Why Antarctica? Reasons to visit in the Spring Season


Everyone has a reason for visiting Antarctica—maybe, whether they know it or not—all of them unique and personal. For many, it can be the final checkmark on the map—the end of a lifelong bucket list to visit all corners of the earth. Others are captivated by its remote, pristine wilderness and its incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities. The call of an untouched world of glacial ice and rugged coastline is without a doubt one that is heard by many.

Whatever your reasons for visiting, there are some strong benefits to visiting the Antarctic in November, as the first rays of summer arrive on the world’s southernmost continent. Following are a few of the reasons you’ll want to reach Antarctica early in the year.

  1. The ice is sharp, crisp, and fresh. Over the summer, sun and sea take their toll on the innumerable icebergs that dot the Antarctic coastline. As the ice is weathered by heat and wave action, they change colour from blue to white as the volume of air trapped within changes, and the bergs become pitted and cracked. But in November and December, icebergs are at their most massive—they’re fresh from the winter season, sharp, and massive, towering in crenellated peaks over azure waters.People_zodiac_cruising
  2. The snow is immaculate. Early in the summer season, snow in Antarctica is fresh, white, and crisp—a true tabula rasa. As we cross the sea from South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, the most common reaction is reverence and awe. The sheer scale and immensity of the Antarctic coastline often leaves us speechless; the sparkling snow, the gleaming blue glacial shelves—unmarked with mud and impurities that are revealed by summer melt—are truly unparalleled sights to behold. Arriving early in the season means we see them at their best.Places_Neko_Harbour_ice_shelf
  3. The penguins are partying. Early expeditions offer the best opportunities for penguin viewing, as it’s their mating season and energy is at a peak. You can expect to see penguins mating, nesting or—often, and hilariously—stealing pebbles away from the nests of others. Chinstrap penguins lay late in November, and typically hatch two chicks each summer. They will occupy their colonies until the start of summer the following March, when they leave the pack ice for winter. These birds feed just offshore of their colonies, plumbing the sea for krill and fish which are shared with the chicks. The second most abundant species on the continent, the chinstraps are easily at their best early in the season—which is when we visit them.Wildlife_penguins_chinstrap_rookery
  4. The world’s largest carnivores are primed for action. It may surprise you to know that the southern elephant seal—also known as Beachmasters—are the largest carnivores alive, with some adult males surpassing even polar bears in size! In summer, these giants come ashore to moult and will lay beached for weeks at a time! Some can go up to three months on land before returning to the sea to hunt. By visiting South Goergia in November and December, we ensure that our arrival is perfectly timed to see these magnificent creatures, and hear their fearsome roars.FSG_seals_elephant_males

Sound like something you’d like to be a part of? Well look no further. Join Adventure Canada this November aboard the Hebridean Sky for our Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica expedition and travel in style to the bottom of the world.

Filming Worlds Apart

An interview with filmmaker-photographer Jason Van Bruggen

Jason van Bruggen is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker based in Canada. His lens has previously captured an incredible Adventure Canada journey through the Northwest Passage. We are thrilled to share Jason’s latest cinematic poem featuring AC staffer and author-explorer James Raffan, and caught up with him to ask some questions about his craft.

Adventure Canada: Jason, what draws you to the wilderness as a filmmaker?

Jason Van Bruggen: Our wilderness is an endlessly fascinating subject to me. Not only for its beauty, but also for the opportunities it provides us in terms of learning and reflection. As we enter an age of scarcity and climate change, these opportunities become more precarious. As a visual artist, I have a role to play in conserving wild places and encouraging an appreciation for them in others. Not only for their visual interest but for their profound importance. My passion for wilderness locations is decades old and predates my current role as a filmmaker and photographer. My current career choice was informed by a passion for wild places rather than the other way around. A fascination with intrepid travel has spanned my whole life. Growing up, I spent my summers on unsupported canoe trips in the Canadian backcountry, which is probably at the root of it. I have worked in the most remote and austere locations on the planet ranging from the Tibetan Himalaya to the deserts of Iraq, and spent time wandering around in well over a hundred countries. Wilderness travel and exploration have been profoundly formative and continue to provide me with boundless inspiration.

AC: What extra considerations does a filmmaker have to make when shooting in remote locations like the Arctic? How did you prepare? What is the hardest part about shooting in cold weather?

JVB: There are many, many additional considerations that go into shooting in remote locations, especially when travelling with a sophisticated equipment package. Preparation involves fastidious attention to detail, starting with the planning stages. You need to be ready for contingency, for equipment failure (total or partial) and have backups of all the essentials. The hardest parts about shooting in cold weather are pretty obvious—keeping yourself warm, keeping your batteries warm, and keeping your equipment running are always crucial.  

AC: Is there anything in particular that makes a shooting location special? What do you look for when gathering footage?

JVB: The light. The fleeting point of confluence at which light, topography, and activity all meet is what yields magic.

AC: Wildlife is notoriously hard to shoot. Is there anything you take into consideration to help get the perfect shot?

JVB: First off, I don’t think I have gotten the perfect shot. In my view, the best way to capture wildlife is to research where you might find the fauna you are looking for, identify a target location, and then spend time there. I prefer to wait in one place and get to know it intimately; this allows me to develop an understanding of where the best opportunities exist. This enables me to find the best light and, hopefully, understand the habits and interests of the animals I am shooting. Observing animals candidly, without disturbing them, is always the most rewarding. That being said, you can do everything right and walk away without a single shot. It’s a crap-shoot like that, especially in landscapes as vast and changeable as the Arctic.

AC: What was the most challenging shot in this most recent project?

JVB: Many individual shots had their challenges, but I think the most delicate part of this project was trying to strike a balance between a number of competing priorities. At the end of the day, this is a piece to promote Arctic travel on behalf of Adventure Canada. It is also a portrait of a friend of mine, and one that I wanted to make candid without being overly revealing. Like many of the stories that I imagine and film, I wanted this to be honest and to steer away from a clichéed interpretation of the North, exploration, and wilderness travel.

AC: Part of what makes your northern films and images so striking is the haunting, subdued palate. Can you comment on how you achieve such a vivid representation of local colour?

JVB: I try and represent on film what I feel when I am in the North. The Arctic, as it lives in my memory, is not an overtly colourful place. It is an eerily beautiful place, though. I see a great deal of photography which feels like it stretches the boundaries of credible human experience in the Arctic. While there are flashes of brilliant colour on many of my Arctic voyages, my emotional memory of the Arctic on most days is reflected in my colour treatment of both still and moving images.

AC: How would you describe the experience of working with Adventure Canada?

JVB: I love these guys. It’s a family-run business with tremendous purchase in the communities we visit and huge respect for the part of the world in which they travel. Those relationships have taken decades to build, and aren’t something that can be bought. The resource staff aboard the AC vessels keep coming back, year after year, for the same reasons that I do—we get to work with great people in amazing places.

AC: What is your dream shoot? Somewhere you haven’t been, and always wanted to?

JVB: Tough question. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot , and get to a lot of ‘bucket list’ destinations. I want to continue to explore the most compelling and hard to get to pieces of wilderness in Canada, and around the world. If I had to narrow it down, I would say all of National Parks in Canada that I haven’t been to yet.

