Written by Quark President, Hans Lagerweij
I'm writing this blog from the unique surroundings of the Arctic Watch Lodge at 74˚ Somerset Island, Nunavut, Canada. Quark Expeditions® has launched this lodge as our first land-based polar product, diversifying our product and re-asserting our position as experts that take you safely and comfortably to extreme locations on land and at sea.
I can proudly say that our experience at Arctic Watch surpassed expectations. The experience of viewing hundreds of beluga whales in the small bay, only a few metres from where you stand, is one of the most incredible wildlife encounters I‘ve ever had. Additionally, we also had some excellent muskox and peregrine falcon sightings. Another great aspect of this lodge is that Quark Expeditions will add new adventure options to our line-up; rafting, ATV riding, and fishing for Arctic char (catch and release).
The trip started in Yellowknife, capital of the North-West Territories. Yellowknife is a city with interesting history, located in the center of Canada’s incredible nature. One insiders tip; visit the small souvenir shop of Buffalo Airways (the real Ice pilots) in their hangar at Yellowknife Airports. From the souvenir shop you can also see their classical planes.
From Yellowknife to Arctic Watch, it's a four hour flight, including a short fuel stop in Cambridge Bay en route to Somerset Island. Somerset Island (Nunavut) is the 46th largest island in the world (Canada’s 12th largest island) and its completely inhabited except for the lodge. It is nature at its best; next to the whales and muskox, there is also interesting birdlife and you might be lucky to see the odd polar bear.
The landscape is fascinating with tundra’s, canyons, waterfalls, ridges and even “badlands”. This provides the perfect variation to explore the Arctic in different ways; you can explore the stunning Cunningham canyon by raft (don’t worry, the waters don't get too rough). You can also explore canyons, like the amazing green Gull Canyon, by motor-vehicle (such as ATV’s) or by foot. After a tough, but worthwhile climb of Nansen’s ridge, you can experience incredible views over the North-West Passage.
One of the attractive bonuses of the program is that the lodge is run by the Weber family; they have offered guests an intimate and authentic Arctic lodge experience since 2000. Richard Weber, is one of Canada’s most impressive polar explorers. He is the only person in the world that has completed six full North Pole expeditions successfully. Furthermore, Richard was the first Canadian to reach the North Pole on foot, and the first person in the world to reach the North Pole from both sides of the Arctic Ocean. This guarantees some good stories to be shared with a glass of wine, after a busy day exploring the wonderful surroundings of Somerset Island!
We’d love for you to join us at Arctic Watch for Quark's Arctic 2015 season! Visit our expedition itinerary to learn more about Arctic Watch and contact us with any questions at 1-888-979-4010 (or 1-802-490-3628 outside North America).