Expedition Journal

High Arctic Explorer

Aug. 2–Aug. 13, 2022

© Jen Derbach

The clear, blue-tinted ice was in harmony with the sky. As we drifted along the bay, a mother and two cubs were spotted cuddling on a bed of sea ice.


HI22-1 Expedition Journal Map ONLY 1x1 4x 100
  • Day 1: Toronto, ON, Canada to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Day 2: Qeqqata
  • Day 3: Ilulissat
  • Day 4: Disko Island
  • Day 5: At Sea
  • Day 6: Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), NU, Canada
  • Day 7: Croker Bay
  • Day 8: At Sea
  • Day 9: Baffin Bay
  • Day 10: Hollanderbugt, Greenland
  • Day 11: Sisimiut
  • Day 12: Kangerlussuaq

Day 1 – Tuesday, August 2

Toronto, ON, Canada to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Coordinates: 66°57'N 50°58’W

Weather: Warm and sunny

Let the Journey Begin

After enjoying an early breakfast at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto, we began our exciting journey towards Kangerlussuaq, for the High Arctic Explorer expedition! As the plane took off, we waved goodbye to Pearson International Airport and looked forward to being greeted with spectacular views of Greenland’s natural landscape.

Arctic sun kangerlussuaq

© Jen Derbach

At the Kangerlussuaq Airport, we came across some friendly faces who were still buzzing with excitement from the previous expedition. We then hopped onto the bus and made our way to the port, while taking in the beautiful scenery that now surrounded us.

Once on board the Ocean Endeavour, we completed the safety drills and began to settle in. Some took the opportunity to get a good night’s rest while others stayed up and took advantage of the breathtaking views of the fjord, as the sun sets around 11:00 p.m. and rises at about 4:00 a.m. here.

Day 2 – Wednesday, August 3


Coordinates: 66°18'N 48°99'W

Weather: Windy with some clouds

Sights As We Sail

As we sailed down the west part of Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) known as Qeqqata, we spent the day participating in an array of on-board activities. Inuit cultural educator, Berda “Birdie” Larsen, gave a lovely presentation, “Kalaallisuut - Greenlandic National Clothing and Culture.” On board archaeologist, Dr. Lisa Rankin, also introduced her work on community-centred archaeology. Then, a warm welcome to Kalaallit Nunaat was given by Birdie and Nancy “Niap” Saunders with the lighting of the qulliq, a traditional oil lamp.

Berdie larsen Kalaallisuut presentation

© Jen Derbach

Birdie giving a presentation on Greenlandic national clothing and culture in her Kalaallisuut

As we continued down the fjord, we entered Nordre Isortoq and enjoyed cruising on the ship. Many of us gathered on the top deck to gaze upon the majestic scenery of the surrounding tundra. Here, photography and wildlife enthusiasts mingled with the expedition team experts to discuss potential sightings. Some even made bets about polar bear sightings, and others searched for narwhals hoping to cross that off their bucket list.

Later, we enjoyed a great musical performance from Thomas Kovacs, who accomplished the remarkable task of memorizing all the guests' names (well just about). We ended the day in high spirits as we sailed towards Ilulissat.

Day 3 – Thursday, August 4


Coordinates: 69°13'N 51°08’W

Weather: Light rain and foggy with a “Scotch Mist”

Mighty Bergs

This morning we woke up surrounded by icebergs as the ship arrived in Ilulissat, home to the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, one of the most active and fastest moving glaciers in the world. After taking advantage of the wonderous views out on deck, many of us were eager to get our gear on and head towards shore.

As we disembarked the Zodiacs, many made their way to the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to witness its natural greatness. Some opted to stroll the boardwalk while others decided to hike and explore the grassy rocky hills. A layer of mystery was added when the fog settled in, giving the feeling as if we were stranded on a fantasy island of plants and ice.

Ilulissat zodiac cruise iceberg

© Jen Derbach

Throughout the day, we were lucky enough to spot an Arctic fox near the ice centre, some snow buntings, and Arctic birds. The kayakers even caught a glimpse of a glorious humpback whale in the Icefjord!

Later, we got a closer look at the Icefjord with a Zodiac cruise. By this time the fog had dissipated, and the grey backdrop made the beautiful bluish hues of the iceberg stand out. For many, this was the first iceberg encounter of their lives, and what a mighty berg to encounter!