AC: Thanks very much, Jason!

JVB: Thank you!

Jason’s work is focussed on depicting North American wilderness, including the Far North in a manner that is authentic and narrative—building new interpretations of these landscapes. Favouring travel that brings him in direct contact with the frontier and those who inhabit it, Jason’s immersive work seeks to explore these emerging landscapes and capture the vulnerability of the ecosystems and the people who live within them, illuminating a tension between the strength and fragility of the region; the age-old resolve to survive, and the current intention to thrive in places where scarcity fosters incredible ingenuity, resilience, and hospitality. Visit his portfolio online for more information.

All photos courtesy of Jason Van Bruggen.

Stories and Storytellers

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A guest post by Michael Crummey. Photo by Michelle Valberg.

When I travel on the mainland, I’m often asked to explain the remarkable national and international success of Newfoundland writers, musicians, and entertainers. It does seem to require some explanation. For a province representing less that 2% of the population of Canada, the wealth of talent seems bizarrely out of proportion. Wayne Johnston, Great Big Sea, CodCo and This Hour has 22 Minutes, Lisa Moore, Michael and Kathleeen Winter, Hey Rosetta!, Rick Mercer, Bernice Morgan, Ron Hynes, Republic of Doyle, Amelia Curran … the list seems endless. Maybe there’s something in the water. Or it might be a part of our cultural DNA.

I grew up around storytellers, although I never though of it that way as a youngster. It was just people talking or singing or telling a joke or some old foolishness. My father, in particular, had a repertoire of stories he would dip into on nights he’d had a drink or two. They were just incidents from his own life, but they were diverting, often hilarious, and occasionally terrifying. Much of what I know about telling a story I learned from listening to him talk.

It’s only as an adult I started to see the Newfoundlander’s gift of the gab as a cultural trait, something unique to the place and its circumstances. Storytelling was how people in isolated communities entertained one another, how local history was kept alive, how the long winter nights were passed. It was a survival strategy as much as anything and it has become a defining characteristic of the people here over the course of generations. You still hear it in local kitchens and pubs, at the corner store, on the wharves. And if I had to guess, I’d say that tradition is also part of what makes the contemporary novels and films and songs of Newfoundland so compelling and entertaining.

Sit down a spell. Have a listen.

Michael Crummey is a celebrated Canadian author. He is travelling aboard Adventure Canada’s Out of the Northwest Passage 2016 expedition.

Fur, Feathers, and Fat: What it Takes to Survive an Arctic Winter

Polar Bear

Arctic birds and mammals are specialized for life in the extreme environment they call home. Insulation against cold is a key factor in their survival. Indeed, it has been shown that the skin temperature of large Arctic mammals is only a few degrees lower than their deep-body temperature, even when the air is as cold as -40°C! In fact, there can be a difference of more than 51.6°C between skin and air temperatures, demonstrating the efficiency of the animals’ fur as an insulator.

For example, the musk ox has a dense layer of wool next to the body, covered and protected by an outer layer of long fur. By comparison, the caribou or reindeer has a coat that consists of long, hollow hairs to trap air. The hairs of the polar bear’s coat are transparent, and allow light to reach the skin beneath, which is black and absorbs its heat. The fur then traps the heat, and little escapes.

Other animals, like the walrus, rely almost entirely on thick reserves of blubber to insulate them from the harsh environment.

Walrus, Rookery, Haul Out, Colony

Bird feathers are also good insulators! The plumage of resident Arctic birds tends to be denser than that of the migrating bird species. Birds can reduce heat loss by fluffing their feathers. When it becomes very cold, they can pull their legs up under their bodies and tuck their heads under the feathers on their back, turtle style.

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Seven Ways to Stay Warm in the Arctic

Even though we travel to wonderful northern destinations in the height of summer, it never hurts to prepare for the chill! In the sun, there’s often nothing to worry about–but temperatures can swing quickly in the Arctic. These handy tips will help you stay nice and toasty during your expeditions to the far north.

1. Dress in layers

RaffanWhile a big, bulky parka might be best for urban wear, it will rarely be the best choice for Arctic summers. Instead of one large, cumbersome coat, choose multiple layers of synthetic fibres. A wicking layer close to your skin will help regulate your body temperature, while an outer waterproof shell will protect you from wind and sea spray. If further insulation is required, lightweight down and fleece layers should be used.

2. Stay dry

It’s hard to warm back up once you’re wet! During Zodiac travel, be sure to wear a waterproof shell over your expedition clothing. Even if it’s not raining, this barrier will protect you from sea spray and generally pack down quite small should you wish to remove it on land. Choose wool socks over cotton (which retains almost no heat when wet) and make sure that your hiking shoes have a degree of waterproofness built in–we’ll supply the rubber boots!

3. Protect your extremities

We lose the most heat through our hands, feet, and heads–so do your digits right, and always keep a light pair of gloves and a toque close by. Thick mitts help when it’s truly cold, but often gloves are sufficient–and let you use your camera!

At the foot of Executioner's Cliffs, Icy Arm, Nunavut

4. Warm yourself

The human body is a remarkable power plant, producing heat constantly. If you find yourself catching a chill, try moving about quickly to raise your heart rate and increase blood flow. It’s remarkable what just a few minutes of physical activity will do for your body temperature. And once you’ve created the heat, your layered clothing will trap it in and keep you nice and toasty.

5. Pack warm drinks

You can never go wrong with a thermos of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate–all of which the Ocean Endeavour has on hand twenty-four hours a day for your convenience. So stock up and bring along a hot cuppa to sip from a scenic vista!

6. Stoke the furnace

Being well-fed–meaning consuming more calories than you are expending–will help your body source the energy it needs to keep you warm. We recommend starting each day with a big breakfast and keeping your blood sugar up to make sure that your built-in furnace has everything in place to work effectively. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered–the Ocean Endeavour’s restaurant features three delicious meals each day, not to mention an afternoon tea and evening snacks. We find it’s hard to stop eating, frankly!

7. Skip the booze

Sure, a brandy or a hot toddy might feel like a good way to warm up after a trip around a glacier or brisk Zodiac ride–just make sure you save the hooch for after your expedition! Studies have shown that drinking alcohol before exposure to cold as it lowers core body temperature even as it creates the illusion of heat–a dangerous combination!

Seven Tips for Zodiac Travel

2009-Heart-of-the-Arctic-Andrew-Stewart-3870Our Zodiac landing craft make Adventure Canada expeditions truly special. With these hardy, rigid-hulled inflatable outboards, we are able to bring adventurers ashore efficiently and in comfort. They can land on beaches, rocks, and everything in between—and they are stable at speed with large groups of passengers. Ideally suited to expedition travel, the Zodiac allows us to explore incredible wilderness safely and easily. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Zodiac experience:

1. The Zodiac driver is in charge of the boat and its operation. Please promptly follow their instructions at all times (singing is optional but encouraged).

