Days at Sea through the Northwest Passage
As you chart a course through the Northwest Passage, you’ll come to Gjoa Haven, a tiny hamlet in Nunavut. Located above the Arctic Circle in the Kitikmeot Region, this is the only settlement on King William Island and honours Roald Amundsen who spent the winter here with his boat, the Gjoa, and called it ‘the finest little harbour in the world’.Your next sighting will be Jenny Lind Island, situated in the Queen Maud Gulf, while after 120km you’ll reach Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. This bustling hub is the centre of government for Kitikmeot and a key stop for vessels making their way up the Northwest Passage. Named Ikaliktutiak, meaning ‘good fishing place’, by the local Inuinnaqtun, the region has been inhabited for over 4,000 years and has a rich archaeological history. From Cambridge Bay you continue on towards Dease Strait, a waterway that separates Victoria Island from Kent Peninsula on the mainland, a 100-mile long stretch that ranges from 12 to 38 miles wide. After travelling through the Amundsen Trough, you reach Sachs Harbour, a hamlet on the southwestern coast of Banks Island. This tiny settlement of just 103 people lies in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories. Sailing onwards you reach the Smoking Hills, so named by John Franklin on his 1826 expedition, in reference to the fumes given off by the sulphur-rich lignite contained in the rocks. Lying on the east coast of Cape Bathurst, the cliffs create an intriguing scene, bordered by the Arctic Ocean and a small group of lakes. From here you travel through the Beaufort Sea, named after Sir Francis Beaufort, inventor of the Beaufort Scale. Lying north of Alaska, the Beaufort Sea is frozen for much of the year with just a channel passable during August and September. A rich variety of marine life can be seen in the waters and onshore, including seals, whales and polar bears. As you make your way through the Beaufort Sea, you pass Herschel Island, 5km off the coast of Yukon, Canada and may have a chance to visit before travelling to Barrow in northern Alaska. If conditions permit a shore landing, you may visit the Iñupiat Heritage Centre to explore the cultural heritage of the region’s indigenous people, discover the city’s whaling history at the 1893 Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station and the Whale Bone Arch or pay tribute to the comic actor, Will Rogers and his pilot Wiley Post, who died in a 1935 air crash and are commemorated by a monument.