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Voyage Update: Spitsbergen Circumnavigation

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Fresh From The Sea! Expedition Leader Woody, currently leading Spitsbergen Circumnavigation, shares his exciting voyage update from the Sea Spirit:

"What a morning! Arrived early near Torellneset and spotted a polar bear and two cubs. As the breakfast was almost set on the table we ventured out in perfect blue sky conditions. The mother and cubs strolled to the waters edge where they slept and occasionally wandered about. Later in the morning as we landed at Torellneset, the other and two cubs came to the beac

h. We completed a tactical withdrawal with zero interaction. We cruised by walruses and the mighty beasts were relaxed. Some swam in and others just wallowed on each other....now sailing North.

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Antarctic Explorer Update from David "Woody" Wood

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Feature photo: Ushuaia. Photo courtesy of Bei Maarten.

Quark Expedition Leader David "Woody" Wood is aboard the Ocean Diamond, leading the Antarctic Explorer Voyage:

2nd December: Ushuaia

3-4 December

The Drake passage flexed some muscle as we crossed it to begin our voyage south. Winds raged above 84 knots as we sailed south and it rocked and rolled us. The Ocean Diamond managed the conditions masterfully but it moved us and not all wanted to rise from the horizontal resting position.

Our second sea day still provided some seas but the violence had decreased and with the gentling weather we were pleased to see some fin whales and then an avian orgy as we were joined by four elegant light manteled Sooty Albatross, a group of Antarctic petrels and a squadron of Cape petrels.

 

Drake Passage Drake Passage, photo courtesy of Brooke McClure.

5th December

Early risers enjoyed the splendid glacial views as we sailed into Wilhelmina Bay. Our climbers were dropped off and began their ascent. Soon we were all zodiac cruising this magnificent bay in bright clear calm conditions. Chinstrap and gentoo penguins decorated the islands and ice floes. A magnificent introduction to the scale and grandeur of the icy wilderness, Antarctica.

Cuverville Island

We climbed ice steps to be on the mini "polar plateau" at the gentoo colony. We enjoyed a march of and with the penguins as they stepped, skidded and slid their icy highways. Nest building and fortifying was in full swing as was energetic copulation.

Skiers ascended Ronge island and looked over an array of icebergs and icy mountains in all directions.

Kayakers paddled and drifted around the island enjoying shaggs on rocks, seals on ice an torpedoes of penguins.

 

Cuverville Island Gentoo penguin colony, Cuverville Island,. Photo courtesy of Quark Passenger.

At 21:30 the campers were boated to shore with simple supplys to celebrate an experience and survive a night on the ice. The sky was clear and as the light softened the temperature dropped. The icy crystal beds were a cool experience and the night for some seemed endless. Soon after six in the morning the boats returned to recover survivors and although there were many stories there were no regrets and no one perished!

Stay tuned for more exciting voyage updates!

Read Woody's recent updates from the Ocean Diamond: Lemaire, Ice fields, Neko Harbour & Polar plunge

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Voyage update from David "Woody" Wood: Lemaire, Ice fields, Neko Harbour & Polar plunge

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Feature photo courtesy of Marie & Dave Lincoln

Quark Expedition Leader David “Woody” Wood is aboard the Ocean Diamond, traveling on Quark’s Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica Voyage:

November 29

The sounds of ice grinding the hull was common overnight. We rose early to find that Captain Oleg had gently sailed into a large field of ice which gave us views of the Lemaire channel.

The sky was blue and the wind was still and what surrounded us was seared indelibly into our minds. Ice for miles to the entrance and in all directions shimmered and shone in the increasingly bright morning sun. All were roused early from sleep and we enjoyed the view from the decks. We soaked up the views and tried to capture images of its magnificent raw splendour. The bow was turned towards the Lemaire.

Eventually the ice won this skirmish and we turned to seek an alternative objective. Captain and Expedition Leader discussed alternatives and decisively turned for Andvord bay and Neko Harbour. The ice fields slowed progress but the ice is a compelling sight and we enjoyed the views as we extricated the Diamond from its brittle grip.