2. Always wear the provided lifejackets when travelling in the Zodiacs.

3. Familiarize yourself with the “sailors’ grip” for use when stepping in and out of the Zodiacs at the gangway and at shore. Always accept a helping hand, and grasp each other by the wrists. This provides far greater support than a more traditional handshake grip.

4. Minimize the number of separate items taken along with you. Backpacks are ideal for consolidating objects such as cameras, binoculars, extra shoes, etc. Waterproof backpack coverings can be purchased, and are recommended. Remember to pass any backpacks, walking sticks, etc. to the Zodiac’s driver or ship’s crew before embarking or disembarking.

5. Never disembark or embark the Zodiac over the wooden transom at the boat’s stern. The slightest wave could bring the heavy box down on your foot; wait for instructions and assistance if a stern disembarkation is necessary.

6. Never smoke in the Zodiacs. There are exposed fuel tanks connected to the outboard engines. Lit cigarettes are also hazardous to the rubber construction of the boats themselves.

7. Always ask permission before standing in a Zodiac.

Following these tips will help ensure that our Zodiac operations are safe and fun for all aboard!

Arctic Photo Tips from a Pro: Guest Post from Michelle Valberg

MichelleValbergD4S5471.105926Nikon Canada Ambassador Michelle Valberg has been travelling with Adventure Canada for years, and her incredible photography plays a large role in helping us tell our story through exciting trip logs, brochures, and around the web. In addition to the successful photography business she runs in Ottawa, Michelle is the founder of the non-profit Project North, an organization dedicated to supporting northern communities with donated sporting equipment. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, the London Tribune, MORE magazine, Canadian Geographic, and In Style. She has self-published four books, including Arctic Kaleidoscopeand has been exhibited at the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Ottawa Hospital, the Wall Space Gallery, and the Trinity Art Gallery.

A mainstay of Adventure Canada’s expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavour, Michelle delights in being out on deck and on the land, capturing the wide world around her through an ever-present lens. In anticipation of our 2016 sailing season—and in light of Adventure Canada’s new partnership with Nikon Canada—we caught up with Michelle to ask her a few questions about Arctic photography, to help our guests make the most of their expeditions to the far north.

Adventure Canada: What is the best technique for photographers to best capture the scale of the Arctic landscape?

Michelle Valberg:  For the vast and stunning Arctic landscapes, I suggest using a wide-angle lens.Buchun Gulf 812830

Ideally, a focal length between 14–28mm; I use a NIKKOR 14–24mm for most landscapes I shoot. You can also photograph a panoramic image which tells of an even greater story with a very wide perspective—one that might represent more of how it felt to be there.

Pay attention to the rule of thirds, and where you place the horizon line. Avoid placing the horizon line in the centre of the frame to achieve better composition and interest to your viewer.

Arctic Bay Nunavut D4S7629

AC: Is there a specific recommendation you have for photographers seeking incredible wildlife shots?

MV: In contrast to the landscapes, a longer lens is very useful for wildlife photography. Most often than not, you aren’t that close to your subjects and it is great to have a longer reach. For versatility I like to use the NIKKOR 80–400mm or 200–500mm. Both are incredibly sharp lenses.

If possible, shoot in the early morning or late day; don’t be in your cabin at prime shooting times! In these magic hours, light angles are lower and create more texture and interest in your image. Shadows and contrast are increased, and, typically, you get more wildlife activity (since it is feeding time). Play with front, back, and side lighting to see how you can photograph your subjects in different ways. Most importantly, watch and change your camera settings to get better results.

Narwal tail 7948Pay close attention to your background and positioning of your subject when photographing wildlife. Experiment with different foregrounds for landscapes. Change your vantage point often while in the same shooting area. Composition can make or break your image, and it is critical to creating and capturing that first-class photograph. Look for ways you can capture motion—whether with a bird in flight or a waterfall. Maybe you want to create a sense of motion with water. Remember your tripod and change your shutter speeds to achieve different affects.

Finally, watching animal behaviour and anticipating their next move can help you get better results. An animal can change the tilt of its head ever so slightly and take your image from good to fantastic. Watch a bird’s wing position, or how an animal walks or swims. Above all be patient—very patient!

King Eiders 0292AC: What’s the biggest mistake you see amateurs make in the field? How can they correct this?

MV: I find that many people don’t shoot enough!  SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT—and don’t stop shooting until you have your ultimate image. Always carry a lot of memory cards so you don’t have to worry about how many images you can take. The beauty of nature is all around, and you don’t have to go far to photograph it. Photograph in your backyard, a park or on a trail; pay close attention to your ISO, shutter, and aperture and experiment, practice, and continue to learn. Try to be unique with your approach and creativity so your images stand out and command your viewer’s attention.

AC: Do you have any tips for shooting from a moving ship? How about from a Zodiac?Icy Arm Polar Bears _D4S2599

MV: With the continued improvement and development of today’s cameras, you can shoot at much higher ISO settings that any of us probably thought was possible. Since you are shooting on a moving ship or Zodiac—and perhaps with a longer lens—you need a faster shutter speed (at least 1/250 second). If you start with a higher ISO setting, it will give you the ability to shoot at a faster shutter speed. I would also recommend setting your camera to shutter priority so you can choose your shutter speed. Stay steady and be aware of your fellow passengers. When you see a polar bear, it is hard to contain your excitement!

AC: What’s your favourite memory of shooting with Adventure Canada? Do any wildlife encounters or expedition stops stand out?

MV: There are so many favourites or special memories—too many to name! Every trip I have taken with AC is outstanding and gifts me with amazing and precious moments.

Join Michelle in 2016 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation, and the Heart of the Arctic Nikon expedition!

MYACWhat does Canadian adventure mean to you? Photographers who answer this question through the #MyAdventureCanada photo contest could win passage aboard Heart of the Arctic 2016 (where they can hone their skills in the field with Michelle), as well as gear from Nikon Canada!

All photos by Michelle Valberg

Welcome Back, Chief Mi’sel Joe!

Mi’sel Joe was born in Miawpukek in 1947 to a family with strong ties to the community. Both his grandfather and uncle have held the office of hereditary Saqamaw—a high ranking spiritual leader traditionally tasked with spiritual and cultural leadership. His great great uncle, Morris Lewis, was the first appointed Chief in Newfoundland by the Grand Chief in Mi’kmaq territory. Mi’sel was educated in the Mi’kmaq ways and traditions, and at sixteen was given the alternative to either leave the reservation to seek employment, or travel to a neighbouring community to attend secondary school. He chose the former.

During his years away from the community, Mi’sel travelled widely and cut his teeth on a wide variety of professions. He worked in farms and factories, in construction and on railroads. He drove trucks and operated heavy machinery. He worked on fishing boats and in mines underground, and acted as labour foreman. But years passed, and in 1973 he moved back to Miawpukek.

Since then, Mi’sel has been been involved in First Nations Politics, initially as a councillor. After the death of his uncle, Chief William Joe, in 1982, Mi’sel became Saqamaw and Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. He is currently in his sixth consecutive two-year term as Administrative Chief for the nation, and is recognized prCHIEF MISEL JOEovincially, nationally, and internationally as a spiritual leader and healer, ambassador of his people. He has presented on native medicines and traditional healing practices at international medical conferences and hosted the 1996 International Healing Conference at Miawpukek. He is on the board of Parks Canada, a mentor of the Trudeau Foundation, a member of the First Nations Trust Fund, and sits on the Executive Council of the Atlantic Policy Congress. In 2004, Mi’sel was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador in recognition of his contribution to the economic, social, and political development of the Mi’kmaq people of the province.

