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Beechey Island: Mystery & Historical Monuments in the High Arctic


Beechey Island in Canada's high Arctic is a small island rich in history and a favorite landing for Quark Expeditions passengers. Part of the Canadian Arctic archipelago of Nunavut, it's actually a peninsula connected to the larger Devon Island. The peninsula was named for famed explorer Sir William Beechey and is a stop on several of our expeditions including In the Footsteps of Franklin, Northwest Passage: Franklin's Legend, and Epic High Arctic: Baffin Island Explorer.

 Beechy Island black sand

New Beechey Island Excursion

Now, our travelers staying at our land-based Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge also have a unique opportunity to visit this historically significant island on an optional excursion. A scenic one-hour flight from Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge takes travelers over the Northwest Passage, where they may spot breaking ice, narwhal, polar bears or even a pod of beluga whales. Landing on Beechey Island takes one back hundreds of years, to the explorations of Captain William Edward Parry, the first European visitor in 1819, and of Sir John Franklin and his ill-fated crew in 1845.

In fact, three of Franklin's crew – Petty Officer John Torrington, Royal Marine Private William Braine, and Able Seaman John Hartnell – still lie interred on the island, marked by small gravestones. Their final resting place was discovered in 1851 by British and American search vessel crew, who were on the lookout for any sign of Franklin's Lost Expedition.

Windswept and barren, Beechey Island is relatively flat and fringed by a narrow beach, but rises to a small hill. Many crews wintered here over the years, thanks to its relatively flat topography and shelter. After Franklin's expedition, the island was used as a base and depot for much of the exploration and mapping that took place as a result of his disappearance. As searchers scoured the high Arctic for Franklin and his crew, many more important discoveries were made, including three Northwest Passages and the mapping of half of the Canadian Arctic.

Things To See At Beechey Island

Beechey Island is a designated National Historic Site of Canada, with five areas of particular importance:

  • The Franklin wintering camp of 1845-46;
  • Northumberland House, built as a supply depot in case the Franklin expedition returned to the island;
  • The Devon Island site at Cape Riley;
  • Two message cairns;
  • And the HMS Breadalbane site, where the British three-masted merchant ship in search of Franklin's expedition was crushed by sea ice and sank.

From the Quark archives

Northumberland House Attractions

The remains of Northumberland House are a popular attraction on the island. Constructed of material salvaged from the McLellan whaling vessel by the crew of an 1852 expedition, it once contained a dwelling, a store and a smithy. The site also holds the remains of a twelve-ton yacht abandoned several kilometres away by another search vessel.

Northumberland House is also the site of windowed Lady Franklin's monument to Joseph-Rene Bellot, who died nearby in search of Sir Franklin and his crew in 1853.


Beechey Island is a place of pilgrimage for sailors attempting to navigate the Northwest Passage, a distinction it has held since that lost expedition by Franklin and his crew. For Quark Expeditions and Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge guests, it's a once in a lifetime chance to stand in the footsteps of famous explorers and experience a taste of what their lives on the secluded Arctic island might have been like over a century ago.




Meet the Southern Elephant Seal: Impressive Antarctic Giants


Elephant seal by Dave Merron

Photo by Dave Merron, Quark Expeditions

Southern Elephant Seals, larger in size than their elephant seal cousins in the Northern Hemisphere, inhabit areas traveled by Quark Expeditions including the beautiful island of South Georgia. There, passengers bear witness to the incredible roaring of the adult males (bulls) on the beaches.

Elephant seal on the beach

Photo by Dr. Sam Crimmin, Quark Expeditions

Elephant seals are so named partly thanks to the bulls' large proboscis, the trunk-like nose that also helps the animal reabsorb moisture from its exhaled breath. However, their massive size also lends to their name. Southern Elephant Seals are far larger than Northern Elephant Seals – bulls can reach up to 16 feet in length and weigh up to 6,600 lbs. The female of the species typically only reaches 1/6 the size of the male.

Mikolaj Golachowski and an Adelie penguin, Antarctica

We asked Quark Expeditions onboard biologist Mikolaj Golachowski to share his experience with this majestic creature. After studying biology at the University of Warsaw, Golachowski continued his research in ecology and the behavior of carnivores. After earning his PhD in 2002, he went on his first Antarctic expedition for one year while working with the Department of Antarctic Biology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

It was during this time, he says, that he became "completely hooked on this frozen paradise." Golachowski returned to Antarctica for three additional scientific expeditions, finally returning from one in 2006 on board an expedition ship, where he was introduced to marine biology lecturing and guiding in Antarctic tourism. A year later, he did the same in the Arctic.

Golachowski has spent as much time in the polar regions as at home over the last twelve years and now works as a writer and translator, as well as giving presentations about the polar regions, when not actually traveling about in them.

Meet the Southern Elephant Seal, as introduced by a man who has spent a good portion of his life studying them.

Studying Elephant Seals on the Seventh Continent

"I went to Antarctica to study the population genetics and behavioural ecology of elephant seals. In fact, I was mainly interested in their sex lives, as it is one of the most dramatic on Earth," Golachowski says.

"The big male has to fight other males for the access to females, who are much smaller, weighing 'only' up to 800 kg," he explains, noting that if the male elephant seal is successful, his harem may contain up to a hundred females!

