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Map by Joyce Pendola
Where Next
The Northwest Passage Opens Up

First, it was the impossible dream of navigators like Captain Cook. Then, the province of icebreakers. Now the Northwest Passage embarks on its third phase: slightly chilly cruising destination.

“It used to be, looking at the ice charts, this wasn’t something we could reasonably get through,” says Clayton Andersen, marketing director for Adventure Canada, which has been sending tourists to the high Arctic for 20 years. However, the last three summers have seen sea ice at record lows in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago, prompting the veteran polar outfitter to launch its first Northwest Passage voyage on August 21.

For decades, only those outfitters with the strongest ice ships have been able to lead tourists successfully through the Arctic Archipelago. The fact that regular ice-strengthened vessels can now access the region cuts trip costs by thousands and doubles the number of opportunities to see it: In addition to Adventure Canada, Quark Expeditions and Cruise North Expeditions will also send out ships this season.

And what is it, exactly, that you’ll see? Mostly brown hills and fog, with a few bird cliffs and Inuit villages scattered in between. “The landscape isn’t as scenic as you’ll find in other parts of the Arctic, and the wildlife isn’t as abundant,” says Jill Dickens, of Cruise North Expeditions. “It’s really the history that’s driving our bookings. Here’s a region that has been virtually impassable throughout the ages—so many famous explorers have tried and failed and perished. And now it’s possible.” —Catharine Livingston

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