Adventure Canada is delighted to be setting sail with Chief Mi’sel Joe yet again in 2016 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation. This stunning itinerary takes in the sights and sounds of Newfoundland the way they were meant to be discovered—by sea! Chief Mi’sel Joe will be on hand as a member of our elite team of resource specialists, helping to share his wealth of knowledge and experience in—as well as his lifelong love for—the region. We are also thrilled to be stopping in Miawpukek (Conne River), where we look forward to meeting with the community and sharing stories.

Just one more way Adventure Canada is helping to spread culture, knowledge, and community.

Polar Bear Sightings: Some Guidelines

Polar bear sightings can be a highlight of our expeditions, and we do our best to visit areas where bears can safely be seen. We must, however, be aware that the polar bear is a predatory animal. We must also be mindful that the polar bear is vulnerable; as a responsible tour operator, we are committed to avoid disturbing all wildlife.Polar Bear, South Baffin

Select licensed and experienced members of our expedition team will be outfitted with firearms and other deterrents to ensure the safety of our group, as well as that of the bears. It is imperative to adhere to the instructions of the expedition team, and safe behaviour around polar bears is part of your responsibility as a visitor. The following are our guidelines to ensure safe and responsible interaction with the world’s largest land predator:

• We will never follow or approach a swimming polar bear, from any angle.
• We will position our Zodiacs so they may be operated in a safe and controlled manner.
• We will maintain a minimum distance of thirty metres between polar bears and our Zodiacs.
• We will always increase our distance from polar bears should they demonstrate any signs of distress.
• If you spot a polar bear, stay calm and immediately inform a member of the expedition team.
• Never approach a bear for any reason
• Never stray from your group.
• Never leave food or garbage anywhere.
• Always follow the direction of the expedition team.

Polar Bear at PlayThese guidelines will ensure that our encounters with the majestic polar bear will be moments to treasure forever. There is something unforgettable about seeing a polar bear striding across the Arctic landscape or dismembering a fresh kill along the shore of a rocky fjord. They are truly an embodiment of the spirit of the north–and, with our respect, will hopefully remain so for generations to come.

The Light Returns to Inuvik

There is a town far, far in the north by the name of Inuvik. It lies near the northwestern border of the Northwest Territories and, like many of the other communities north of the Arctic circle, its inhabitants eke out lives in conditions far harsher than those experienced by their southern countrymen and women. The community averages low winter temperatures of -30°C, though fierce winds have taken the mercury as low as -67°C. For the last thirty days or so, Inuvik has been shrouded in near total darkness as the earth’s axis leans it away from the sun.

But today, the light returns to Inuvik.

Today, and for the rest of this weekend, the town’s inhabitants take the the streets for their annual Sunrise Festival, celebrating the first sunrise in over a month. The event has brought people together since 1988 to celebrate the light, and there is an abundance of ways to do just that. Local food, dance, music, and winter activities like snow carving and snowmobiling take place across the town and a giant bonfire and fireworks display keep locals warm on Saturday night.

All of which we find truly inspiring. To us, Inuvik represents a true triumph of the human spirit; it represents all that we can do when we are pushed to our limits, together. The welcome return of a ray of light after a long, cold darkness shows us our capacity for resilience. In the cheerful, goodhearted revival of spirt and the rebirth of another year under the sun, Inuvik and its inhabitants remind us to be thankful for what we have. To be good to one another. To cherish the little things that make us whole and make us human.

The light at the end of the tunnel reminds us to look for the guiding flame even when things seem at their darkest. The dawn at the end of a long night reminds us that our time on this swiftly tilting planet is not destined for perfection–nor should it be. Instead, Inuvik turns its face into the sun today, nourished by its healing power, but, perhaps, all the more secure in the knowledge that in its absence they still endured. And flourished. As they always, year in and out, again and again.

It is a new year for all of us. But the light has returned to Inuvik; some would say that it never left.

Meet Matt Szczepanski

1Meet Matt Szczepanski, filmmaker. He’s fresh out of high school, and he’s taking a year off to “figure it all out,” before attending university. He’s planning a backpacking trip through Poland later this year. He’s a Students On Ice alumnus. And he’s headed back to the Arctic. Again.

Matt has seen more of Canada in his eighteen years than most people do in a lifetime. The Mississauga native has always had a penchant for film, but it was during a Students On Ice expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour last summer that his ideas really began to coalesce.


“I started in elementary school,” Matt tells me over the phone as he gears up for this summer’s trip, Adventure Canada’s Out of the Northwest Passage expedition. “I would always make films for school projects. Little random things, like a Shakespeare play, or a science project. They always seemed to end up as films.” Now, a decade later, Matt’s lens is honing in on work in the Arctic. “I’ve started doing my own projects for the sake of doing them,” he says, “I love the idea of adventure film. Documentary filmmaking. Right now, I want to stay behind the camera … but that’s because I don’t really have anyone to work with! I do it all. I film, I edit, I direct. And I like being in front of the camera, too.”

3The call of the Arctic is heard by many, and so it was with Matt and the friends he made aboard the Students On Ice expedition in 2014. In May, he and his friend Justin Fisch, a Montrealer, went to Naujaat (Repulse Bay), NU to meet up with Edmund Bruce, a third SOI alumnus, who lives there. Together, they planned to snowmobile into the recently established Ukkusiksalik National Park—in fact, they planned to be the first to visit. They planned to document the whole operation as an examination of how young people interact with these kinds of spaces. But alas—their film project documenting the adventure, Hello Ukkusiksalik, was put on hold due to inhospitable weather.

“Total white-out, seventy-kilometre-an-hour winds, constant snow,” Matt laughs. “We had it all. We waited out two weeks in Naujaat, but it wasn’t to be. We ran out of supplies and had to head home.”

I comment that this is exactly how expedition travel tends to happen, and we talk about deviation from the plan. Matt agrees: “Of course! And now the story isn’t about visiting the park so much as it’s about how we failed to visit the park. But the good news is we got more funding. And we’ll be heading back in April!”


Matt is excited to be back aboard the Ocean Endeavour and back travelling to new and exciting places in the Arctic. The jumpstart that Students On Ice provided has certainly done wonders for the young filmmaker, who will be using his time aboard the Adventure Canada voyage to hone his technique and build his portfolio. He’s looking forward to being back among the amazing people in the north: “Kids here always asked me, ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ — My long hair was very misleading for them!” He’ll be working alongside an elite team of resource staff, all experts in the area, all of whom—like him—have dedicated their lives to answering that strange call when it is heard.

And, like most who venture through the storied Northwest Passage, he’ll never be the same.


All images by Justin Fisch.

Presenting: Adventure Canada’s Scientist-in-Residence Program

We are proud to present an exciting new program debuting for the 2016 sailing season aboard the Ocean Endeavour. Read on to find out how we are helping spread love for and knowledge of the areas to which we travel through innovative intersections between research-based science and Arctic expedition cruising!