Elephant seals fighting

Photo by Dr. Sam Crimmin, Quark Expeditions

"As the male/female ratio in the population is more or less 1:1, that means there are loads of males who don’t have a girlfriend and they really want one," he explains. "I suppose the downside of success is that if you are successful, you get to spend a whole month just tending to your girls and fighting your opponents, without any time to eat or sleep. After such a month of sex & violence, males are so exhausted that they often die (but hey, what a way to go!)."

Part of Golachowski's research required that he collect samples from the seals. The pups were easy enough to work with, he says. "They actually seemed to enjoy it. For the samples, I used a metal brush on a stick to collect some hairs from moulting individuals; I imagine it’s quite itchy to moult so the kids actually loved a bit of a scratch."

However, it becomes increasingly difficult with females and quite ridiculous with the big males. "Fortunately, quite often they are asleep. But when they aren't… their eyes are great under water, not so much above it. When they see me walking towards them, they see a shape under two metres tall, which is as high as the males lift their head when they want to fight," Golachowski says.  

Clearly, he would lose a fight with a bull elephant seal. He could crawl on the ground, but might then be mistaken for the smaller female!

"In this context, given the alternative of making love or war, I always chose war," Golachowski says. "I always approached the big males as straight up and tall as I could, to avoid any confusion. I would rather die in a battle!"

Viewing and Interacting with Southern Elephant Seals

Quark Expeditions passengers have unique opportunities throughout their Antarctic voyages to view and even interact with wildlife most people will only ever see on the Internet. Even so, says Golachowski, Southern Elephant Seals are best viewed from a distance.

"It’s best just to watch them; they are really fascinating creatures," he said.  "If one is lucky, a pup may come to investigate, offering one of the best wildlife encounters ever. However, it is vital not to touch them. We don't want to infect them with germs that we may have brought from home, to which they may be susceptible."

Southern Elephant Seals aren't exactly known for their stunning good looks, yet Golachowski protests, "I don’t think they are ugly at all! For one, they certainly have absolutely gorgeous eyes."  It's true, if you get close enough or can zoom in from a safe distance, they are a spectacle to behold.

"We always have to keep our distance and be particularly aware of the adults, though," he points out. "They may appear clumsy but due to their sheer size, they can move very fast. It’s enough to just reposition their head to be two metres farther up."

Sleeping elephant seal

Photo by Dr. Sam Crimmin, Quark Expeditions

You wouldn't necessarily think of elephant seals as demonstrative of athleticism. However, Golachowski says, "Even if seemingly clumsy, not doing much on land besides snoring and burping (outside the mating season, that is), these creatures are real athletes of the animal kingdom. They are amongst the best divers amongst mammals, capable of going two kilometres deep (only Cuvier’s Beaked Whale is known to go deeper than that) and staying underwater for up to two hours."

If you can get in for a close-up, Southern Elephant Seals are a magnificent animal to catch on (digital) film.

These massive creatures spend nine to ten months of the year at sea, with males staying close to the Antarctic shelf and the females wandering further off. August to November is breeding season, an active time to see males bellowing and fighting on the beaches.  Early in October is a great time to see the pups, while for three to five weeks in January and February, they'll all go ashore to molt.

If you're a fan of Southern Elephant Seals or want to see them in a particular state (their babies are adorable!), keep the season in mind as you plan your trip. See all of our Antarctic expeditions on the Quark Expeditions website and start planning yours today!

 See elephant seals in action in our "Day in the life: Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica" video:



Beluga Whales Parade & Play in Cunningham River


Beluga whale - Photo credit: Nansen Weber

High above the Arctic Circle, the inlet at the mouth of the river running through the barren tundra on Somerset Island, Nunavut, comes alive each summer. Pods of hundreds of beluga whales, from the air, resemble something out of a science fiction movie.

Where to Spot Beluga Whales

It's an almost unbelievable sight: close to 2,000 majestic white belugas, nicknamed "sea canaries" for their high-pitched whistles and clicking, play and parade for visitors at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, a beluga whale watching hotspot.

Belugas are an Arctic whale species, distinct in their white color and absence of a dorsal fin. They live in the Arctic and subarctic waters along the northern coasts of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland. Though their habitat of choice is certainly isolated, belugas are social and playful creatures with few natural predators.

Cunningham Inlet Beluga watching. Photo credit: Nansen Weber

Cunningham Inlet, at Somerset Island, Nunavut, is one of the best places on earth to watch belugas, which return every summer and stay until August. Whale watchers can get up close and personal with the creatures, often within mere feet while standing on the shoreline. They pay no mind to their snap-happy, camera-toting visitors – in fact, many even put on a show for their human friends.


What makes Cunningham Inlet such a hotspot for beluga whales? They come to mate, raise their young and bask in the Arctic midnight sun, but researcher David St. Aubin discovered a more compelling attraction for the wales. St. Aubin spent decades traveling back and forth from Cunningham Inlet to his work in the south and other research projects in the tropics. He was the first to document that a whale could moult and that this was the reason for the belugas’ attraction to Cunningham Inlet. Every July, he noted, they came to rub their old, yellowed skin in the shallows of the inlet, revealing the snow-white epidermis beneath. Belugas have incredibly thick skin, about ten times thicker than that of dolphins.

Beluga gathering. Photo credit: Nansen Weber

Experts estimate that approximately 72,000 to 144,000 belugas live in Canadian waters, between the Beaufort Sea in the western Arctic, Baffin Bay in the high Arctic, the eastern Arctic waterways including Hudson Bay, and in the St. Lawrence Estuary.