 

Neko Harbour Neko Harbour. Photo courtesy of Shallen Lee.

 

Meeting another impressive field of ice Captain chose a shorter route through Paradise harbour where the views were breathtaking. The gaamble paid off and we threaded through a narrow channel into Andvord Bay. In clearer water we moved rapidly.

Soon zodiacs were ready and kayaks made ready for our final excursion down south. We landed for our second continent landing. Gentoo penguins built nests and some mated robustly on the snow. A walk up onto an ice field gave sweeping glacial views and we paused to reflect on this vast continent surrounded by a vast sea. We zodiac cruised and kayaked savouring each moment of precious time.

 

Gentoo Penguin Gentoo penguin nesting. Photo courtesy of Chris Dore.

Back on board a polar plunge was offered. People leapt into the frigid waters some with relish and a cheer, others with courage and curses and some with screams and hollers. For participants and onlookers alike it was a celebration of life, Antarctica and how even in summer for us, it is extreme in this environment. We rejoiced in having practiced safe Antarctic immersion!

Read more of David "Woody" Wood voyage update from the Ocean Diamond.

 

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Voyage update from David “Woody” Wood

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Feature photo courtesy of Rachel & Barry Chapman

Quark Expedition Leader David "Woody" Wood is currently aboard the Ocean Diamond, traveling on Quark's Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica Voyage:

20 November

As we sailed toward South Georgia we were blessed with gentle seas. Our last day at sea was blessed with playful humpbacks and some good views of their massive pectoral fins slapping the water.

We sailed toward and around Shagg Rocks and were rewarded with an avian extravaganza. Shaggs flew by in squadrons, Black browed albatross kept a graceful and elegant vigil on proceedings and then we were joined by a splendid Wandering albatross which with its 3.5 metre wingspan made all the other birds look a little less. Captain and helmsman navigated a course around these isolated rocks which jutt out of an often storm swept sea giving us great views.

 

South Georgia South Georgia. Photo courtesy of C. Robertson.

21 November

An early start provided our hungry eyes with immediate rewards. Our first views of the savage South Georgia scenery was as we sailed into Stromness Bay. Fresh snow dusted the scenery. Soon at anchor at Stromness harbour we went ashore whilst others from our party zodiac cruised the bay. Shackleton completed his crossing of South Georgia in Stromness. We were able to walk in the footstpes of this iconic explorer of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. Fur seals had divided the beach into territories and we carefully navigated our way through enjoying the fresh snow falling, the strong smelling elephant seals and King penguins parading.

We sailed into Grytviken where beautiful scenery provided a wonderful backdrop to the remains of the whaling station.

We gathered beside Ernest Shackleton's grave and Jonathan Shackleton made a touching toast to the boss. We enjoyed a tour of the whaling station by one of the excellent Grytviken museum staff. Some gathered and walked out to the Shackleton memorial. Running a gauntlet of fur seals hiding in tussock we gathered at the Shackleton memorial which his men constructed in his honour.

 

Ernest Shackleton’s grave Ernest Shackleton’s grave. Photo courtesy of Ralph Mitchell.

22 November

Driving snow and strong winds created a majestic scene at Gold Harbour. We enjoyed great views from the ship but the crashing waves and dramatic surge precluded zodiac operations. In expedition style we decisively changed the plan sailing directly to Fortuna Bay. At Fortuna bay strong winds whipped across the surface but a protected position at Anchorage Bay gave us wonderful King penguin views with a glacial backdrop. Seals reclined, rested and sometimes bounded into a flurry of fur in conflict with a neighbour. We enjoyed their antics without becoming part of the battle.

Salisbury plain

Our afternoon excursion appeared threatened by strong winds which buffeted the ship. As we sailed into Bay of Isles we found a niche of protection and all enjoyed a bounteous harvest of King penguins and their chicks, Hundreds of thousand of King penguins were present in all manner of poses.

