In 2005, I was fortunate to join an expedition cruise aboard the Akademik Ioffe from Churchill in Manitoba for 12 days, through Hudson Bay and across the Davis Strait to the fabled ‘iceberg’ alley of Illulisat in Western Greenland. It remains one of my most treasured travelling experiences, starting even before we landed at Churchill as we flew in over Hudson Bay and saw literally hundreds of beluga whales in the Bay below. Later that day we were cruising in zodiacs among this ‘sea of white’, with the inquisitive whales popping up right next to us for a closer look.
Over the next few days, we got up as close (as was deemed safe!) to polar bears, stretched our legs on tramps up and across the Arctic tundra, were invited into the Inuit communities of Northern Canada, kayaked around icebergs, swam in our dry suits in the Arctic Ocean and watched massive icebergs calve off the Greenland ice cap into the North Atlantic. In a nutshell, the perfect expedition cruise!
An expedition to the Arctic is quite different to Antarctica – there’s plenty of land not covered in snow and ice for a start, so you can walk, climb and be much more active than ‘down South’. You can also slow down and contemplate the flora and fauna that amazingly survive in this harshest of environments. Plus, unlike Antarctica, entire communities live year round at these latitudes, and being permitted an insight into their life is fascinating. Finally, there’s the obvious allure of large mammals – the polar bear of course, but also musk oxen and caribou. If you’ve been to Antarctica, you’ll love the Arctic but it’s an amazing experience in it’s own right!