In summer, belugas gather for several weeks in estuaries, where a river and an ocean meet, and congregate in the warmer, shallow waters. In winter, they must stay with the open water, keeping ahead of shifting ice in order to maintain access to air.

map of Beluga areasViewing belugas at Cunningham Inlet is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially since they travel such great distances in deep water each spring and fall.  Some migrations take the whales over 2000km, diving deep and often – typically up to 800 metres – for food.

Belugas arrive at Cunningham Inlet as soon as the first ice breaks, which is usually around the second week of July, and stay until mid-August. You'll see plenty of mothers with their newborn or yearling calves as well as a juvenile, who seems to serve as an attendant to the young family. 

Research into beluga biology and behaviors continues at Cunningham Inlet, through the non-profit Arctic Watch Beluga Foundation. On top of scientific research, the foundation has created a unique research program for young adults, which invites young adults including Inuit youth from Nunavut to participate in research conducted by Mystic Aquarium.

Beluga watching from the shores of the Cunningham River, whether for research, photography, or recreation, is a unique and joyful experience. Our 10-day Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge expedition gives you ample time and opportunity to sit alongside these incredible creatures and observe them in their natural Arctic habitat, just a 15-minute walk from the lodge.

Contact us to learn more about beluga watching at the top of the world in 2015 and beyond!

Map from Canadian Geographic; all other images from ArcticWatch.ca by Nansen Weber


How Antarctic expeditions assist in Albatross conservation



Image credit: Andy Stringer

At the time of writing, over 3.9 million albatross have died as a result of longline fishing since 2000.

That number increases rapidly each day, with another albatross death every two minutes. Seventeen of the 22 species of albatross are currently threatened with extinction, with longline fishing the main threat to the population.

Quark Expeditions is a proud sponsor of the Underwater Bait Setter project, an initiative by a team of engineers, business managers and scientists working together to reduce the risk to albatross while benefitting the fishing industry.


300,000 Seabirds Caught In Longlines Each Year

About 3 billion hooks are set annually in longline fisheries. Branch lines are often set by hand and lay on the water, where they are visible and tempting to seabirds. Fishing regulations require the use of deterrents such as trailing bird scaring streamers, or setting at night when albatross are less active, but each regulation makes fishing more difficult and isn't very effective in reducing albatross deaths.

As a result, about 300,000 seabirds are caught on the hooks or tangled in the lines each year. Most of these bycatch seabirds are albatross, a species that have just one chick every one to two years. The problem is compounded by their inability to reproduce if one mate is lost. They simply cannot keep up with replenishing the population at the rate at which they are dying.



How Does the Underwater Bait Setter Help Antarctic Wildlife?

The underwater bait setter is an innovative new piece of fishing equipment that sets longline hooks underwater, to prevent seabirds from accidentally being caught by fishermen.



Image credit: Underwater Bait Setter


Known by engineers as the BS30, the device is the first of its kind and uses a unique hook deployment method to set hooks underwater safely, and without disrupting fishing. It actually benefits the fishing industry by reducing the amount of bait lost to seabirds, but more importantly, it prevents baited hooks from becoming a tempting treat for albatross and their kin.

See how underwater bait setters reduce albatross death by longline fishing:



 How Quark Expeditions Supports Underwater Bait Setter

As a leading polar travel company, we take great pride in the environmental stewardship and conservation initiatives we support. We have raised over $230,000 for the Underwater Bait Setter organization since becoming involved, and are thrilled to have seen its progress as it developed and tested a much-needed technology to benefit albatross populations. Our funding has helped pay for research/development and operational testing of the underwater bait setter device. We will now continue to support the organization as it moves into implementation by gifting a new device to an industry-leading New Zealand tuna fishing operation.

"The difficulties we have encountered are amazing, but it is also amazing how far we have come," a representative of Underwater Bait Setter shared with us. "We’ve solved a lot of problems and the machine is now a finely engineered product, it looks complete!"

Last year alone, Quark Expeditions raised $58,014 for Underwater Bait Setter with our Antarctic summer fundraising. We encourage others to lend support to help bring the device to the longline fishing industry and contribute to solving one of the world’s big conservation issues, the preservation of albatrosses and their chicks.





Take the Next Step to Protect Polar Bears from Climate Change


Early in November, as polar bears wait patiently for the sea ice to form so they can return to hunting seals on Hudson Bay, enthusiasts the world over will celebrate Polar Bear Week, taking place November 2nd to 8th.

Quark Expeditions has long been a passionate supporter of the Arctic region, home to these magnificent creatures. Many Quark passengers have enjoyed unforgettable glimpses of polar bears on several of our Arctic voyages, or are looking forward to their first polar bear sighting at Quark’s land-based Arctic Watch Lodge for 2015.

After experiencing the unique and fragile Arctic environment, many Quark passengers become life-long polar bear advocates, and supporters of Polar Bears International (PBI), the world's leading polar bear conservation group. In fact, over the last eight years, Quark passengers have raised over $1 million USD towards environmental and conservation efforts, including the work of PBI.

Quark Expeditions is proud to join PBI in the "Take the Next Step" energy conservation campaign, in honour of our fuzzy and furry friends of the Arctic. We invite you to join us as we support PBI in its quest to save polar bears by saving their sea ice habitat.