 

King penguins King penguins. Photo courtesy of P. Levay.

23 November

St Andrews Bay

A five a clock wake up brought the ship to life. Captain found a great position for the ship and e all had an incredible time at the largest King penguin colony in South Georgia. Elephant seals lolled affectionately on the beach. Elephant seal pups gazed up with deep wide eyes as we walked to the edge of this massive colony of Penguins. Reindeer put in an appearance grazing nearby. We spent in total about six hours at St Andrews bay either in landing or zodiac cruising and all were rewarded with great viewing, a wide range of perspectives and time to observe the behaviours of the wildlife in an awesome landscape.

Larsen Harbour

Our final excursion was a zodiac cruise and kayak up into Larsen Harbour. We gently explored relishing a less frenzied environment where the landscape took our breath away. Weddell seals lolled on shore, fur seal pups frolicked and terns hovered, dipped and fed elegantly from the kelp tendrils which flutter in the sea here.

 

Deception Island, Neptunes Bellows Deception Island, Neptunes Bellows. Photo courtesy of Coreena Vieth.

27 November

Ferocious, furious and frantic winds ripped at us as we sailed into the culdera of Deception Island through the entrance, Neptunes bellows. Winds accelerated over the icy parapets and ripped down into Port Foster measuring over seventy knots. The water was smoking as the wind tore across its surface. These conditions were impossible for zodiacs. We marvelled at the forces of nature here and the power they exert. We sailed out of the bellows countering currents and buffeting winds and sailed south.

28 November

We rose early to a bright blue sky day and ventured out to spend some time with the gentoo penguins. Icebergs decorated the surrounding seas and at the shore we had build steps into the snow to get onto the penguin polar plateau. Magical conditions left us glowing. Kayakers revelled in the calm as they circumnavigated Cuverville island.

 

Danco Island Kayaking, Danco Island.

29 November

Danco Island

Stepping up in snowy steps to enjoy panoramic views of the errera channel and watch the antics of gentoo penguins in the lofty nests.

Paradise Harbour

Captain Oleg skillfully penetrated the ice net to bring us into Paradise. We all celebrated landing on the continent of Antarctica. We reflected on this special place and were in awe of its grandeur.

BBQ on deck

Back on board we dined royally on wonderful food whilst the glacila scenery astonished and delighted us.

Interested in this superb voyage? Check out: Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica

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Guest Post: To Antarctica with Jonathan Shackleton

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A Guest post from Falcon Scott

Making a journey to Antarctica is a lifetime experience for anyone, but once you’ve been it actually draws you back. It's hard to say exactly what it is that makes you feel this way. Even after three adventures to the Antarctic, every trip has been like my first – a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

For me, one could say it comes naturally as my Grandfather was Captain Robert Falcon Scott who led two major expeditions in 1901 and in 1910 to discover that Antarctica was a continent, and lead a comprehensive scientific study of the region. He successfully reached the South Pole on the 17th January 1912, some 900 miles from their base at Cape Evans, but one month after Norwegian Roald Amundsen. He died along with four companions on the return journey, after sustained bad weather and exhaustion. After several weeks of marching into headwinds of 30 knots or more in temperatures of below minus 40C, they were eventually trapped in a blizzard lasting several days about 150 miles from base, and only 11 miles from One Ton Depot. Their bodies and diaries were found the following spring, eight months later. It was a year before the news reached the outside world, his wife and son.

 

Polar HIstory

 

 

A lesser-known story, is that Ernest Shackleton sailed with Captain Scott on his first expedition in the Discovery in 1901. And significantly, he accompanied Scott and Wilson when the three of them travelled about 400 miles into the interior to explore the extent of the mountain range -- now known as the Transantarctic Mountains -- and to find a possible route through to the South Pole. They all suffered badly on this journey, but Shackleton succumbed to scurvy, and his recovery was slow, prompting Scott to sent him back early on the relief ship, the Morning, in February 1903. Ernest Shackleton was frustrated by this, and started to organize his own expedition, which sailed on the Nimrod in 1907. There was a dispute with Scott about where he could set up his base, but in the end the Antarctic forced him to set up at Cape Royds, about 25 miles north of Discovery Hut. He subsequently reached a point of farthest south only 97 miles from the South Pole, and turned back saying "it's better to be a live donkey than a dead lion" -- leaving the Pole unconquered.