The Concept:

Adventure Canada is keenly interested in expanding world knowledge of the areas to which we travel. We believe that only though better knowledge and understanding, will we be able to protect these areas and inspire the general public to take an actionable interest.

To that end, starting with our 2016 expeditions, Adventure Canada will be providing one cabin—two berths—aboard each of our voyages, for the purpose of scientific study. The cruise itself, as well as any charter flights will be provided. Transport to and from the point of embarkation will be the responsibility of the applicants. We would like to offer the scientist-in-residence an opportunity to observe the environments and communities visited by the cruise and interact with individuals on the ship with and interest in the research area.

Please note that Adventure Canada is interested in all types of science—from social science experiments, to ethnobiology, climatology, geological, oceanography, and beyond.


The Process:

Adventure Canada will have a RFP process through which interested scientists can apply for the space available aboard our voyages.

Proposals must take into account our proposed itineraries and the constraints that come along with the need to move along a predetermined—but sometime changing —sailing schedule.


Proposals will be judged on the basis of:

  1. Passenger Participation — does the proposal involve our passengers?
  2. Community participation — does the proposal involve the stakeholders in the regions we visit?
  3. Perceived interest to the public at large.


Adventure Canada would also like to be able to promote the type of science and the specific projects that are taking place onboard the vessel though its website, social media, and any other outlets it deems appropriate.

We would also like to be notified on studies or reports published so that we can share the results with our passengers and constituents, to help promote the knowledge base we are helping to build.

Should there be insufficient interest, or should the applications not be deemed to have enough merit, the spaces will not be allocated, but Adventure Canada will endeavour to source as many proposals as possible.

A board comprised of Adventure Canada’s executives and the scientists they currently employ on board will judge proposals. They will meet twice yearly to evaluate proposals.


Guidelines for Applications

Proposals should be short and succinct: less than 1000 words, yet including enough information for Adventure Canada to make a decision with the information below. An existing research program or funding proposal with a cover letter briefly outlining the below is also acceptable.


  • Problem Statement — How their research would be supported by participation on an Adventure Canada trip. 
  • Research Project Participants
  • Anticipated Results and Benefits                               
  • Proposed Activities during trip
  • Equipment Needed                                                           
  • Timetable of Activities                                                
  • Proposed Passenger Participation (if relevant)
  • Proposed Community Consultation or Participation (if relevant)


Please send all inquiries and proposals to science@adventurecanada.com, to the attention of Clayton Anderson.

We’ll be kicking off the program through our partnership with Beakerhead, Canada’s premier science festival, taking place in Calgary from September 16–20, 2016. Co-founded by Adventure Canada friend Jay Ingram, Beakerhead is a hands-on, citywide celebration of science. As in-kind sponsors Adventure Canada will announce the Scientist-in-Residence program to a captive audience of Canada’a top scientists across all fields, encouraging those interested to apply to be a part.

“We have always been keenly interested in expanding world knowledge of the areas we travel,” says Cedar Swan, Adventure Canada CEO. “We believe that only through better knowledge and understanding will we be able to protect these areas and inspire the general public to take an actionable interest.”


Meet Kathleen Merritt

kathleen merrittKathleen Merritt is having quite a year. The Rankin Inlet native is gearing up for the Alianait Arts Festival, for which she is training to replace the Executive Director; she’s also releasing her debut record, Ivaluarjuk, and preparing for her first trip with Adventure Canada. We caught up with her over the phone, just returned from a whirlwind press tour through Ottawa and Winnipeg.


Adventure Canada: Tell us about your work with Alianait.

Kathleen Merritt: It’s been a crazy time, for sure. I started working with the festival in 2010 as a volunteer. I guess they enjoyed me. [laughs] For the last two years I’ve been preparing to succeed the executive director—I love working in arts administration.

AC: What is it about AAF that attracted you initially?

KM: We truly believe that through the arts and connecting people, a lot of healing is possible. It’s about so much more than presenting art. When you see a bunch of northern people connect—magic happens. Our mission is to help build a healthier Nunavut through the arts. It’s obvious in all our programming that it’s geared towards a positive impact; we run alcohol-free, tobacco-free programming, we enter into real partnerships with communities. We work with World Suicide Prevention Day. We work with National Remembrance Day and Tobacco Has No Place Here. We want to promote and present healthy living more generally, and of course, share the artists’ talents with everyone.

AC: And the response has been positive?

KM: Absolutely. That’s the backdrop, but on the surface we’re not confronting—but really thinking—about different social justice issues and trying to target them through the arts. It’s a positive angle, not combative. When the big top goes up every year, the children come running. They volunteer; everything is open to the whole community free of charge, and we put together teaching workshops and musical jams and make it up as we go based on who’s coming. We really focus on creating on the spot—that’s where the magic happens. The audience has the chance to interact one-on-one with the performers; the artists are so willing to share their time. It’s beautiful.kathleen merritt 2

AC: Can you tell us anything about Ivaluarjuk? You must be excited about the new record!

KM: Yes! I’m working part-time with AAF this year, so that gives me the time and the space to focus on my own art. I started singing in 2008; I moved to Ottawa to study traditional throat singing. For two years, every day, I practiced and practiced and practiced. I’ve always enjoyed performing, and at first I was immersed in more traditional Inuit art forms; throat singing, drum dancing. But the more involved I got, the more I realized that I wanted to learn everything, try everything. Hip hop, beat boxing, and electronic music have begun to have a real impact on traditional throat singing—any throat singer wants to try to work outside the box like that.

AC: Are those influences present on the record?

KM: [laughs] No, not so much. The last couple of years I’ve been wanting to put together a project that really represents me; who I am, where I come from. So that meant it’s somewhere between Celtic music—my dad is Irish—and traditional Inuit sounds. It’s very folky, very much a collaborative project.

AC: Why do you feel like your work is a good fit for Adventure Canada?

KM: Well, I’ve lived around. I grew up in the North, but I’ve travelled extensively. I hope that my perspective—someone who’s lived in northern communities but also in the south—will be valuable. I do my best to educate people; the perspective of someone from up here is so important. The colonial experience and the history of the North and how that has shaped Inuit culture—it’s important stuff to think about. More than anything, I want to share that the North is a place of wicked, harsh environments, but that life is about so much more than just survival, you know?. There’s so much beauty here, and so much life. That’s what I want to share with everyone.


Kathleen’s record will be released in July, around the same time she joins Adventure Canada aboard the Ocean Endeavour for the 2015 Arctic Explorer expedition. You can check out the forthcoming record Ivaluarjuk here, find more of her music through the CBC, and read more about her work in the latest issue of Inuktitut magazine. Alianait Arts Fesitval runs from June 26–July 1 in Iqaluit.

Meet Michael Crummey

Our staff profile continues with one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s foremost authors and storytellers.