Take the Next Step for Polar Bears

Longer ice-free seasons have become a threat to the survival of these Arctic ambassadors. Polar bears are forced to survive on their fat stores for extended periods of time, as climate change wreaks havoc on their polar habitat.

One of PBI's initiatives is a petition to world leaders at the climate change talks in Lima, Peru this winter. You can sign the Petition for Polar Bears and let world leaders know you support global greenhouse gas reduction planning and renewable energy.



Working Together to Ensure a Future for Polar Bears

This Polar Bear Week, we encourage everyone to "Take the Next Step" by taking energy-saving actions  to reduce individual greenhouse gas footprints, to help collectively lower greenhouse gas emissions and limit the damage to the polar environment.  Take the following next steps and help protect polar bears:

1. Raise the temperature on your thermostat by a few degrees to save on your cooling costs and install a programmable thermostat to adjust your temperature during the day. Set your thermostat to 68-70 degrees during the day in the winter, and 65-68 degrees at night to keep you comfortable.

 2. Cover all bare floors. Carpeting or rugs add to comfort and heat retention, especially if there is little or no floor insulation.

3. Replace standard bulbs with CFLs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are more energy-efficient than regular bulbs, while giving off the same amount of light. You can also recycle your CFL bulbs. 

4. Use power in your kitchen more efficiently. Use microwaves and toaster ovens to cook or warm leftovers; you’ll use less energy than with a conventional oven. Set your refrigerator temperature between 30 and 42°F and use the power-save switch if you have one. Keep your freezer full – it uses less energy than an empty one. For maximum savings, consider filling your freezer with gallon containers of water. Set your dishwashers on economy mode to use less water and electricity, and turn it off after the wash cycle. Let your dishes air-dry – you'll save energy and keep your dishwasher from heating up your kitchen.

5. Avoid energy vampires. Plug electronics into a power strip and turn the strip off when not in use to save on energy costs – even when they’re turned off, home electronics in “standby” mode use energy to power features like clock displays. Consider a laptop next time you're looking to buy a computer, as they use less energy than desktop computers. Set your computer to sleep or hibernate mode instead of using a screen saver to use less electricity during periods of inactivity. Unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use. Many chargers draw power continuously, even when the device is not plugged into the charger.

 6. Close unused air vents. If you have central air conditioning, you can close air vents in rooms you're not using so you're not paying to cool them. Don’t block air vents with drapes and furniture and be sure to check for leaks so you know air isn't escaping through openings such as doors and windows.

7. Take the stairs over the elevator. Take your bike over your car. When you do need to drive, reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating slowly, maintaining a steady speed, and keeping within the speed limit.


Image credit: Xavier Battlori

The “Take the Next Step” energy challenge is part of PBI’s Save Our Sea Ice (SOS) Campaign. Throughout the year, PBI issues challenges to the public, like the “No Idling Challenge” held on Earth Day and the “Pedal for Polar Bears Challenge” on Endangered Species Day this past May.

To learn more about PBI and the important work it’s doing to preserve the Arctic environment for animals and humans alike, visit the PBI website. Join Quark Expeditions as we support PBI and people worldwide in taking steps to protect the pristine Arctic environment for generations to come!



Quark Expeditions is profoundly committed to environmentally responsible tourism. Find out more about our sustainability initiatives:


Support Polar Bears International and get a jump start on your holiday shopping!




For the week of Nov 2-8, 2014, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of our Polar Bear pendants in our online Pop-up shop will benefit Polar Bears International


Learn more! Polar bear facts:




See polar bears in the wild on our Spitsbergen Explorer voyage:






Spotlight on Deception Island: Ghosts of Adventurers Past



Just off the northwest Antarctic Peninsula in the South Shetland Islands lies Deception Island, once a bustling sealing and whaling station. One of the safest harbours in Antarctica, it's been a place of science and military interests from Britain, Chile, and Argentina, but was deserted when volcanic activity destroyed British Base B in 1969.

Today, Deception Island is a popular Antarctic tourism destination and a scientific outpost for summer research teams from Spain and Argentina. With a history rich in destruction and conflict, the horseshoe-shaped land mass can leave visitors with more than a touch of nostalgia and even the uneasy feeling that the island is true to its name – that everything here is not as it seems.


Deception Island Just Might Be a Paranormal Hotspot


Many of the ghosts of Deception Island are plain to see – abandoned scientific research stations, airplane hangars, whaling operations and military bases are scattered around the island. Here, the remnants of lives lived out in rough conditions and extreme isolation are evident.

 The paranormal interest in Deception Island is such that SyFy channel's Destination Truth television show team camped out here to perform a supernatural study and night investigation. (Yes, they heard things going bump in the night.)


Those with a keen interest in history or the paranormal will also want to make their way to Whalers Bay, between Fildes Point and Penfold Point at the east side of Port Foster. The oldest "ghost town" on the island, Whalers Bay is now a designated Historic Site or Monument (HSM) and as such, remains largely the way it was left prior to the 1970s, complete with remnants of generations of Norwegian and Chilean whaling stations, then British science and mapping activities.


Deception Island: Living Population = 0

Currently, Deception Island has a total population of exactly zero … zero living people, that is.

Its only permanent residents are a few dozen men buried in Deception Island Whalers Cemetery. Even it was buried in the volcanic eruption in the late 1960s. This is what it looked like before the island took it back:


Image credit: Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren, NOAA Corps (retired) [Public domain]

Whaling first arrived on Deception Island in 1906, courtesy of the Norwegian founder of the Chilean Sociedad Ballenera de Magellanes, Adolfus Andresen. Whalers Bay was established as an anchorage for whaling factory ships. In 1912, the Hektor Whaling Company received a license to operate a shore-based whaling station, which grew to employ approximately 150 people.

