It may be the first week of December, but my mind is already on a voyage I’ll be taking eight months from now. Ever since I went to South Africa this past January – then to arctic Norwaythen to Vietnam and Cambodia – I have been on a kick to find increasingly more exotic cruises to places that many of us might never consider travelling to.

The Sea Adventurer will be my home next July for 11 days of Arctic Exploration on Adventure Canada's Arctic Safari 2014. Photo courtesy of Adventure Canada.

The Sea Adventurer – shown in her previous livery as Clipper Adventurer – will be my home next July for 11 days of Arctic Exploration on Adventure Canada’s Arctic Safari 2014. Photo courtesy of Adventure Canada.

Next July, I’m going to embark on one of the most remote and fascinating journeys I’ve ever taken: an 11-day expedition cruise with Adventure Canada from Greenland to Canada’s Far North.

Starting in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on July 23, 2014, I’ll embark the 331-foot long Sea Adventurer, which might be familiar to many readers from her previous stint as the Clipper Adventurer. Capable of carrying 118 guests, this nimble, 1975-built vessel has carved up a well-deserved reputation for herself as a capable and adventurous expedition ship.

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland: the start of our Arctic Adventure next summer. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland: the start of our Arctic Adventure next summer. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

From Kangerlussuaq, we sail on through some of Greenland’s most spectacular fjords and ice floes before crossing the Davis Strait to arrive in Arctic Canada on this fascinating Arctic Safari.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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Illulissat, Greenland. Stark beauty intermingled with exotic remoteness. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Illulissat, Greenland. Stark beauty intermingled with exotic remoteness. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with polar travel, despite having never been before. I have read dozens of books on the ill-fated Franklin Expedition and the quest for the elusive Northwest Passage. If you’ve never looked in to this fascinating part of history, you should; it’s endlessly fascinating and filled with stories of explorers like Sir James Clark Ross, Sir William Parry, John Rae, and the gifted-if-habitually-ill Elisha Kent Kane.

While I am greatly looking forward to each and every step ashore, for me, though, the crown jewel – the crème de la crème – of this itinerary is the day spent exploring Beechey Island.

The desolate landscape of Beechey Island has played an important role in history. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

The desolate landscape of Beechey Island has played an important role in history. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Located in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, Beechey’s claim to fame dates back to 1845, when Sir John Franklin chose it as the spot where HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would spend their first dark, lonely winter on their quest for the Northwest Passage.

In what would prove to be macabre foreshadowing of things to come, three crew members never made it through that first winter. Petty Officer John Torrington, Royal Marine Private William Braine, and Able Seaman John Hartnell all died suddenly, and are still buried on the island to this day.

Each corpse was exhumed by Canadian researcher Dr. Owen Beattie during the 1980’s. The ice had preserved the remains so well that Beattie was able to determine the probable cause of death was lead poisoning and tuberculosis. In his book Ice Blink, author Scott Cookman outlines how the shoddy and cutthroat victualing contractor hired to provision Franklin’s vessels wasn’t cooking canned food long enough before sealing them (improperly) with lead. Canning in the early 1800’s wasn’t an exact science, and when significant long-term contracts – like those required by the Royal Navy – were on the line, manufacturers tended to cut corners.

Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, Franklin's second-in-command. He would lead the surviving Expedition members on a desperate scramble for civilization in 1848. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, Franklin’s second-in-command. He would lead the surviving Expedition members on a desperate scramble for civilization in 1848. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Lead poisoning or not, the inescapable fact remains that Beechey Island was the start of a slow march into hell for the expedition. Sir John Franklin would die in the summer of 1847, leaving second-in-command, Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, to attempt one last desperate move: abandoning the Terror and Erebus in the spring of 1848 and setting out on foot for Back’s River and the safety of a distant Hudson’s Bay trading post.

It was a journey no one would live complete.

I have always, always, wanted to visit Beechey Island. Few people I know can understand my fascination with some of the world’s most desolate places, but this landscape has changed little in the nearly 170 years that have passed. I’m visiting in the summer, when the days are long and night rarely falls. But when Franklin and his men were here, it was winter – a long, cold winter spent in total darkness next to an island in a region that didn’t even exist on maps.

If you’re looking for proof that it really is a small world, consider this: I’m related – distantly – to one of the onboard lecture staff. George Sirk is the father of my cousin’s wife, and I see them periodically whenever I am able to get across to Vancouver Island to visit them in their home in Victoria.

So join me in July for a truly one-of-a-kind cruise adventure; I think it will be worth the wait!

Resolute, in Canada's Nunavut territory, is the final stop on our Arctic Safari next summer. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Resolute, in Canada’s Nunavut territory, is the final stop on our Arctic Safari next summer. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Stay tuned – our Live Voyage Report from the Christmas Markets of Europe kicks off on Monday, as we travel to Basel, Switzerland to embark Viking River’s Viking Baldur!

 

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