Day 4 – Friday, August 5

Disko Island

Coordinates: 69°27'N 51°08’W

Weather: Cloudy with light winds

A Magical Island

With an early wake up call, we began the day sailing through breathtaking Disko Bay, the largest open bay in western Greenland. After breakfast, we hopped in the Zodiacs and made our way to visit an uninhabited site on Disko Island.

As we made our way to shore, Inuit cultural educator, Navarana K'avigak' Sørensen, welcomed us with an Inuit song playing the qilaut—a type of frame drum. The island was spectacular, to say the least, with plenty of land to explore, we all went our separate ways to discover its treasures. Scaling up the tundra you could see a full view of the site, which displayed a lush Arctic vista.

Disko bay guests walking on tundra

© Jen Derbach

The expedition team was quick to sprawl across the area, sharing their knowledge of the surrounding nature and history. Lisa located two sites, which contained fox traps dating back 400 years ago. Towards the top of the tundra, some even claimed to have spotted a gyrfalcon flying by.

Many stayed as long as they could to savour the magic of the island.

Day 5 – Saturday, August 6

At Sea

Coordinates: 69°06’N 62°86’W

Weather: Thick fog

Sun and Sea Shanties

The sea was calm today as we made our way along the Davis Strait. Our expedition leader, Jason Edmunds, claimed that it was the smoothest sailing he’s ever had on these waters. Luck was definitely on our side as these conditions were perfect for a day of on board activities.

Various workshops were held, such as navigation instruction, watercolour painting, and Inuktitut syllabics.

Guests celebrating midnight sun on deck

© Jen Derbach

As the day came to an end, many gathered on the top of the deck to celebrate the midnight sun, as it would be up for twenty-four hours for the next few days. Hot chocolate and Baileys, accompanied by sea shanties made for a merry time.

Day 6 – Sunday, August 7

Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), NU, Canada

Coordinates: 72°42’N 77°58’W

Weather: Warm and sunny

A Warm Welcome to Canada

Excitement spread around the breakfast table as there was news about a polar bear sighting on our way to Mittimatalik. What an amazing way to be greeted as we arrived at the Canadian border. Many stayed out on deck to bask in the glowing sun as we sailed by Nunavut’s striking mountains.

Greeted with gentle kindness and enthusiasm as we arrived on shore, we had the opportunity to learn more about the region’s rich culture and history. Locals happily shared stories about their personal journeys and community folklore.

Guests learning Mittimatalik community

© Jen Derbach

As we made our way around the community, there wasn’t a view that couldn’t be enjoyed. The babbling brooks and a hillside vantage point of the waterfront, made for a beautiful view of the town and mountains of nearby Bylot Island.

Later, we enjoyed a brilliant presentation from the community, which included a demonstration of Inuit games and throat singing. It was hard to tear ourselves away, though we left appreciative of the meaningful cultural connections we made in Mittimatalik.

Day 7 – Monday, August 8

Croker Bay

Coordinates: 74°46'N 83°08’W

Weather: Bright and warm sun

Turquoise-tinted Croker Bay

We ate our breakfast with a beautiful view as we sailed along the calm waters of Lancaster Sound. This turquoise-tinted bay was home to an abundance of peculiar-looking icebergs that complimented the mountainous landscape.

After anchoring, we all gathered out on deck and stood in awe of the Croker Bay glacier that was now in sight. On our way to shore, we were greeted by a friendly harp seal swimming alongside the Zodiacs.

Croker bay glacier

© Jen Derbach

Many enjoyed walking along the beach to get a closer view of the icebergs and glaciers, while others combed the plateau, in search of historical artefacts and flowers. One of us even spotted part of an ancient whale harpoon made of bone, which was identified by Lisa.

During dinner, the excitement continued when three polar bears were spotted, not far from where we were on land earlier—a mother and her two cubs walking near the shoreline.

Day 8 – Tuesday, August 9

At Sea

Coordinates: 74°69’N 68°49’W

Weather: Sunny

Dancing at Sea

We woke to learn that the planned route towards Tallurutiup Imanga was no longer feasible due to sea ice, and we would be shifting our itinerary. This goes to show how much of a deciding factor weather and sea conditions can be in the Arctic! Making our way back to Greenland, we continued our adventure.

