When the Vikings discovered America
Next DepartureSep. 7, 2019
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, Wildlife observations, Zodiac
Albatros proudly presents - for the first time in more than 1,000 years - a voyage that follows in the wake of Viking Leif Eriksson’s journey to Vinland. A voyage, which back then earned him his nickname, “The Lucky”.
Arriving by international flight to Kangerlussuaq, we will embark on Albatros’ own ship, Ocean Atlantic, anchored in the fjord. Cruising southwards along West Greenland towards Evighedsfjorden, Nuuk and Ivittuut we arrive at Erik the Red’s farm and church in Bratthalið in South Greenland. With our heading set on David Strait, we will cruise onward to Newfoundland and follow the course as Erik the Red’s famous son, Leif Eriksson, until we reach the highlight of the voyage, L’Anse aux Meadows. This is Vinland, as the Norse Sagas so dramatically writes about!
During the crossing, we will remain vigilant in hopes of witnessing the magnificent polar fauna including the great whales that are often seen in these waters. From the northern tip of Newfoundland, we will continue south along the east coast, visiting the beautiful city of St. John’s and the French Protectorate Saint Pierre. The voyage concludes in Halifax on the Canadian island and province of Nova Scotia.
Upon arrival to Kangerlussuaq, we will drive through the tundra to the beautiful Reindeer Glacier, and outlier of the Greenland Icecap. After a snack lunch at Restaurant Roklubben, transport is arranged to the small port located west of the airport, where our ship, Ocean Atlantic, will be anchored. Zodiacs will transfer us the short distance to the ship, where you will be check in to you outside cabin. After the safety drill, you will enjoy a dinner as Ocean Atlantic ‘sets sail’ through the 160-kilometre Kangerlussuaq fjord
Kangerlussuaq remains fairly isolated from Greenland’s rich cultural traditions, in comparison to other regions. It is not difficult to see that Kangerlussuaq’s landscape has largely been shaped by the last glaciation period, often known simply as the “Ice Age,” ending some 12,000 years ago.
Kangerlussuaq’s present-day climate is largely impacted by its well-sheltered location between Greenland’s Ice Sheet, the fjord and mountains. This contributes to its stable conditions, minimal cloud presence and roughly 300 clear nights per year.
Evighedsfjorden / “The Eternal Fjord”
On our way south, we sail the inshore waters and into the maze of Evighedsfjorden. The fiord is one of the most beautiful in Greenland but still only seldom visited. We will go deeply into the fiord watching the enormous glaciers, pointed mountain peaks and rich bird cliffs.
Nuuk, capital of Greenland
During the night we’ll reach the capital of Greenland, Nuuk. Our first objective will be to find the almost resident humpback whales just short from town. Typically, they will come up to breathe for a few minutes before they display their awe-inspiring fluke, as they prepare for the next deep dive. The Nuuk fjord attracts scientists and geologists from all over the world, as some of the world’s oldest types of rocks and minerals can be found here. And the fact that they also contain traces of living organisms only makes them all the more interesting.
One of the World’s smallest capital is in Greenlandic proportions a large city – as many as 18,000 people live here today. The area was previously populated by Inuit of the Saqqaq culture, who lived in Greenland from around year 2000 BC to 1000 BC. From around year 1000 to 1350 AD the Norse settlers followed. The pioneering Eric the Red settled in South Greenland and in the Nuuk region. Subsequently members of the so called Thule culture, the Inuit forefathers of the modern Greenlandic people moved in. These neo-Eskimos were far better equipped to survive in the tough arctic nature than the Norse settlers.
But soon thereafter the Europeans began to appear along the Greenlandic coast. Dutch, and Scottish whalers arrived already in the 16th century. The modern history of Greenland began in 1721, when the Norwegian missionary Hans Egede founded the first colony and trade station near Nuuk which was manned the whole year around. In fact, Hans Egede came to Greenland intending convert the catholic Norse settlers to the Lutheran faith. But he soon realized that the Norse settlers had disappeared – the reason for their abrupt disappearance has yet to be fully uncovered.
In 1979, Nuuk was the obvious choice for the placement of the parliament, and thus definitively received the status as Greenland’s capital.