In 1931, however, whale oil prices collapsed and in April, the station at Whalers Bay was abandoned for good.


The giant, rusting tanks and boilers remain, alongside those men lost to the whaling industry and lost again to violent geological phenomenon. One would almost think the ghosts of Deception Island are warning new industry away.


Image credit: Tim Kubichek

Whatever ghosts call Deception Island home, they don't seem to mind when we visit briefly and respectfully, leaving not a trace of ourselves and honoring those fragments of their lives still visible amongst the rotting boats, rusting structure, ice and volcanic rock.


Image credit: Corina Hitchcock

A visit to Deception Island may leave you melancholy or even spooked, but never bored or unmoved. As we trek the black sand beaches stretching as far as the eye can see or take a polar plunge in the icy waters, you might even find that you've never felt quite so alive as you will on Deception Island.

 Interested in visiting? Our new interactive 2015.16 brochure is now online!



Antarctic Fashion: This Season's Trends and Must-Have Clothing


At first glance, the term Antarctic fashion may seem like an oxymoron. Aren't visitors to the seventh continent too busy trying to keep warm to care about how trendy their clothes are?

When considering what to pack for the Antarctic, you might be surprised to learn that in the regions Quark Expeditions visits, temperatures rarely drop below -10 degrees Celsius in the warmer summer season. Consequently, Antarctic fashion revolves around utility. Keeping warm, dry, and comfortable are equally important.


What to Wear in the Antarctic

When we talk about Antarctic fashion, we consider the quality and durability of garments; fabrics that enable you to travel light and stay comfortable throughout your trip, whether you're enjoying the view from the deck of your ship, hanging out on a beach with our seal and penguin friends, or hiking the pristine Antarctic landscape.

Polar fashion is all about functionality – better temperature regulation, mobility, sweat management, and fit. This year, we're excited to introduce a new line of base layers and designs to keep Quark travelers warm, dry and comfortable.


Merino Wool Base Layer Garments – Not Your Grandmother's Wool

This season’s best and most versatile fiber base layer garments come from Icebreaker, renowned as world leaders in merino wool. Wanting to offer a superior alternative to synthetic garments, Icebreaker created a vast array of merino garments with unsurpassed breathability, odor resistance and functionality. This is not the itchy, sweaty wool of generations past.

Ideal for extremes, merino wool is breathable in summer and insulating in winter, yet exceptionally soft and lightweight. Icebreaker's simple and elegant pieces are easy to wear every day and strong enough to face the toughest terrains. Its merino wool undergarments are available this season in our on-board shops.

Microfiber Neck Buffs for Moisture Wicking and Versatile Comfort

Deception Island by Corina Hitchcock

Buffs are a wonderful and necessary accessory in Antarctica and this year's seamless microfiber design can be worn in a number of ways. Super lightweight and comfortable, Quark Expeditions buffs keep the cold out but don't hold moisture in. They're essential for covering your neck from the sun, protecting your mouth from dust and debris, and keeping cold or snow wind off your neck and out of your jacket. Hikers and those participating in our mountaineering adventure option can even wear the buff under their helmet for warmth.

quark-buffWe have a custom design for this year’s Antarctic season (see at left), featuring penguins native to the region. These versatile infinity scarves will lead the way in original multifunctional headwear and are available in our on-board shops, and in our online Gear Shop. 


iTouch Compatible BioSensor Liners

Merino wool is a fabulous fabric for gloves, with naturally wicking and anti-odor properties. These gloves by Outdoor Research have a unique feature that also make them touch-screen friendly: stainless steel fabrication in the fingertips.


Smartphone photography has become all the rage in Antarctica, as smartphone cameras have evolved and are now capable of capturing near-professional quality photos. With these breathable and quick-drying gloves, passengers can keep their hands warm and dry while still navigating smartphone features.

Antarctic Fashion – Function, Comfort and Style

Trending polar fashion features the most advanced materials and designs to keep the cold out and keep moisture away from your skin. Function and comfort come first, but not at the expense of looking great.

Check out all the latest polar fashions online from the Quark Expeditions Gear Shop.

Be polar prepared by watching our special packing video:



Dining in Antarctica with Quark Expeditions


Dining aboard Quark Expeditions' ships is always a gastronomic adventure; even the foodies among us marvel at the fare available in such remote locations.

Photo credit: Quark passenger Darrick

Photo credit: Quark passenger Darrick

Meals on board are prepared by a professional chef and his team, with an emphasis on freshness, variety and creativity. Passengers are often with us for weeks at a time – we don't want you getting bored with the meal selection!

In years past, Antarctic explorers had little choice and even less variety in their meal options. Dining at the bottom of the world was not a delicacy, but a chore necessary for survival.

Let's have a look at just how much Antarctic dining has changed!

Expedition Nutrition and Diet: Then & Now

Today, dietary guidelines stipulate that the calories in the average American's diet consist of about 10 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 60 percent carbohydrates. Onboard quark Expeditions ships, we offer healthy food choices and gourmet meals. In fact, our Ocean Endeavour will be the only health and wellness-focused ship in Antarctica this summer, complete with a juice bar and healthy dining options.