Guests dancing on board

© Jen Derbach

We were blessed with beautiful sunny weather, accompanied by a variety of presentations in the Nautilus Lounge as we sailed through the waters of the Davis Strait. Inuit cultural educators gave a presentation on the four different Inuit lands in Canada, which was followed by a set of sailing adventures told by veteran sailor Judy Robertson.

During cocktail hour, we enjoyed a wonderful musical performance from naturalist Sean Gallagher, who amazed us with his acoustic guitar and singing voice. After supper, we rounded out the day with a lively disco dance party. The night flew by as we enjoyed hits from the 80s and drinks with our friends, under dazzling colourful lights.

Day 9 – Wednesday, August 10

Baffin Bay

Coordinates: 72°44'N 63°53’W

Weather: Chilly and foggy

Among the Sea Ice

The morning began with a happy surprise. Making our way towards Greenland, Jason decided to halt the ship for a special Zodiac cruise along the Davis Straight near Baffin Bay!

Slowly navigating through the fog, a wonderland of sea ice and icebergs revealed itself. The clear, blue-tinted ice was in harmony with the sky. As we drifted along the bay, a mother and two cubs were spotted cuddling on a bed of sea ice. What a spectacular sight! We drifted away feeling joyful, some even crossing an item off their bucket list.

Baffin bay polar bears on sea ice

© Jen Derbach

We spent the rest of the day buzzing with excitement and participating in various workshops and presentations on board. We ended the evening with a farewell concert from Thomas, who invited all the expedition team members to sing, “The Northwest Passage”.

Day 10 – Thursday, August 11

Hollanderbugt, Greenland

Coordinates: 70°48'N 53°49’W

Weather: Partly cloudy with light wind

The Large Cape

Sailing down on the Nuussuaq Peninsula, also known as “the large cape”, we stopped for a morning hike in the nearby valley. This peninsula is known for carrying lignite deposits. We admired the unique black sand in the area that highlighted the mineral-rich beach.

Some opted to take part in an advanced hike, which carried on for nine kilometres, while others preferred to take their time on the medium hike option. Those who combed the beach, enjoyed a view of the towering icebergs scattered along the peninsula.

Hollanderbugt large iceberg

© Jen Derbach

Back on board, we enjoyed a lobster lunch, followed by a beautiful presentation from ornithologist Garry Donaldson, on photos from intended and unexpected destinations during our expedition. We ended the evening with a heartwarming and successful charity auction for the Students on Ice Foundation.

Day 11 – Friday, August 12


Coordinates: 66°56'N 53°40’W

Weather: A beautiful sunny day

A Colourful Rainbow

After a long night of sailing, we began the day with a presentation on Sisimiut’s most popular spots from hometown expert, Birdie. Towards lunch, we were treated to a lovely view of Sisimiut’s coastline. The bright sun illuminated the lovely colours of the houses sitting atop its rocky shore.

Disembarking, we set out for a walking tour of the city. We enjoyed the beautiful views of this picturesque community, as we walked through its small roads, mountainous backdrops, and rainbow-coloured houses.

Sisimiut colourful buildings

© Jen Derbach

Some spent time visiting the museum, shopping for artisan handicrafts, and indulging in a Greenlandic food sampling of muskox, whale fat, snow crab, and cod.

We ended the day with a captain’s farewell dinner and a lighthearted, yet difficult game of Arctic Bluff with our very entertaining hosts, Sean Gallagher and Julian Morse.

Day 12 – Saturday, August 13


Coordinates: 66°57'N 50°58’W

Weather: Sunny with a slight breeze

One Last Adventure

We ended our journey the same way we started it, with endearment and enthusiasm in the beautiful town of Kangerlussuaq. Everyone took in the last few moments, embracing the breathtaking views out on deck.

Muskox kangerlussuaq

© Danny Catt

After disembarking, we had one last adventure in store—a bus tour around town! We enjoyed spectacular views of the Watson River Bridge, which featured meltwater from the Kangerlussuaq glacier. Some folks were lucky enough to spot muskoxen and reindeer grazing on the town’s plains. We each said our goodbyes, with hopes to cross paths again on another journey.

About the Author

Christopher Thomas

Christopher Thomas

Marketing Intern

Christopher is a marketing student with a passion for social media strategy development and content creation. He loves trying new things and is dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle.