Day 1: Arrival in Igloolik
Our Baffin Island Walrus & Bowhead whales tour begins today in Igloolik, Nunavut. Participants will arrive on flights from Ottawa (via Iqaluit) or directly from Pond Inlet if they are connecting this tour to our Baffin Island Floe Edge: Narwhals & Polar Bears tour. We meet for an evening meal and to discuss the upcoming adventure. We should have a chance to meet our local guides and walk around the community of Igloolik after dinner as we have 24 hours of daylight! Night at our hotel in Igloolik.
Days 2 to 6: Foxe Basin
We plan our 5 full-days of the tour around weather and ocean conditions.
The community of Igloolik sits on an island at the western edge of the Foxe Basin. At this time of year there is open water very close to the island. We set off from the edge of the ice by boat in search of walrus and bowhead whales. Walrus are typically found resting on small pans of sea ice over relatively shallow water where they forage for clams on the ocean floor. We will use the knowledge of our local guides to travel to the areas where we are most likely to find walrus. Weighing up to 900 kg (2000 lbs), these are enormous animals and seeing them packed together on a piece of ice is impressive!
At the edge of the open water we find the ‘floe edge’, which is the border between the solid ‘fast’ sea ice and the water. We travel along the floe edge in search of bowhead whales. There is a whole ecosystem of phytoplankton and zooplankton underneath the ice and these whales feed along and under the ice. We may even see them surfacing in small holes in the ice with just the ‘bow’ of their blowhole visible.
Bowhead whales are enormous! These arctic specialists can grow to 90,000 kg and are typically 15 m (50 ft) long, which means they are not one of the long slender whales – they have some girth to them. Being present when they surface close by is a truly magical experience!
Beyond our two large target mammals, there is plenty of other wildlife to enjoy. Ringed and bearded seals are relatively common and there is an abundance of birds migrating and nesting in the area. Over the water we are likely to see King and Common Eiders, Black Guillemots, Long-tailed Ducks, and Snow Geese. Polar bears are very uncommon in this area, but there is a small chance we could find one.
On small islands in Foxe Basin there are nesting Brant, Snow Geese, Red Phalarope, Arctic Tern, Sabine’s Gulls, and more. These are sites where local Inuit hunt geese and eiders and collect their eggs.
We anticipate being on the water looking for walrus, bowhead whales and other arctic wildlife four of these days. If weather prevents us getting out on the water, we will spend some time exploring the community of Igloolik and the island. Igloolik is one of the cultural centers of Nunavut and is home to the film production company that created the films Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen among others. In fact, our travels on the water may take us near the islands where Atanarjuat was exiled in the legend. On the island, there are numerous ponds and some sod house archaeological sites worth exploring.
Nights at our Igloolik hotel.
Day 7: Departure
Our Baffin Island Walrus & Bowhead Whales tour ends today. We catch our flight south from Igloolik to Iqaluit in the morning and connect to a flight to Ottawa, arriving about 5 pm. We part ways here with memories from an incredible Arctic experience.