On a typical Quark expedition, passengers enjoy a three-course dinner each evening, with an appetizer, main course and dessert. A salad station is available to all diners, as well. Vegetarian, heart healthy, and gluten-free options are available.

shackleton's antarctica biscuitNot so for Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the Endurance. In 1916, as their infamous Antarctic voyage neared its end, the Endurance crew's diet consisted almost entirely of protein and fat, according to the WGBH Educational Foundation. They had not enough food available to fulfill their nutritional requirements and were unable to consume enough calories for a healthy diet. Variety was slim and at one tragic point in the expedition, the crew were forced to eat their dogs to survive. Shackleton wrote in his memoirs, "It was the worst job that we had had throughout the Expedition, and we felt their loss keenly."


Dinner On Board the Endurance vs a Quark Expeditions Ship

We have much to be thankful for in this day of portable refrigeration and modern cooking facilities, even in the depths of the Antarctic.

Shackleton's Cocoa TinAt the beginning of the Endurance expedition in 1914, the ship was loaded with dried, cured and canned food supplies including oatmeal, tinned meat, bacon, dried fruit and cocoa.

Later on in the expedition, as food stores wore lower, the men hunted and used more of the resources available to them in Antarctica. Seal steaks, penguin livers, and boiled seaweed were more typical dinner fare as the expedition continued.

On Quark expeditions, dinners begin with a choice of delicious hot soups or crisp, fresh salads. For example, guests might enjoy cream of celery soup pureed with sweet cream and fresh herbs, or a lighter homemade chicken consommé, with herbed chicken steeped in a sherry broth.

Guests enjoy crisp green salads with garden fresh vegetables, rich German potato salads, green pea salad with water chestnuts and more.

A variety of entrees are offered each evening, to accommodate different tastes and dietary requirements. A recent dinner menu, for example, offered:

  • Honey-Soy Glazed Salmon - Oven baked and served on a bed of braised garlic spinach with sweet peas Served with steamed white rice (heart healthy, with low or no salt and low fat).
  • Beef Bourguignon - A classic beef burgundy stew with bacon, onions, mushrooms and herbs, served with mashed potato.
  • Seafood Fettuccini - With shrimp, fish and mussels, garlic cream sauce and parmesan cheese.
  • Tofu and Potato Hash - Diced tofu and potatoes with sweet bell peppers, onion and tomato, seasoned with paprika (vegetarian).

Baked fish marinated in a sweet pineapple teriyaki sauce is a perennial lunchtime favorite. At teatime, passengers enjoy a sumptuous selection of fresh pastries and other treats, prepared each day by the pastry chef.


A selection of wines is available to accompany each meal. Quark Expeditions also practices sustainability in our ingredient choices, to help protect the world's oceans.

Of course, after dinner, passengers in need of a hit for their sweet tooth can feast on freshly prepared desserts, including ship-made ice cream and sorbets.



Antarctic Dining Now: Exploring in Luxury

Dining in the Antarctic aboard a Quark Expeditions ship is a far cry from the gastronomic experiences of the earlier explorers. Today, it's possible to set eyes on the same stunning vistas and wondrous land and seascapes as those who came one hundred years before – but without the food rations and survival eats.

When Jonathan Shackleton (cousin of Sir Ernest Shackleton) and Falcon Scott (grandson of Robert Falcon Scott) join us on expeditions today, they're walking in their ancestors footsteps but thankfully, not relegated to sitting at their table!

Learn more about Quark's fleet:


Confessions of a Polar Expedition Team Member


Have you ever wondered what life is like aboard a Quark Expeditions ship and during polar excursions, beyond what you see and read online and in the travel brochures?

Polar-passionate traveler and Quark team member Dave Riordan visited our Quark office in Toronto recently and sat down to answer the questions prospective travelers ask us most often. Our booking staff are polar experts in their own right, coming from a variety of polar travel backgrounds and each having participated in a Quark expedition. However, Dave brings to the table a breadth and depth of experience, having traveled with Quark for ten seasons in a variety of roles including Expedition Leader, program coordinator and now Logistics Manager. All told, he spends about eight months of the year on Quark Expeditions ships.

Quark Expeditions team member Dave Riordan

In his off-time, Dave is addicted to travel, as well, spending just a couple of months a year "at home" in Courtland, New York. This upcoming Antarctic season, you'll find Dave cruising with Quark passengers on the Sea Spirit and Sea Adventurer.

His experience is extensive and his perspective definitely unique! Here's what Dave has to share about life on board with Quark Expeditions:

Everyday Life on Board a Quark Expeditions Ship

On board each Quark Expeditions ship, Dave explained, there are three groups of people: Quark travelers, Quark expedition staff, and the ship crew – engineers, deck officers, the receptionist, bartenders, wait staff, housekeepers, etc. "The ship crew are from all over the world and typically, there are about 60 of them on board," he said. "There may be 12 to 15 Quark team members and I'll tell you, the better we all get to know one another, the better the ship runs. They're a fantastic group and we'll often go join them below deck in their common quarters, like the break room and cafeteria, and get to know them."

Ocean Diamond crew, Antarctica 2014

Quark Expeditions team members stay in the same types of quarters, in the same area of the ship, as travelers. "We take meals together, do shore excursions together, and spend time together on the decks and in the restaurant/bar areas," Dave said. "Passengers don't expect the comfort level when they get on board and there's something so special in getting together throughout the trip with these people who all want to have that same awesome polar experience. It's a worldly, amazing group of people; we're there day and night to answer questions and share in the experience with them."