MichaelCrummeyMichael Crummey was born in Buchans, Newfoundland and Labrador and grew up between there and Wabush, where he moved with his family in the late 1970s. He studied at Memorial University in St. John’s, where he received a BA in English in 1987. It was there that he began to write poetry, a love that he continued to nurture while completing his MA at Queens University. Michael dropped out of his Ph.D program to pursue a career in writing, and returned to St. John’s in 2001.

Michael has written five collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, and four novels, all of which are mainstays of east coast literature. He is also the author of a non-fiction volume, Newfoundland: Journey Into a Lost Nation and his works have been published in many major anthologies of literature. His writing has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including a win in the Memorial University’s Gregory J. Power Poetry Contest, the first Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award, the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Poetry, the Thomas Head Raddall Award, and the Independent Booksellers’ Choice Award. He has been shortlisted for the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. He also researched and wrote the 2014 National Film Board short film 54 Hours on the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster. His most recent novel, Sweetland, has been released to great acclaim.

Crummey’s writing draws on the history and landscape of his home province. While some poems and prose—Hard Light, for example—are inspired by stories of his father and other relatives, other works draw on coastal mining communities and historical sources for their narrative force. His novels, in particular, tend to chart contact and conflict, from the European settlers of the eighteenth century to Newfoundland’s involvement in World War II. His unique flair for capturing the rhythms of life on Canada’s east coast make him an invaluable member of the Adventure Canada team—the destinations to which we travel are the very same that have inspired his outstanding body of work.

Michael is also an accomplished outdoorsman, and when not giving talks on board the ship, he can be found waist-deep in frigid water, giving guests a helping hand as they head ashore.

Michael joins Adventure Canada’s 2015 Newfoundland Circumnavigation aboard the Ocean Endeavourwhere he will be sharing experiences of his home province with travellers.

Field Report: Jerry Kobalenko in Labrador

Our staff profile series continues with one of Canada’s foremost explorer-adventurer-authors, recently returned from a four-hundred kilometre snowshoe trek across Labrador.
jerrykJerry Kobalenko has been travelling in and around Labrador for over twenty years. A perennial adventure-seeker, Jerry spends as much time as possible out on the land. He has logged over ten thousand kilometres on some thirty-five skiing, hiking, and kayaking expeditions and typically spends three months of the year in a tent in the north. He has, notably, kayaked the entire coastline of Labrador and modestly notes that he is among the few to have seen each of its bays up close, from the water, under his own power.

His recent snowshoe expedition took Jerry inland with one travel companion, writer James MacKinnon. “Partly, it was just an excuse to see Labrador,” says Jerry—not that he ever needs an excuse—”but it was also a chance for me to stitch closed the circuit I began by travelling the coast.” The two men journeyed from Happy Valley / Goose Bay to St. Augustine in thirty-four days, each hauling a sled containing the nearly two-hundred pounds of gear they would need to survive the elements. Gear like sleeping bags rated to the savage temperatures—as low as -50°C—they would encounter as they trudged through one of the coldest Canadian winters on record.

To maintain their strength, the two men routinely ate more than six thousand calories daily. This amounts to a third of a family-size box of granola for breakfast, and dinners comprising mounds of potatoes, cream, and swiss raclette cheese. “It’s very fatty, that stuff, the perfect expedition food,” says Jerry.


Cooking in the evening is one thing, but finding sustenance mid-day is another kettle of fish. “At the core of our lunch is this massive thousand-calorie peanut butter-and-jam sandwich,” Jerry laughs. “It’s terrific fuel, but peanut butter is rock hard at forty below! It’s like gnawing a baseball.” Even with all this gorging, both men managed to lose about three kilograms over the course of the trip. Laughing, Jerry suggests that Adventure Canada look into snowshoe trips as a weight loss program for their staff after all the fine dining they’ll be doing aboard the Ocean Endeavour this summer. (I’m not sure whether or not we should be insulted! —ed.)

“It was the slowest trip I’ve ever done,” Jerry says, “totally a factor of the snow conditions.” He explains that they travelled a total of a hundred kilometres in their first sixteen days, when they should have been averaging about fifteen daily “We were just killing ourselves, struggling to make a kilometre an hour … further north, where we started, the snow was softer. And that means you sink into it. And you’re just hauling your gear … it’s abrasive as sand and just as hard to walk through.”


Later in the trip, mercifully, they found the colder climate they sought. The snow became harder, denser, easer to walk across instead of through. The two men finished in St. Augustine on schedule, covering their last hundred kilometres in just four days. Just in case it wasn’t apparent by now that this guy really knows his stuff.



Jerry joins Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland & Wild Labrador expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour, July 5–17 2016, where he will be sharing his vast experience with the province’s natural wilds with travellers.

Meet Milbry Polk

Our staff profile series continues with the founder of WINGS WorldQuest, preeminent worldwide organization of female explorers.Milbry Polk

Since her earliest years, Milbry Polk has held a passion for visiting new places and discovering new cultures. She grew up in Egypt, Virginia, and Massachusetts and studied anthropology at Harvard University—there, her passion only grew, and she went on to hone her exploratory talents roaming through north Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as a freelance photographer and writer. Having, in her words, “unusual and often challenging experiences as a woman,” abroad inspired her to co-found an organization dedicated to supporting women in exploration. This project went through several iterations, and is known today as WINGS WorldQuest.

From the organization’s website:

“WINGS WorldQuest’s mission is to celebrate and support extraordinary women explorers by promoting scientific exploration, education and conservation. Our work is focused in the following areas: recognition, grantmaking, outreach and community-building.

“Through Women of Discovery Awards and WINGS Fellows program, WINGS recognizes and supports the groundbreaking work of women scientists and explorers, whose discoveries advance scientific inquiry and lead to better understanding of our world.

“Outreach projects provide a platform for WINGS Fellows to share their work and inspire the next generation of intrepid explorers and global problem-solvers.”

Milbry has made waves as a pioneering ambassador for female explorers around the world. Over the course of her diverse and varied career, she has founded and directed programs for the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian; she was Vice-Chair of the Conference on Affordable World Security in 2012. An award-winning author, her writings include Women of Discovery with Mary Tiegreen (Library Journal award Best Books of 2001 and School Library Journal, Best Books of 2002) and Egyptian Mummies (Margaret A. Edwards Award Best Books of 1998). Her impressive list of accolades and honours include the Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award (2011); Alumnae of the Year, Madeira School (2011) and the Environmental Leadership Award, Unity College. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. She served on the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club, and on several advisory boards for organizations such as the New York School of Visual Arts Graduate Program in Communications, the Wilbur Mills Polar Prize, George Polk Journalism Awards Committee and Takster Foundation. She has lectured at more than 150 schools and universities, inspiring others with her tireless work ethic and lifelong dedication to the field of exploration.

This summer, Milbry will join Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland and Wild Labrador and Heart of the Arctic expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavour.


Meet Jean-Claude Roy

Our staff profile series continues with a Canadian landscape painter.


Jean Claude RoyJean-Claude Roy was born in Rocheford-sur-Mer, France, in 1948. His grandfather, a farmer, encouraged his grandson’s artistic interests and Jean-Claude says he knew he would be an artist “from the age of seven”. At sixteen, he attended merchant marine training, and took his first job on a cable-repair boat as an apprentice electrician. Thus began his years at sea.