 

So when I was invited to join Quark's ship the Ocean Diamond for a voyage to Antarctica with Jonathan Shackleton -- a cousin of Ernest Shackleton – I was very excited. I’ve known Jonathan for over 10 years, as we meet at polar events that happen from time to time, and I’ve also been a guest at his home in Ireland. However, I’d never been to Antarctica with him, nor with any relative from the days of the heroic age of polar exploration.

 

We had our rendezvous at the Airport in Buenos Aires, and I was immediately reminded of how well we got on together -- perhaps we’re different personalities from our relatives, and we’re certainly not now in a position of competing with each other! I think mainly the later, as I know my Grandfather got on well with Shackleton on the southern journey, and before that. They subsequently became professional rivals!

 

Our travel via Argentina was also part of the great experience, as we had a day in Buenos Aires wandering around the city centre, and then nearly two days in Ushuaia; a delightful town surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. The culture in this town they call "the city at the end of the world" seems easy-going, and very multi-racial, and they love their dogs, who enjoy complete freedom as they wander around the streets. We went to the national park and did an 8 km trek around a coastal path, which was beautiful. We saw lots of wildlife including a Patagonian fox, and a Magellanic woodpecker. Jonathan's knowledge of the flora was impressive too.

Scott and Shackleton in Argentina

Once onboard the Ocean Diamond, we felt very welcomed right from the start by everyone as part of the staff. The Expedition Team were all very capable and nice people, and it was also good to see how well run everything was -- obviously the results of years of experience. The keen emphasis on education about everything Antarctic and environmental, delivered in a relaxed atmosphere was greatly appreciated, especially as my Father was closely involved with wildlife and the protection of world environments, and obviously with a special connection with Antarctica.

 

Shackleton and Scott with Quark Expeditions Leader "Woody" With Quark Expedition Leader "Woody" in Antarctica

 

Although there were a lot of passengers, we soon got to know them quite well, I was pleasantly surprised at how knowledgeable many of them were about the history of the explorers. We had many interesting conversations, and I think I learned a lot more information especially about Sir Ernest Shackleton. It was pleasing to see how impressed people were with all there was to see in Antarctica, and how keen they were to spend so much time watching the penguins, seals and other wildlife. Many people it seems got very swept up in the whole polar voyage atmosphere: the numbers camping overnight, and those crazy keen enough to do the Polar Plunge (Antarctic dive). It was obviously an amazing experience for everyone, myself included.

 

Jonathan and I worked well as team, supporting one another to champion the legacy of our relatives among the passengers, and in doing so, had a great time. We remain good friends and look forward to going back to Antarctica sometime soon.

 

193

 

 

Falcon Scott, grandson of famed Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott, will be reuniting with Sir Ernest Shackleton’s cousin, Jonathan Shackleton, on four Quark voyages this Antarctic season. For more information click here.

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Spitsbergen Circumnavigation - voyage update!

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Great update sent to us today from our Spitsbergen Circumnavigation voyage, currently in progress:

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"Last night we camped at Hornsund. All went well and for the campers we enjoyed a bonus walk, a beluga visit at the landing beach where we gathered to enjoy views of adults and young and then mist and sunshine created a colourful rainbow over our campers.

Today while sailing into Brepolle, we spotted a Polar Bear with cub and when we zodiaced to get a closer view we had eight ivory gulls as a bonus prize!

--

Woody

David "Woody" Wood

EL MV Sea Spirit

 

Want more updates? Follow our @QuarkAtSea twitter account!

 

Photo from the passenger slideshow on our June 24, 2013 Spitsbergen Explorer voyage.

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