Dave also noted that people are often surprised at the services available on board. "Technology has changed everything – people are surprised that there's any internet service at the poles, but we have satellite." He explained that the Internet connection is usually good enough for sending text-only messages, for checking email or sending short tweets to Twitter. "But then, some are surprised it's slow and intermittent," he chuckled. "For the most part, passengers are impressed we can communicate with the outside world at all when we're in the most remote regions on earth."

Sea Spirit in Antarctica with Quark Expeditions

The in-room TVs don't have any outside programming and are used to show in-house movies and display daily information, he explained, adding, "We get very little news from the outside world. It can be a really good thing but you can have serious culture shock." On returning to port, Dave said, "The first time you see a tree… it's crazy! I like to go straight to a mall just to freak myself out." People's expectations are always different, he said, so being prepared before you go is important.


A Typical Day On Board with Quark Expeditions

"Usually, the team gets up bright and early and has a pre-breakfast meeting," Dave explained. "We have breakfast with guests and then get into our gear and head out for the day. That's when we launch the zodiacs and check out the landing sites before we take the guests out." This is especially important in the Arctic, he said, where they need to make sure there are no polar bears or other carnivorous animals onshore. The team then marks out the perimeter of a path for passengers to use onshore.

Quark Expeditions passengers dine at the North Pole

"We're taking about 10-12 passengers out in the Zodiacs and will bring them ashore for the morning," he said. No food is allowed to be brought on shore in the Antarctic, he cautions, so shore lunches are out of the question. The North Pole is an exception, he noted. "We bring tables and chairs and a BBQ and you're floating on ice 4000 feet above the sea floor, in June or July. It's incredible and I can tell you, the passengers who get to participate in that will never, ever forget it."

"If the weather is bad and everyone stays on board, we do lectures with our marine biologists, ornithologists, or other experts. They'll give presentations and we may have parties, or a scavenger hunt, or even quiz nights. We're all entertainers at heart!" Dave said of himself and his teammates.

"After the morning excursion or activity, we go straight into lunch and then gear up. The ship will be repositioned to another spot." Afternoon excursions are often when optional adventure activities take place, Dave said, such as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking or cross-country skiing.

"Each night, we have recaps of what we've seen throughout the day. We put slides together from our cameras and put together these presentations on the fly." Most people are using PowerPoint, he said, and one person collects everything and puts it together in one presentation for the recap. "We go from person to person and share what we saw that day."

Dinner is a delicious but casual affair, he said. "People can sit with whomever they choose and mix and mingle. A lot of the passengers are well traveled, so you'll hear these great conversations about polar travel, but also about travel the world over."

After dinner, passengers are free to take part in the every-other nightly activities in the lounge, settle in to watch an educational movie, or head to their cabin. "Depending on each person's sleep patterns, some are real morning people and others are more night owls. I prefer to stay up in the lounge chatting in the evening than to be up first thing in the morning," Dave said.


Adventure Part of Daily Life in the Polar Regions

camping in Antarctica

"We have experienced, trained guides for every activity, whether it's mountaineering or hiking, or one of our watersports," he said.

Dave was a camping guide for six years before joining Quark and he usually runs the Antarctic camping program on his excursions.  

"We take about 30 people out after dinner and come back before breakfast, as they're not allowed to eat while they're out there," he explained.  It's light all night during the summer in Antarctica and they usually don't need headlamps. "It's incredible… we listen to the penguins and the whales blowing and the ice cracking. I'm usually tucked in a bivvy bag – a waterproof shell, with just my head sticking out," he laughed.

Photo courtesy of Paul Shaver from of our passenger slideshow, Antarctic Explorer voyage, Feb 2014

Photo courtesy of Paul Shaver from of our passenger slideshow, Antarctic Explorer voyage, Feb 2014.

Dave warns that campers have to watch for the Antarctic fur seal (seen above): "It looks like a dog wearing mitts and they bite! They may come into the campsite. We camp on top of the snow so animals don't jump into a snow pit with us. They're about the size of a German shepherd," he said. It happens, too – Dave told us a story about a camper digging deep into the snow in an effort to get further out of the wind, only to have a fur seal hop down into their pit and refuse to leave.

Other animal sightings are common for campers. "A penguin might come look at you while you're sleeping… I once woke up to a penguin jumping on my chest and then calmly just walking away!"

You never know what to expect on the seventh continent, he said. "We once had a penguin and a Weddell seal guard the toilet all night," he laughed.

"Sure, it was a bit creepy at first. We try to set the toilets up behind some kind of snow wall or natural sight barrier and here were these two little guys, just hanging out right there for the entire night. Just keeping an eye on things, I guess!"


Oh, and about those Antarctic toilets… "Everyone gets a very realistic briefing of what they'll experience before they go camping. Sometimes people decide it's more than what they want to get into, and that's totally fine!" Dave said. "We have bucket toilets and everything goes back onto the ship for disposal in the proper sewage system. We make sure people understand how everything is going to work out there so there are few surprises."

Once passengers go to shore, he said, unless they're hypothermic or there's a medical emergency, they're can't return to the ship. "We take safety very seriously at Quark and have emergency equipment with us in a tent, with wilderness first aid leaders in camp. We do take flares, blankets, signalling equipment, food rations, and water, just in case. We want everyone to be comfortable and happy and a big part of that is knowing what to expect while you're out there!" he said.