By 1971, he had emigrated to Newfoundland and for the next decade divided his time between marine electrical work and artistic pursuits. Though he attended a few classes here and there, he is largely self-taught, and the time spent in port at St. John’s turned his focus to landscape painting. He describes his style as “expressionist-colourist,” preferring to work in oils with a palette knife. Jean-Claude’s work is vibrant, emotive, and bold—all while evoking the subtleties and charms of his east coast subjects. He paints nearly every day, and more often than not paints on-site; his work thus reflects seasons, weather, stories told by passers-by … the mood of the place. One hallmark style of his is representing the sun in his compositions as a splash of light and colour that transforms the subjects below.

In 2011, Jean-Claude’s vast portfolio of Newfoundland art was published as Fluctuat Nec Mergitur (“Tossed, but not sunk”). This collection represented a culmination of forty years of work and contained a painting of every community on the island of Newfoundland over almost four hundred and fifty pages. He is currently working on a companion volume, scheduled for publication in the fall of 2016.

This summer, Jean-Claude will join Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland CircumnavigationJune 24–July 4 2015, aboard the Ocean Endeavour.

Meet Richard Sears

Our staff profile series continues with a world-renowned authority on the planet’s largest animal.

Richard SearsRichard was born in Paris to a French mother and an American father. At eighteen, he took part in a oceanographic training expedition aboard a schooler between Puerto Rico and Boston. It was on this trip that he encountered whales for the first time; the rest, as they say, is history.

He completed his studies in marine biology in 1976 and went on to work for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at the Matamek research station in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Later, he would become the onboard naturalist for whale-watching vessels in Massachusetts and work alongside, in his words, the “pioneers of whale research”—his greatest sources of inspiration. Formidable intellects, scientists and researchers with names like Sergeant, Katona, Schevill, Watkins, and Payne, helped Richard realize that the best way to know whales is to spend as much time with them as possible. As much time at sea as possible.

With this philosophy in mind, Richard was motivated to return to Matamek and Mingan; in 1979, he did just that, and established the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS). MICS is a non-profit research organization dedicated to the ecological study of marine mammals and ecosystems—the first organization to conduct long-term research in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the first organization to carry out long-term studies of the endangered blue whale. In addition to its extensive research mandate, MICS invites public participation and encourages interested parties to join the team and learn field techniques and contribute to research. This approach, called ‘research tourism’, affords participants the opportunity to work closely with teams of experienced field biologists and help understand these magnificent creatures and their environments.

Richard will be joining the Adventure Canada team in 2015, bringing his considerable expertise and unique research perspectives to bear on our Mighty Saint Lawrence expedition—our first adventure of the season. Richard will be sharing his passion for the study of marine mammals aboard the Ocean Endeavour with a number of exciting talks and seminars, as well as helping us keep watch for the giants of the deep on deck and out in our fleet of trusty Zodiacs. We are thrilled to have him aboard and look forward to seeing one of the world’s foremost marine biologists in action!

You can join Richard and the MICS team for an exciting event in just two weeks time, in Montreal. The first annual MICS fundraiser, La grande bleu, will be kicking off with an exciting roster of speakers at the Montreal Biodome. Participants will be able to learn about the exciting work done by the Study, enjoy musical presentations, and spend the evening with marine mammal experts with experience from the St. Lawrence to the Arctic and Antarcitc—as well as Iceland, western Greenland, the Azores, Norway, and French Polynesia. Highlights include a silent auction and a storytelling session, and all proceeds will directly support MICS and its field station as well as education programs. More information is available at the MICS website.

Please join us in welcoming Richard to the Adventure Canada team for what is sure to be an exciting and enthralling expedition!

Meet Chief Mi’sel Joe

CHIEF MISEL JOEMi’sel Joe was born in Miawpukek in 1947 to a family with strong ties to the community. Both his grandfather and uncle have held the office of hereditary Saqamaw—a high ranking spiritual leader traditionally tasked with spiritual and cultural leadership. His great great uncle, Morris Lewis, was the first appointed Chief in Newfoundland by the Grand Chief in Mi’kmaq territory. Mi’sel was educated in the Mi’kmaq ways and traditions, and at sixteen was given the alternative to either leave the reservation to seek employment, or travel to a neighbouring community to attend secondary school. He chose the former.

During his years away from the community, Mi’sel travelled widely and cut his teeth on a wide variety of professions. He worked in farms and factories, in construction and on railroads. He drove trucks and operated heavy machinery. He worked on fishing boats and in mines underground, and acted as labour foreman. But years passed, and in 1973 he moved back to Miawpukek.

Since then, Mi’sel has been been involved in First Nations Politics, initially as a councillor. After the death of his uncle, Chief William Joe, in 1982, Mi’sel became Saqamaw and Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. He is currently in his sixth consecutive two-year term as Administrative Chief for the nation, and is recognized provincially, nationally, and internationally as a spiritual leader and healer, ambassador of his people. He has presented on native medicines and traditional healing practices at international medical conferences and hosted the 1996 International Healing Conference at Miawpukek. He is on the board of Parks Canada, a mentor of the Trudeau Foundation, a member of the First Nations Trust Fund, and sits on the Executive Council of the Atlantic Policy Congress. In 2004, Mi’sel was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador in recognition of his contribution to the economic, social, and political development of the Mi’kmaq people of the province.

Adventure Canada is proud to be setting sail in 2015 with Chief Mi’sel Joe on our Newfoundland & Wild Labrador expedition. This stunning itinerary departs from Saint-Pierre, France, and travels up the west coast of Newfoundland before crossing into the wilds of Labrador. As we move north, Chief Mi’sel Joe will be on hand as a member of our elite team of resource specialists, helping to share his wealth of knowledge and experience in—as well as his lifelong love for—the region. We are also thrilled to be stopping in Miawpukek (Conne River) on our 2015 Newfoundland Circumnavigation expedition, where we look forward to meeting with the community and sharing stories. Just one more way Adventure Canada is helping to spread culture, knowledge, and community.

Chief Mi’sel Joe will be delivering the 2015 Whipper Lecture on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, at the Canadian Canoe Museum (in partnership with Adventure Canada) in Peterborough, ON. Join us for an evening that promises to be enlightening and entertaining—free to all museum members, and $10 for non-members. The lecture includes a free guided tour, starting at 5:30PM. RSVP to 705-748-9153 or info@canoemuseum.ca for more information.

For more information about our Newfoundland & Wild Labrador itinerary, click here!

Sailing with a Sushi Chef

At the heart of Adventure Canada is our staff. We would be nothing without them, these bold explorers and learned documenters of our natural world. They enliven our voyages beyond compare, bringing with them unparalleled good humour and expertise. Time and time again we are astonished and heartened by the caliber of expert resource leaders who fill our ranks. So, in the run-up to our exciting 2015 sailing season, we will be helping you get to know some of them a little better, here on the blog.



