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Expeditions Program

For many, the terms "geography and expedition are synonymous. In fact, most Canadians are introduced to the discipline of geography through exposure to geographic expeditions, as presented in popular and academic publications. Through expeditions, geographic appreciation, understanding and knowledge expand. To promote this tradition, The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) supports an Expeditions Program to encourage and support geographic expeditions taking place largely within Canada, by Canadians.

Extending our current knowledge of Canada's geography through exploration and scientific expeditions, the RCGS has a long history of funding both major and modest expeditions across the country.

Beginning in 2018 we are pleased to announce our new partnership between the RCGS and the Mountain Equipment Co-operative (MEC). MEC actively funds and provides equipment to our five categories of grants, and is the Official Outfitter of the RCGS Expeditions Program.

Apply for funding

The greatest explorers today are astronauts, deep-sea divers and polar adventurers. But then they're also paleontologists, historians, conservationists and photographers.

Check out Canadian Geographic's list of 100 great Canadian explorers!


Expeditions Update

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RCGS recognized the dilemma many of our expedition teams were facing regarding their upcoming journeys. After much consideration, the RCGS gave the supported 2020 expedition teams the option of cancelling, postponing until 2021, or continuing with their expedition as planned in compliance with all provincial and national health guidelines and advice. Given the circumstances, many of the 2020 expedition teams have decided to postpone until 2021. Two expeditions will go into the field this year, and the remainder will delay until 2021. All teams will take every precaution necessary to comply with COVID-19 regulations.

Please see the status of 2020 Expeditions below.

Expedition of the Year - Continuing in 2020
The Exeter Lake Esker Hike
Dwayne Wohlgemuth

The Exeter Lake Esker Hike is a solo hike by a Northwest Territories resident of the entire length of North America's longest esker which stretches approximately 700 km across the tundra of the Northwest Territories. This hike follows the esker from east to west and is entirely within Canada's NWT. The esker is in the tundra but enters the tree line at its western end. The route requires crossing the Thelon, Hanbury, and Coppermine Rivers as well as other smaller rivers and lakes, where the esker often disappears into for a long distance. The key objectives are to complete a thru-hike of North America's longest esker, to make Canadians more aware of this esker and its importance for wildlife and aboriginal peoples, and to waypoint and photograph unique features to assist with mapping and potential geotourism hiking.
Traversing approximately 700 km across the tundra of the Northwest Territories, this solo hike will cover the length of North America's longest esker, Exeter Lake.

Major Grant - Continuing in 2020
Traversing the Bay du Nord
Justin Barbour

Justin Barbour will follow a 270km circuit of lakes and rivers within the Bay Du Nord Wilderness Reserve beginning near Medonnegonnix Lake. Barbour will follow a historic route that was followed by explorer/geologist/surveyor James Patrick Howley and his team of Mi'kmaq guides as they mapped Newfoundland's interior in 1887. He will also visit the seldom seen Mt. Sylvester and will attempt to document Newfoundland's Middle Ridge Caribou along the way.
To complete his journey, Barbour will paddle down to the ocean via the Bay Du Nord River (a Canadian Heritage River), and capture photos of the 100 foot waterfall, named "Smokey Falls". Barbour's main objective is to traverse this challenging route while highlighting the primal beauty within Newfoundland's rugged interior wilderness. Barbour hopes to inspire others to pack up their bags and experience, appreciate and utilize this route.

Major Grant - Postponed until 2021
PikiPikialasorsuaq (The Great Upwelling) – Ellesmere Island 2020
Dave Garrow

The expedition team will travel by air to Aujuittuq on Ellesmere Island in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut. They will then travel self-supported by ski for 21 days on a 400 km loop northeast of Aujuittuq on sea ice around Cape Norton Shaw and Cape Combermere, past Smith Bay and return to Aujuittuq across the Manson Icefield and Jakeman Glaciers. The main objective of the expedition is to explore, document and research Pikialasorsuaq 'The Great Upwelling' (also known as the North Water Polynya), the largest and most biologically productive polynya in the arctic and one of the planet's most important ocean ecosystems. With changing sea ice coverage and quality due to anthropogenic climate change, it is important that Canadians and the world fully understand how delicate and biologically significant polynyas are and the impact reduced sea ice has on the function of these natural wonders. The expedition will achieve this goal through adventure, science and storytelling.
This team will explore, document and research the largest and most biologically productive polynya in the arctic and one of the planet's most important ocean ecosystems, Pikialasorsuaq (The Great Upwelling).