A Day in the Life of a Quark Expeditions Traveler is Different Each and Every Day

Photo credit: Angus Hamilton


Even with all of that preparation, Dave said, "people are often surprised and even in awe at the sheer scale of Antarctica and the Arctic. You can learn about the animals and the geography, but you can't understand it until you're there.  It's massive."

Travelling different areas of the world, he explained, you have all of these different cultural elements – the history, the languages, the people, the traditions, and so on. "But in the polar regions, you have no inhabitation. There are no trees – it's just epic nature and you don't have to tune out the human aspect of it. It's amazing how that floating vessel turns into a community for the time you're together," he said.

For Dave Riordan, heading out to the ships is like coming home. It's a sentiment shared among many experienced polar travelers. Whether it's your first expedition or your twenty-first, a typical day in the polar regions is highly unlikely to be typical in any way, shape or form. And we wouldn't have it any other way!






10 Antarctica Must-Haves – Don't Leave Home Without Them



 Visiting Antarctica is often described as a surreal, life-changing experience – one that might leave you feeling you've stepped off this planet and onto another one. Even as you're having this other-worldly experience, it's good to have a few of the comforts of this world along.

Some of these items are going to make your Antarctic expedition and trekking a lot more comfortable, while others will simply bring a bit of comfort on-board, as you enjoy the ship or hang out in your berth.

 Either way, don't leave home for Antarctica without these 10 things:


1. Sunscreen

That's right, you're going to one of the coldest and least hospitable climates on the planet, and you're going to need sunscreen!  Quark Expeditions take place during the Antarctic summer months and while it's not sunbathing weather, it's sunny most of the time and the UV rays can be quite strong. Ice, snow and water reflect the sun from every direction and it is possible to get a sunburn. Bring at least SPF 45 with you and make sure it's water and sweat-proof.


2. Chapstick

Antarctic is the driest and sunniest continent on earth and the sun, wind and salt-tinged mist can all wreak havoc on your lips. Bring enough chapstick to use it liberally throughout the trip. Staying hydrated will also help prevent chapped or cracking lips in harsh Antarctic conditions, should they occur.


3. Waterproof pants


We spend a lot of time in Antarctica near the water and on the ice and snow. Waterproof pants are a must! You'll find them useful if you're doing adventure activities like cross-country skiing, but also for every day trekking around, getting in and out of the Zodiacs, etc. Choose a pair with a moisture-wicking liner to stay warm and dry as we disembark and head inland over the snow on day excursions.


4. A good piece of chocolate or your favorite snack

Some people find it easier to be away from home for extended periods of time than others. Falcon Scott, one of our resident experts and a frequent special guest on Quark expeditions, recommends that passengers bring along a piece of good chocolate or several helpings of their favorite snack. The food service on-board is fantastic, he says, yet it's nice to have that bit of something familiar from home when you're away on an expedition.


5. Good gloves and head protection – x2


Remember how your grandmother always told you that you lose most of your body heat through your head? Well, she was right. Proper head gear and gloves are important in Antarctica. Depending on the conditions, you could experience rapid changes in temperature and wind conditions – but you may also sweat, depending on your level of physical exertion. Many people are surprised by how much warmer than expected Antarctica can be in the summer time!  Bring at least one extra pair of gloves and an extra hat, toque or other head gear.  You probably won't need thick, heavy gloves or head gear.


6. Waterproof boots with good tread

 Keep your feet warm and dry with a pair of good, waterproof boots. You'll need traction on the ice and snow, but they should still be lightweight enough for you to walk comfortably over the bare ground. When you travel with Quark Expeditions we provide your boots for you so you'll stay warm and dry on your voyage!


7. A good book


Jonathan Shackleton, another of our resident experts and the relative of a famed Antarctic explorer, recommends that passengers bring a good book with them. Some people have trouble falling asleep, whether it's the excitement of it all, the adjustment to new sleeping quarters or just a natural trait. There may also be times you just want to relax alone for a few minutes. Remember, there's no cable TV, so bring a good book to keep you company!  Need some inspiration? Here's a list of recommended reading for the passionate polar traveler! Our ships also feature polar libraries stocked with a fantastic selection of reading materials.


8. Sunglasses with a strap


Wraparound sports sunglasses are best for keeping the bright sun out of your eyes. Make sure the lenses offer UV protection and bring an extra pair just in case. Bring a strap so the sunglasses can be easily removed to hang around your neck (so you don't need to remove your gloves or fumble around with parka pockets).


9. A daypack

Large backpacks are great for long treks, but on our day excursions you really only need a small daypack. You can store extra layers of clothing, sunscreen, water and more without feeling like you're carrying half of your cabin around with you. You can purchase one before your trip in our Polar Gear Shop.


10. Merino wool underclothes

Merino wool really is a magical thing. If you're dreading the thought of wearing wool underclothes while you trek around, don't worry – this isn't the itchy, heavy wool of yesteryear. Merino wool is a fantastic underlayer that draws moisture away from the skin and actually generates heat when it's wet. Unlike other types of wool products, it has natural odor-destroying properties and will keep you feeling and smelling "fresh" longer on the seventh continent.


There you have it – 10 things you shouldn't leave home without when you're Antarctic bound! Do you have a travel tip or packing recommendation for other passengers? Share it in the comments below.










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