For those Vancouverites among us, the name “Tojo’s” scarcely needs an introduction. Hidekazu Tojo, or Tojo-san, reigns supreme over Vancouver’s most beloved sushi institution. Born in Kagoshima, Japan, Tojo-san apprenticed at the Ohnoya restaurant where he would master over two thousand traditional Japanese recipes as he worked sixteen-hour days. Driven by a passion for inventiveness, Tojo-san left his home country in 1971 and moved to Vancouver, where he sought an audience for his groundbreaking fare.


In the 1970s, Vancouver only had four Japanese restaurants. At one of them, Tojo-san began to craft a menu that harmonized Japanese and North American tastes. One of his innovations became world famous: for those who felt uneasy eating seaweed, he created an ‘inside-out’ roll of crabmeat and avocado—the California Roll. Today you would be hard-pressed to find a Japanese restaurant that doesn’t serve a variant. Fresh local ingredients unknown back in Japan began to hold places of honour in his cuisine.


In 1988, Tojo-san opened Tojo’s Restaurant on West Broadway, and the rest is history. Vancouver regulars rub shoulders with celebrity guests and Japanese visitors, all of whom gather together to share in his visionary take on traditional Japanese cuisine; one foot in the past and the other stepping boldly forward. He has garnered accolades too numerous to name, and has begun to train a new generation of chefs to follow in his footsteps. The Wall Street Journal selected Tojo-san as one of the top ten sushi chefs in the world, and he is the recipient the Vancouver Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award and a member of the BC Restaurants Hall of Fame. The tightly-knit family that runs Tojo’s constantly produces new and exciting menus for their guests, a practice born out the firm believe that taste is not static and truly wonderful food is born out of a caring and reciprocal relationship between the master and the people he serves.


Adventure Canada is, therefore, thrilled to announce that we will be partnering with Tojo-san in 2015. Aboard our Heart of the Arctic expedition, Tojo-san will delight travellers with his culinary expertise, leading a series of workshops on and discussions of his art. But perhaps most exciting is his plan to design a unique culinary creation based on ingredients and customs of the local Inuit population. We cannot wait to set sail with such a luminary member of Canada’s culinary elite: just one more way Adventure Canada is helping to spread culture, knowledge, and community.


Join Tojo-san on Adventure Canada’s voyage Heart of the Arctic, July 17–July 29, 2015.


All images courtesy of Leila Kwok.

A Family Affair

Adventure Canada mainstay and musical legend Daniel Payne has collaborated with his sister Stephanie on a new release, Winterside. It’s available now from Daniel’s website—check out the sounds of the east coast brought to you by one of our favourties!

Daniel is a regular member of our expedition team and we always relish having him aboard. His extraordinary talent and his can-do attitude make Daniel a shining example of what we pride ourself in: staff that go above and beyond in all that they do, at sea and at home.

Congratulations, Daniel!


The Colour of Memory


We were blessed this week at Adventure Canada HQ to receive an email from Gilles Matte, a passenger on our recent Greenland & Wild Labrador expedition. Mr. Matte lives in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, outside Quebec city, where he works as an architect. In addition to his trade, however, he is a singularly talented illustrator and watercolourist—he has worked to produce handsome tomes documenting old Quebec, the oldest roadway in Canada, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He is no stranger to capturing scenes of grandeur and contemplation, and we are proud to call him our friend.

With Mr. Matte’s generous permission, we are proud to present a selection of sketches and impressions from Greenland, Labrador, and Newfoundland.

Gilles, thank you for sharing your gift with us.

—Your friends at Adventure Canada

My First Adventure

I grew up canoeing in Algonquin Park. I’m used to sleeping under the stars and battling hordes of insects; I’m no stranger to the raw power of a thunderstorm or the perfect moments of stillness at the day’s end. I have shot rapids and portaged thousands of kilometres with a boat on my head and a song on my lips; I have fished for my supper and stared down moose in the deepest of swamps.

But nothing prepared me for Greenland and Labrador.


Nothing prepared me for the Greenlandic fjords, their grey-blue waters and ice-capped, soaring peaks that slipped in and out of low wisps of cloud. Nothing prepared me for the playful seal that dogged our progress, nor the profound calm as winter approached the continent.

Davis Strait

Nothing prepared me for crossing the Davis Strait in storm-tossed seas; desperately clinging to my bunk (and my sanity) and waiting for my Scopolomine patches to kick in. And then, once they did: screaming into the wind from the observation deck, laughing as the bow of the Sea Adventurer smashed through the waves, hurling spray hundreds of feet into the air. The sound was like a thunderclap.


Nothing prepared me for the glasslike waters and towering summits of the Torngat Mountains, the panoply of colour and might that lay quiet and daunting on the Labrador coast. The sunshine that day was like something out of a fairy tale. Nothing prepared me for our brush with the polar bear that morning, watching agape as he tore great hunks of flesh from a seal carcass.

Torngat 2

Nothing prepared me for driving a Zodiac in gale-force winds during our arrival at Hebron, the abandoned Moravian mission. The waves crashed over me in salty tumult, my hands numb inside the bricklayer’s gloves I’d borrowed off a friend. But we made it. I made it.

Nothing prepared me for the thrill of diving into the 3°C waters off Labrador’s coast, waters deemed too warm by our Expedition Leader, who compensated for this setback by tossing a few trays of ice cubes into the drink.

Polar swim

Kiddos, Nain

Nothing prepared me for the smiling faces of the children in Nain, the celebration at the school as we descended on the community en masse and equipped them with the gear for two complete hockey teams. They followed us back down to the docks, laughing and singing. Some of them hopped in our Zodiacs and rode around the harbour, hooting and hollering.

Nothing prepared me for the soft grass and undulating dunes of Byron Bay, or the majestic shoreline of Castle Island, or the perfect moments on deck when the sunrise would play against the ship just so. Nothing prepared me for the northern lights that pulled us from our bunks late one night, to shiver in raincoats and pyjamas and look up in wonder.

Henley Harbour

Byron BayDawn

Nothing prepared me for the warm welcome at Conche, the steam rising from our soaked overclothes as we inhaled plates of the freshest cod in Canada. As we ate elbow-to-elbow at tables of grinning Newfoundlanders beneath garlands of crepe paper, the guitar picked up, and then the accordion, and then someone started to dance. Black clouds and wind muttered and grumbled outside.

Fogo bell

Nothing prepared me for the unsurpassed hospitality of the town of Fogo, where I played a hundred-and-fifty-year-old pump organ, climbed into the belfry of a church, shouted from one of the corners of the flat earth, and ran along a coastline wild and heedless of man and all the more perfect for it.

Nothing prepared me for the stillness that would take hold of our hearts on the last morning as the Sea Adventurer made her way up the narrows and into St. John’s harbour, nor the song that would waft across the breeze.

St. John's

Nothing prepared me for the hundred-odd strangers who had come together in two short weeks to share in something marvellous, something inexplicable, something powerful.

I have been searching for a long time for a way to bring together my love for the wilderness with my love of the written word, and with Adventure Canada I have done just that. I would like to thank everyone aboard Greenland & Wild Labrador 2014 for making me feel welcome, for trusting in the new guy (my Zodiac was always the cool Zodiac, thank you), for experiencing this sublime corner of the world with me. There is no shortage of wonder to be sought, and the adventure is just beginning.


—Mike Strizic

Conche selfie