Expedition Journal

Atlantic Canada Explorer

Jun. 23–Jul. 4, 2022

© Vladimir Rajevac

The fog cleared in the afternoon bringing bursts of sunshine and horses—lots and lots of horses! Sable Island's world-famous wild horses were everywhere, galloping and playing among the dunes.


Altantic Canada Explorer Expedition Journal map
  • Day 1: St. John's, NL, Canada
  • Day 2: At Sea
  • Day 3: Sable Island, NS
  • Day 4: Sable Island
  • Day 5: The Gully Marine Protected Area
  • Day 6: Bird Islands
  • Day 7: Chéticamp
  • Day 8: Charlottetown, PEI
  • Day 9: Cap-aux-Meules and les Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands), QC
  • Day 10: Francois, NL
  • Day 11: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, France
  • Day 12: St. John’s, NL, Canada

Day 1 – Thursday, June 23

St. John's, NL, Canada

Coordinates: 47°56'N 52°69'W

Weather: Partly cloudy

Farewell St. John’s!

After a welcome presentation from Adventure Canada’s CEO and host, Cedar Swan, followed by a safety drill, we set sail through the Narrows, leaving St. John’s behind.

Cedar swan welcome presentation

© Dennis Minty

We all gathered out on deck to enjoy the beautiful setting sun that was casting shadows along the colourful Battery neighbourhood. Some even spotted breaching humpback whales in the distance. Looking back at Signal Hill, we began our journey and set sail towards Sable Island.

Day 2 – Friday, June 24

At Sea

Coordinates: Somewhere along the Atlantic

Weather: Partly cloudy and foggy


We spent the morning eagerly preparing for our highly anticipated visit to Sable Island, with boots, jackets, and kayak fittings. As a part of Adventure Canada’s and Parks Canada’s bio-security protocol, we diligently sanitized all footwear. Having footwear that is clean and free of any invasive species is very important to help keep Sable Island’s ecology intact.

Sanitizing footwear

© Vladimir Rajevac

Later, we enjoyed learning about Sable Island from our on board Parks Canada representative Greg Stroud, followed by a presentation about Atlantic birds from ornithologist Garry Donaldson, and a briefing from our expedition leader Jason Edmunds.

Day 3 – Saturday, June 25

Sable Island, NS

Coordinates: 43°57’N 59°52’W

Weather: Foggy in the morning and partly cloudy

Sable Island and Its Wonders

This morning, through the thick fog, we disembarked on our first expedition, landing on the marvellous Sable Island. On shore, we were welcomed by the Parks Canada team who provided a guided tour of the island. Some were lucky enough to join a special tour of Sable Island with naturalist Zoe Lucas.

Guest disembarking zodiac sable island

© Dennis Minty

We spotted many horses wandering between and on the top of the island’s dunes. It was hard not to admire the plentiful seals on the beach. From time to time, the seals would poke their heads above the water and give us a curious look, then disappear right back under.

Back on board the Ocean Endeavour, we enjoyed presentations about Peoples of Atlantic Canada from ethnographer Jane Sproull-Thomson and The Language of Horses from eco-therapist Antje Springmann.

Day 4 – Sunday, June 26

Sable Island

Coordinates: 43°57’N 59°52’W

Weather: Partly cloudy and foggy with a sunny afternoon

Hello Again, Sable

Remarkably, we were able to make a second landing on Sable Island this morning, landing at a different spot further east of the island. Getting to the island is only possible by air, small boat, or Zodiac and requires ideal conditions. We felt grateful to have the opportunity to return!

Many opted to join photographer Dennis Minty’s walking group. Spotting the Ipswich sparrow, a little bird that nests only on Sable Island, was the focal point for many photographers.

Sable island wild horses

© Dennis Minty

The fog cleared in the afternoon bringing bursts of sunshine and horses—lots and lots of horses! Sable Island's world-famous wild horses were everywhere, galloping and playing among the dunes. Many of us crossed a big item off our bucket list today. We all had such a wonderful experience wandering around the majestic island.