Women's Expedtiion - Postponed until 2021
Mt. Lucania 2020
Pascale Marceau

This two-person team, will attempt to be the first all-female team to climb Mt. Lucania, Canada's third tallest peak (at 5226 m high), nestled in the Yukon's Kluane National Park and Reserve. The expedition hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams through captivating imagery and storytelling, fostering an appreciation for Canada's wild places, as well as aiming to boost Canadian women's mountaineering.
In an attempt to be the first all-female team to climb Mt. Lucania, Canada's third tallest peak at 5226 m, this duo look to boost Canadian women's mountaineering and inspire others through captivating imagery and storytelling.

Seed Grant - Postponed until 2021
The Great Island Expedition
Jill Heinerth

In one of the worst disasters in U.S. naval history, the Truxton and Pollux vessels ran aground and sank off the coast of Newfoundland during WWII. Explorer-in-Residence Jill Heinerth, along with a team of RCGS Fellows, will explore and document the sunken U.S. Navy vessels off the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland. This expedition will document these wrecks and share the stories of survivors, one of whom became an icon in civil rights and underwater exploration.
RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Jill Heinerth, along with a team of RCGS Fellows, will explore and document the sunken U.S. Navy vessels, Truxton and Pollux, off the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland.

Flag Expedition - Postponed until 2021
Mount Logan Ice Expedition
Jill Heinerth

Mount Logan's height, its sheer mass, its northern latitude and coastal proximity in the southwestern Yukon, all make the iconic peak an important case study for what climate scientists have now termed 'elevational-dependent warming'. Over two mountaineering expeditions, both up the mountain's King Trench route, this team's main objectives are to re-measure the official height of the main summit and its sub-summits, to conduct a repeat-photography survey to investigate rates of landscape change on a century-scale, to drill a new high-resolution ice core on the summit plateau for the Canadian Ice Core Lab, and to communicate widely, through various media channels and outreach events, what we learn about this Canadian monolith and the change occurring on its high slopes.
Over two mountaineering expeditions, this team seeks to re-measure the official height of the main summit of Mount Logan, among other initiatives, to communicate what we can learn about this Canadian monolith.


Expedition of the Year
The Complete Columbias Traverse
Alex Heathcott

Along the spine of the Columbia Mountains, this expedition will ski 700 km across complex terrain through challenging weather.

Major Grant
Robin Beech

This team will explore and record cave features of the alpine karst landscape in the Badshot Range of British Columbia's West Kootenays, including Jawdrop cave.

Traversing 840 km of Labrador and Quebec interior, this team will travel west to east via five rivers over the course of 35 days during the summer of 2019.

Seed Grant
The Secret Coast
Jacqueline Windh

Two adventurers spend a month traversing Vancouver Island's remote outer coast on foot and by kayak, rediscovering a lost part of Canada's history.

A woman�s venture to solo thru-hike across Canada from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific Ocean on The Great Trail within three years.

Indigenous Expedition
Nanikana, The Path of My Ancestors
Benoit Croteau

Benoit Croteau is Anishinabe of Pikogan and from July 15 to August 6, 2019, he will sail on the waters of Harricana to know the road of his ancestors.


RCGS expedition support is awarded to individuals and teams undertaking expeditions in Canada that complement the mandate of the RCGS to “make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world.”

Information on application guidelines and procedures are available online.

Deadline for applications: January 7th of each year


Expeditions listed by year
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