Ivittuut and Arsuk Fjord
Early in the morning we arrive at Arsuk fjord, which entrance is marked by the distinctive 1,400-meter-high Kuunnaat Mountain. Until a few years ago, Arsuk was one of Greenland's richest settlements. Here, numerous fishermen and sailors lived, who picked up solid incomes on the cod industry. But the temperature in the Davis Strait fell one degree, and the fish sought south.
The important call here is the former cryolite mine at Ivittuut, as the only place in the world where this very special mineral was mined… until depleted 30 years ago. Used in aluminum melting, the mineral became strategically important, and forced the Americans the set up bases in South Greenland to protect the supply during WW 2.
South Greenland - Erik den Red’s Brattahlíð
During the early hours Ocean Atlantic has sailed far into South Greenland through Erik Fjord.
As a small sheltered enclave, South Greenland's blue fjords and green mountains are enclosed by the ubiquitous ice cap. Wherever you look, the chalk-white glare is felt from the ice, which rises up to two thousand meters to the north and east. South Greenland has it all: Icebergs, high mountains reflecting in deep blue fjords, and Greenlandic culture with beautiful towns, settlements and colorful wooden houses adhering to the hill sides. And then the 1000-year-old Norse history, created by Erik the Red's visions of a new found country with a beautiful name.
Erik the Red or as he was called in Iceland: Eiríkur Raude, came with his men and his wife Tjodhilde in 982, and it was here in what is now Qassiarsuk he built his farm Brattahlíð, “The steep grass slopes”.
We make landing with our Zodiacs, and start our walk through the village. Qassiarsuk and much of South Greenland practice farming and animal house holding at the margin of what is possible. Large stables are built for the sheep during the hard winters, and we see small cultivated fields growing potatoes and turnips. In the northern end of the village are the partly the excavated ruins of stable buildings and residential areas, as well as the reconstructed church and farmhouse of Erik, Tjodhilde and their son, Leif the Lucky.
After our visit back in history we steam back out of the fjord towards open sea.
Crossing Davis Strait
We now have a few days at sea, where the ship is heading for a more southerly course towards Vinland than the one used by Leif Eriksson. During our crossing, there are good opportunities to relax in the ship's library, participate in the series of lectures held by Albatros Expeditions’ leaders, or look for seabirds and whales on our course to the southwest.
The west coast of Greenland is favored by mild waters of the Gulf Stream, whereas a cold sea current runs south along Baffin Island and Labrador's shores. The officers on the bridge will keep an eye out for the icebergs, flowing down "Iceberg Alley" from the big glaciers in Greenland and Arctic Canada all the way south to Newfoundland.
Newfoundland - St. Anthony and L’Anse aux Meadows
We have reached Strait of Belle Isle between Labrador and the northernmost point of Newfoundland. It was here that Erik the Red's son, Leif Eriksson, arrived around the year 1000 after sailing down "Helluland" (Baffin Island) and "Markland" (Labrador), before reaching an area with lush meadows and trout-rich rivers, which he called Vinland. Here he wintered before he sailed back to Greenland. He was followed by his brothers Thorvald and Thorfinn, who brought women and livestock, and who stayed in the area for a number of years, possibly to explore the coast down to St. Lawrence Bay and Nova Scotia.
Vinland is marked on a map from the Middle Ages, and numerous researchers have sought the archaeological evidence of the settlement. It became the tenacious Norwegian archaeologist Helge Ingestad and his wife, Anne Stine Ingestad, who in 1962 found the final proof of Leif the Lucky’s discovery of America. A number of houses and finds of hearth sites, spinners and more has made L’Anse aux Meadows one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
Newfoundland - St. John’s
In the evening we approach and dock in St. John's, North America's easternmost point. For centuries, the strategically good location attracted adventurers, traders, pirates and, not least, seafarers, who created the foundation for the city's prosperity. In 1497, Italian seafarers and explorers Giovanni Caboto (also known as John Cabot) came and proclaimed the enclave to the first permanent settlement in North America. We are at the quay overnight and all the next day in town.