Day 5 – Monday, June 27

The Gully Marine Protected Area

Coordinates: 43°84'N 58°94'W

Weather: Cloudy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon

The Gully Marine Protected Area

While sailing through the Gully in the morning hours, we had the opportunity to participate in a citizen scientist project, helping conservation biologist Dr. J. Sherman Boates, with his research on the density of the bird population in the Gully.

Guests bird spotting on deck

© Vladimir Rajevac

In the afternoon, there were numerous workshops to attend, including tips on how to use your binoculars with naturalist Dylan White. Ian Davidson from BirdLife International gave a talk, during which we learned how human activity affects birds’ migrations and what we can do to protect areas that provide birds with safe passage.

Geographer Lynn Moorman's presentation left everyone surprised to find out that we are running out of sand. We learned not all sand is the same and that not all sand can be used for construction purposes. For example, Australia exports sand to Dubai, since desert sand cannot be used to create concrete. We all enjoyed expanding our minds today aboard the floating university.

Day 6 – Tuesday, June 28

Bird Islands

Coordinates: 46°21'N 60°25'W

Weather: Cloudy with strong winds

Bourg to Birds

The sea was angry this morning. Due to the strong winds and swells, we were unable to visit the Fortress of Louisbourg as planned. Little did we know, a great surprise would come later.

We spent the morning enjoying a reading from Margaret Atwood, after which many had the opportunity to get their books signed by the author.

Later, through his presentation “Biodiversity-R-Us,” Sherman shared examples from current studies that illustrate the wonder and beauty of biodiversity and how we are not just connected to biodiversity, but how we are biodiversity.

Atlantic puffin bird island

© Vladimir Rajevac

In the late afternoon, we were surprised by an announcement from our expedition leader, informing us that we had just anchored at Bird Island! A Zodiac cruise followed soon after, where we admired numerous species of birds. This important bird area supports the largest colony of great cormorants in North America. We also spotted double-crested cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, razorbills, Atlantic puffins, black guillemots, and a great blue heron. What a sight!

Day 7 – Wednesday, June 29


Coordinates: 46°39'N 61°01'W

Weather: A beautiful sunny day

Oh, What a View!

We disembarked at 08:00 for Chéticamp, where we took a bus ride for a hike on the spectacular Skyline Trail. After about an hour's walk, we reached the aptly-named Skyline. The view was breathtaking and with the crystal-clear sky, we were able to enjoy the stunning vista as far as the eye could see.

Short trail hikers explored the spruce forest and foundation ruins on a small hill overlooking the Chéticamp River and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence via Le Buttereau Trail.

Cheticamp nova scotia

© Vladimir Rajevac

Back on board, Garry spoke about his work with the Canadian Wildlife Service and how they are working to create a new network of protected areas for migratory birds. We also heard from sustainability professional Scott McDougall, who shared his ideas about what actions we can take today, towards optimistic climate mitigation.

Day 8 – Thursday, June 30

Charlottetown, PEI

Coordinates: 46°23'N 63°13'W

Weather: Warm and sunny

Sunny PEI

We docked in Charlottetown early in the morning on a wonderful, sunny day. Most of us opted for a day-long bus tour of the island. During the tour, we visited Lennox Island First Nation Mi'kmaq community.

While visiting the island we participated in a smudging ceremony—a traditional purification process that gets rid of negativity. We also had the opportunity to bake traditional bannock over the fire, participate in basket weaving, quill art, visit the cultural centre, church, and community garden.

Lennox island smudging ceremony

© Dennis Minty

Jamie Thomas, Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation culture and tourism director and band member, performing a traditional smudging ceremony

Our bus tour also made a quick stop in Summerside for some shopping, where we had the chance to enjoy a scenic view of the Confederation Bridge. Being on the island on the last day of the lobster season made it hard not to spot the plentiful fishing boats coming off the water loaded with lobster traps.

