One of the world's most luxurious private yachts made an unexpected appearance recently in the High Arctic hamlet of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, on its way through the Northwest Passage.
The 126-metre-long mega-yacht Octopus was anchored for five days last week offshore from Pond Inlet, a remote community on the northern tip of Baffin Island.
Residents in the hamlet of about 1,300 said they saw no crew members or passengers in the community before the ship quietly departed on Monday.
"It looked like it was a very grandioso ship," Colin Saunders, who works at the Pond Inlet hamlet office, told CBC News on Wednesday.
"When people found out that it was a private yacht, you know, that's when some eyebrows were going up there."
Officials with the Canadian Coast Guard have confirmed that the Octopus has filed plans to attempt the Northwest Passage.
Yacht sightings rare
High-end yachts are not a usual sight in Canada's Arctic, where sealift cargo vessels and cruise ships are more common.
Valued at more than $100 million, the Octopus is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who launched the vessel in 2003.
The yacht comes with a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi hot tub and other amenities for the rich and famous, said Alyssa Haak, the mega-yacht editor for Power and Motoryacht magazine.
"There's two helipads. One is a touch and go, where the helicopter can just land, let guests off and take off again," Haak said. "And then there's also a helipad with a garage, because you can't leave your helicopter exposed to all that salt water.
"She also has room to store a sea plane and a submarine."
The Octopus is currently ranked ninth on Power and Motoryacht's list of the world's 100 largest yachts.
In search of new luxury adventures
Haak said the wealthiest travellers are looking north these days, as they've become bored with cruising around the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
"The Med is getting more crowded," she said. "People want to take their boats to new and different places."
But the Northwest Passage can be treacherous for even the biggest and most advanced ships. Within the past week, two large vessels — including a cruise ship — have run aground in the fabled Arctic waterway.
In the case of the cruise ship, the MV Clipper Adventurer, its 128 passengers had to wait two days for a coast guard icebreaker to come and rescue them.
But Haak said passengers aboard the Octopus can rest easy knowing the ship has a strengthened hull that is well suited for Arctic waters.
"They can always get off easily, too, with the helicopter they have on board," she added.