St. John's oozes charm. In addition to the long, picturesque history, the city offers unique architecture and cultural and nature experiences. In the narrow streets of the town center there are a wealth of museums, galleries, historic buildings, parks, restaurants, pubs and cozy shops. St. John’s downtown is one of the oldest trading places in North America. One of the city's main sights is Signal Hill with beautiful views of the old historic harbor town. Already in 1704, flags were hoisted on Signal Hill when ships approached - be it kind or hostile. And for centuries, the vantage point was a sore point in military disputes.
Another attraction in St. John's is Cape Spear. In Newfoundland folklore, Cape Spear is also called "the western world of the far east", and right here you are at North America's farthest point. In addition to a stunning landscape, Newfoundland's oldest lighthouse is also located here.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon, French Protectorate in Canada
Off the south coast of Newfoundland are the two small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which together form an autonomous French territorial area. Miquelon is the largest of the two islands, but is almost uninhabited. The 6,000 inhabitants of the territory live on the small island of Saint Pierre, which is only 8 kilometers on the longest. The inhabitants speak French, have French passports and use the euro - despite the fact that their closest French neighbors in Brest live 3,800 km away. However, the affiliation has been challenged in past, and for centuries England and France have alternately thrown out the opposite and taken over the islands until they finally became French in 1816.
We sail into the port of Saint Pierre and walk around the streets of the small town.
Nova Scotia - Louisbourg
We have around 150 nautical miles before reaching Nova Scotia's coast. The island was originally populated by Mi'kmaq Indians before the British established a port in 1605. Later, in particular, Scots arrived - not least for the homely-looking coastlines along Cape Breton Island.
However, it is again the French commitment to the area that we focus on during today's landing. We have reached the beautiful natural harbor of the city of Louisbourg and will visit the French fortress Fort Louisbourg on the opposite bank of the bay. Here, too, England and France were battled for power in eastern Canada, and the fort changed "hands" several times during the 18th century.
In 1920, the decayed remains of the French fort were preserved and in the following years rebuilt to its original form from the 1740s. The site is set as a Canadian National Park and is now a favorite destination. There are often historical plays, war scenes or just eighteenth century events.
After our visit we continue along the south coast, the least inhabited part of the island and reaches the final destination, Halifax.
Halifax - disembarkation, City Tour and return flight
Ocean Atlantic docks in one of Canada's busiest ports, and after breakfast, we say goodbye to the crew.
Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, one of Canada's maritime provinces. Founded in 1749 and all the way up to 1905, Halixax was one of the largest British naval bases outside England. To defend Halifax, the British authorities built a number of fortifications in and around this strategically important port. Despite the fact that the citadel has never been attacked, the British army and the Canadian forces crewed the present citadel right up to 1906 and again during both world wars.
Halifax is one of Canada's most important immigration ports, and for more than 1.5 million immigrants, the city was their first impression before being spread across the vast country. The Titanic's shipwreck in 1912 is also an essential part of Halifax's history. Three ships from the city helped to save survivors and died from the disaster, and a large part of the victims are buried in the city's cemeteries. Among other things, an unknown person named J. Dawson, who later became famous in the actor Leonado DiCaprio's interpretation of his story.
There is a city tour by bus, where we will visit the old fortress, The Citadel. The fort was built in 1749 primarily to keep the French away. The afternoon is free for shopping and leisure exploration of Halifax on your own before we meet for our farewell dinner.
After dinner there is bus transport to the airport for return flights back home.
Arrival to home destination
Inclusions / Exclusions
13-day cruise in a shared outside double cabin with bathroom/toilet
English-speaking expedition staff
City tour in Nuuk
Guided walks in Ivittut and Brattahlíð (Qassiarsuk)
Bus excursion from St. Anthony to L’Anse aux Meadows
Zodiacs cruises in fjords
Inspiring and enriching lectures onboard by qualified lecturers
Full board on the ship
Coffee, tea and afternoon snacks on the ship
Taxes, tariffs, and AECO fees
International flights to Kangerlussuaq / from Halifax.
Hotel accommodation in Kangerlussuaq and Halifax.
Extra excursions and activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
Single room supplement.
Meals not on board the ship.
Beverages (other than coffee and tea).
Tips for the crew (we recommend USD 14 per person per day).
Anything not mentioned under 'Price includes'.
Flight from Copenhagen Airport to Kangerlussuaq Airport Tax
Transfer from Kangerlussuaq Airport to Kangerlussuaq Port
Price per person USD 420,-