Meanwhile, those who chose to stay in Charlottetown had lots of time to explore the city at their leisure. Walking down the city streets and admiring its historic landmarks was such a joy. Many didn’t miss the opportunity to indulge in fresh lobster rolls and visit the famous Cows ice cream shop.

Day 9 – Friday, July 1

Cap-aux-Meules and les Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands), QC

Coordinates: 47°38'N 61°90'W

Weather: Beautifully sunny

A Happy Surprise

Unable to visit Louisbourg the other day put us ahead of schedule, making for a new opportunity! Leaving Charlottetown behind, our expedition leader—to everyone’s delight—announced that we would be visiting Cap-aux-Meules, the capital of les Îles-de-la-Madeleine!

Le site dautrefois

© Dennis Minty

As we approached the islands, Canada Day celebrations began with Inuit cultural educator, Randy Edmunds’ presentation “Canada Day: An Indigenous Perspective.” After arriving at Cap-aux-Meules, we had the opportunity to join a bus tour or take a hike alongside our team of naturalists.

At Le Site D’Autrefois, we admired life size, miniature traditional houses, and fishermen's huts that captured the life of the past. While many appreciated the beauty of the island’s red cliffs strolling around Borgot lighthouse in L'Étang-du-Nord, a small group of kayakers shared a very similar sentiment paddling around the cliffs.

Day 10 – Saturday, July 2

Francois, NL

Coordinates: 47°34'N 56°44'W

Weather: Magnificently misty and foggy

No Shortage of Beauty Here

We had another delightful surprise today learning that we’d visit a small Newfoundland fishermen’s settlement: Francois. In the morning we enjoyed great presentations from Lynn, Dylan, and naturalist Jean Knowles.

As we sailed toward Francois, we didn’t quite know what to expect. The rain accompanied by dark skies had some of us questioning our visit.

Guests walking francois

© Vladimir Rajevac

Although some were disappointed to learn that the strenuous Friar hike was cancelled due to safety reasons, Francois did not disappoint. Honestly, this remote outport could never disappoint! Even on the rainiest of days, the landscape and uniqueness of this special place still shines.

Strolling the village’s narrow streets whilst listening to the waterfall rolling down the hill was such an amazing experience. Everywhere, from the hill above town where we took our hike around the pond, down to the settlement and the bay, was truly breathtaking. The beautiful mist and fog only added to the memorable images that would stay with us forever.

Day 11 – Sunday, July 3

Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, France

Coordinates: 46°47’N 56°09’W

Weather: Cool and foggy

Une Bonne Journée

Just kilometres off the island of Newfoundland, in the small French town of Saint-Pierre, many opted for a guided bus tour. Others decided to take a Zodiac cruise there and explore the historic town and its colourful houses on their own.

Indulging in authentic French pastries, quaint shops, and local eateries, we felt as though we had travelled all the way to Europe!

Saint pierre france

© Dennis Minty

Those who choose to say on board were able to witness a very rare spectacle—a pod of orcas surfacing multiple times in front of Randy’s Zodiac!

Later in the afternoon, Alex Preston hosted an auction and we managed to raise $6,690 for the Graeme Gibson Fellowship with BirdLife International. Way to go! We ended the day with the captain’s farewell and a waltz between Margaret Atwood and Dennis Minty, which had been auctioned off earlier.

Day 12 – Monday, July 4

St. John’s, NL, Canada

Coordinates: 47°56'N 52°69'W

Weather: Partly cloudy

It’s Been Swell

We ended our journey as it had begun, but in reverse, sailing back through St. John’s Narrows. Again, everyone was out on deck enjoying the view. It was hard not to appreciate the stunning vista of the Battery’s community in the early morning.

As we were enjoying St. John’s beautiful landscapes, the ship’s crew and expedition team were busy collecting our luggage and making necessary arrangements for a safe return home.

Sailing trough the narrows st johns

© Dennis Minty

This was such a memorable journey; a true testament to Canadian Atlantic shores and all its amazing places and people. Having learnt so much about Canada and being exposed to its wonderful diversity, in such a short time was a privilege. Thank you, Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s been swell!