A list of ‘Quark Polar Firsts’ is an extraordinary testament to the pioneering spirit of this company founded by, and for, the adventurous.
Lars Wikander and Mike McDowell attribute Quark Expeditions‘ inception largely to the incredible majesty of the North Pole, which, in 1991, was one of the few remaining places their adventures had not yet taken them. Since that time, the pair has led intrepid travellers from more than 50 countries to the Arctic and Antarctic regions, sharing a profound passion and respect for these wild and pristine landscapes.
1. The North Pole
There is only one place on Earth where every direction is south. To stand at this point, following days crushing through pack ice, is an experience deserving of any adventurer’s bucket list. Helicopter flights over the Arctic Ocean, hot air ballooning over the ice and polar bear sightings are just a few highlights of this 14-day itinerary, which sees guests venture from Finland to Russia and Estonia. As travellers return southbound from 90 degrees north, remains of ill-fated Arctic expeditions on the archipelago of Franz Josef Land are a testament to the unpredictable and perilous nature of this wild landscape.
2. High Arctic Odyssey: Remote Russian Archipelagos
The mysterious, icy expanses of Russia’s remote northern islands are home to some of the world’s rarest wildlife sightings, including polar bears, walrus and bowhead whales. This 22-day voyage through the unpopulated region’s storied history delivers its guests to destinations rarely seen by travellers, even exploring the extinct volcanoes and ice cliffs of Severnaya Zemlya on an authentic expedition. Days at sea are spent spotting Arctic wildlife, enjoying education presentations by onboard experts and perhaps exploring further in the vessel’s own ‘polar library’.
3. Antarctic Express: Peninsula in Depth
Beginning from southern Patagonia, this 11-day fly/cruise expedition is the most direct route to Antarctica, flying over the Drake Passage in just three hours to deliver guests directly to what is often regarded to be the last true wilderness. On board, learn about the history, geology and wildlife of the region before exploring on foot during daily land excursions, where beaches populated by penguins and seals come into view as you zip across the water on a Zodiac. Those wishing to up the ante can also participate in activities such as sea kayaking, paddling excursions and camping.
4. Photography series: Crossing the Circle
A champagne toast will mark your accomplishment as one of the few people to have ever reached 66°33’ South on this in-depth exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is specially tailored to deliver remarkable keepsakes, with a team of photography experts who will guide travellers in capturing the floating ice formations, rare wildlife and colossal icebergs of the Antarctic landscape. Throughout the journey, historic landing sites, encounters with sunbathing seals and snowshoeing across the landscape will be the milestones by which your days are measured, and at its end, not only will you be able to distinguish between the Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins yourself, but you will also leave with priceless mementos in the photographs taken.
5. Epic Antarctica: Crossing the Circle via Falklands and South Georgia
The crescent-shaped island of South Georgia has often been called the ‘Galápagos of the South’ and was one of the first gateways to Antarctica. Its rugged, glaciated peaks prove a dramatic highlight of this 23-day expedition, which will see guests voyaging further south than most traditional Antarctic cruises as they visit the Islas Malvinas, cross the Antarctic circle and follow in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose polar expeditions are considered among the most notable in history. Only few can claim to have crossed the invisible boundary where oceans meet at the Antarctic Convergence, a krill-rich meeting spot for whales and other marine life.
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