and steam rooms before heading on deck for the unusual experience of a bbq on the bistro deck with the ship anchored up right near to the icebergs.
The following day we arrived on a sunny morning into Sisimiut, a colourful little town with a granite peak as a backdrop. It provided a nice place for a hike up to a ridge with fine views back towards the town and over the bay.
There was also an interesting little museum and a “kayak rolling” demonstration to keep us entertained.
On our penultimate day we found ourselves again in perfect sunshine sailing down beautiful Sondre Stromfjord and a hike was planned which at first didn’t seem possible due to tidal conditions, so we set out on a zodiac cruise. Then unexpectedly a landing site on a lovely little beach was found for one of the loveliest walks of the trip up to a raging waterfall. This was a new trip even for the staff on board and illustrated that this was after all an expedition and not a cruise.
Once back on the ship by popular demand by some of us it was time for the “Official Polar Plunge” and this was arranged into the lovely turquoise waters of the fjord off a zodiac moored up alongside the main ship. It was certainly still cold but I felt not quite as chilly as the beach dip earlier in the week!
Once the final swimmer was done, the RCGS Resolute sailed on down the fjord towards Kangerlussuaq at the fjord end. The scenery was delightful once again as we cruised that evening and enjoyed the special farewell Captains dinner.
The next day it was sadly time for disembarkation by zodiacs but even on this final day there was time for a tour of Kangerlussuaqs stunning glacier and the small town which is basically about 500 people living around the small airport where we boarded our flight out of the Arctic and back to the warmth of Ottawa. Then it was time for sad farewells to a charming group of friendly fellow passengers and staff before we dispersed to our homes around the world, each of us carrying memories of an unforgettable trip to one of the most remote and near pristine environments on the planet.
Expedition Cruise Summary
One Ocean Expeditions had certainly exceeded my expectations in terms of the comfort of the RCGS Resolute – even in rough seas the passage was smooth, the cabins are spacious and well appointed. The public rooms and lounges are very plush and the leisure facilities excellent. The thing I liked most of all however was the quality of the on board lecture programme – there was a plethora of knowledgeable speakers on board the ship including the shipboard artists, inuit guides, naturalists and the researchers. This along with the lovely mix of passengers made for a truly fascinating voyage.