A family vacation in the Arctic

A father describes his family vacation to Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic

Travelling on an expedition cruise vessel with your family can be an adventure of a lifetime. Read the touching travel story of a family father of two teenagers, ages 12 and 14, who ventured to the Arctic this summer:

The bear scrambled up on the shore, shaking the frigid Arctic water from his fur. He sniffs the air. We hold our breath, crouching in our zodiacs, held in the spell of this iconic creature of the North. Later we return on board our vessel, assisted aboard by a sturdy sailor. The mood is festive. Our attentive staff has prepared rum and cider to heat our chilled bodies, our spirits already warmed by vivid memories of our encounters in the dazzling sunshine of the Arctic summer.

As the journey goes on, it seems my mind struggles to grasp the ever expanding limits of this Arctic space. In every direction the sky meets the curvature of the oceans edge, the ocean alternately filled with variously sized chunks of ice or calm blue waters, the occasional towering iceberg often streamlined as if created for us by itinerant ice sculptors. The land, which we explore under the close eye of our armed attendants, is covered with a surprisingly living carpet and vibrates with a raw energy.

This boat is populated with a rare collection of incredible minds. From experts on polar bears to Arctic birds, from documentary film making, to art history to the history of Arctic explorers, we gather in the underbelly of this vessel to take in their collective knowledge. But then we are torn away by the voice of our Expedition Leader over the loud speaker, rousing us to another personal encounter with the natural world. We rush out on the deck, time after time, to witness whales leaping into the air or a polar bear mother and her cubs swimming directly in front of our vessel. I am certain that Sedna the sea goddess of the Inuit has released this bounty from her wild tresses. We have pleased her somehow and I feel a deep respect for her generosity.

For our family this journey marks a transition for our children into adolescence and for us to a new stage of parenthood. We can only aspire to integrate some of these experiences, the expanded boundaries of possibility, the nobility of the Arctic creatures, the courage of the Arctic explorers and the wisdom of the folktales and traditions of the first peoples of this Arctic world. Of one thing I am certain, that we will return richer to our regular lives than we were before this journey.

Michael Ocana, travelled on Baffin Island – Jewel of the High Arctic 1 – 13 August 2016 with his wife and two children (ages 14 and 12).