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Dreaming in Disko Bay

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I was out on deck early the morning we entered Disko Bay. Fog surrounded the ship, hazy blue-grey into infinity, light rain and calm seas. As I watched, a giant iceberg appeared through the mist, looming ominously before it faded away into oblivion. Another appeared, then yet another. Soon the ship wove carefully through a landscape of ice, each piece as unique as an individual person. “It was as if they had been borne down from a world of myth, some Gotterdammerung of noise and catastrophe”, Barry Lopez had written. “Fallen pieces of the moon”. I stared out in wonder at their silence and their magnitude.

Photo by Acacia Johnson 

We spent days around the ice and each one was different. One eerie night we anchored near the glacier Eqip Sermia, which thundered all night and whose jagged face gleamed blue in the morning to greet us, again enshrouded in fog. We walked a great distance to see it from above, fording river after river around the base of sweeping black mountains. We were alert that day, watching the glacier and the sea, wary of tsunamis rising up from the massive walls of ice that cracked magnificently and collapsed into the water. Our caution rewarded us, and as we crested the ridge of moraine, the fog lifted. The whole world of Eqip Sermia’s ice lay below us, galaxies of its remains floating out into the green-blue sea.

 

Photo by Acacia Johnson

 

Photo by Acacia Johnson

 

That night we stopped the ship outside the town of Ilulissat, launching our zodiacs out into the evening light. Immense walls of ice stood, fortress-like, at the mouth of Jakobshavn Icefjord. The gateway to another world. I thought of the Norwegian word isfjell - ice mountain. We slowly cruised their perimeter at a distance, watching new landscapes appearing in the spaces between the bergs. Time passed and the sky grew a brilliant purple, the ice glowing turquoise white in contrast. I looked at the colorful buildings of Ilulissat in the distance and wondered what it must be to grow up in this wondrous place, to accept such dramatic and constant change every single day. I thought perhaps it teaches you something about the nature of life, something that can be all too easy to forget at times.

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The sky gleamed suddenly yellow for a brief moment, reflecting brilliant off the glassy water. Then darkness overtook the seascape, and this world of ice faded from view and into the night.

 

Acacia Johnson is currently aboard the Sea Explorer on our Arctic Quest Expedition.

Find out more about Quark's Arctic expeditions.

 

 

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Arctic Kayaking a Timeless Adventure in the Far North

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Imagine embarking on an Arctic odyssey where you have the opportunity to meet Greenland’s Inuit people, witness traditional kayaking, and venture into that rarified wilderness realm of beluga whales, polar bears, walrus, seals, and muskox. Our 16-day Arctic Quest voyage promises just that – it’s designed to delight historians, adventurers, and wildlife lovers alike. As our most diversified expedition, it also features a unique option for kayaking aficionados to get even more up close and personal with some of the Arctic’s more elusive wildlife.

Greenland: Birthplace of the Kayak

 

Sisimiut, Greenland Sisimiut, Greenland. Photo taken by Quark passenger.

Debarking from the Sea Explorer, your home base throughout the expedition, your first land-based adventure will officially start with two days ashore in West Greenland’s southernmost town, Sisimiut. Ideally situated on the coast of Davis Strait, with a harbor that remains ice-free in winter, this small fishing locale dates back some 4,500 years to its first Inuit inhabitants. The descendants of the aboriginal Saqqaq, Dorset and Thule account for most of Sisimiut’s population.

It is in Sisimiut – home of Greenland’s kayaking champion, Maligiaq Padilla – where you’ll have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing a traditional kayaking demonstration. Greenland is where the kayak (or “qajaq”) was invented by the Inuit people. It aided them in fishing and hunting the whales and seals they relied upon for winter’s high-calorie food, as well as summer’s tents of sealskin hide, waterproof clothing, and boots.

The traditional qajaq was constructed of a driftwood frame covered with sealskin. Known as skin-on-frame, these highly resilient, lightweight kayaks were custom fitted to the individual hunter. This effectively made the qajaq a seaworthy extension of his body, allowing him to glide quickly and silently through the water.

 

Greenland kayaking Traditional kayaking demonstration. Photo taken by Quark passenger.

Given the unpredictable Arctic weather and its always-frigid waters, an integral part of a young hunter’s training was to perfect the “Greenlander roll.” This maneuver, in which the kayaker employs his oars to immediately right his capsized vessel, was key to his survival. As part of the traditional kayaking demonstration, you’ll witness this feat firsthand! Nowadays, of course, kayaks are built of synthetic materials – usually plastic, fiberglass, or Kevlar. However, the same principles of kayak dynamics and safety apply.

A Wildlife Lover’s Dream: The Arctic Quest Kayaking Adventure Option

 

Kayakers Photo taken by Quark passenger.

Offered on most of our Arctic voyages, our kayaking adventure option allows you an intimate view of the Arctic and close encounters with its wildlife denizens. Our kayaking excursions are led by a highly skilled guide, with all of the necessary equipment and instruction provided. While weather conditions are the primary consideration for kayaking, we guarantee at least one outing on your trip, but try to take you out as many times as weather permits.

Keep in mind that the Arctic Quest expedition ends in Churchill, the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” on the west shore of Hudson Bay. With the right conditions, you may realize the wildlife lover’s dream of viewing polar bears in a way that only kayaking offers!

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A day in the life: Spitsbergen, Arctic

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Ever wonder what it's like to be on an Arctic expedition? This video gives you an intimate snapshot of a day in the life of one of our Spitsbergen voyages. Time spent in Spitsbergen is always unique from one day to the next. Epic, awesome and majestic, the Arctic region of Svalbard region is full of wildlife and amazing scenery just waiting for you. Come explore the Arctic and Antarctica with Quark Expeditions.

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A day in the life: Spitsbergen, Arctic

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Adventure Options highlight: Kayaking

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Meet Quark's kayaking expert: Solan Jensen. Born and raised in coastal Alaska, Solan works as a kayak ranger and guide specializing in multi-day sea kayak trips. A highlight of his career, Solan was the co-leader of one of the first commercially guided overnight sea kayak expeditions in Antarctica. Below is an exclusive blog post from Solan:

 

Solan Jensen Solan Jensen

Kayaking in the Polar Regions is probably one of the most intimate and romantic ways to explore these majestic places. The kayak hasn't really evolved since its creation (it was invented in Greenland, BTW), so it's stuck to its primitive and principle concept of being at one with the water and therefore the animals and ice.

Kayaking

Whether it's in the Arctic or Antarctica, kayaking isn't really for everyone though. Between the tempestuous weather, the bone-chilling water, the wild animals and the colossal icebergs, this is some of the most dangerous waters in the world. Quark's kayak guides always encourage paddlers to take a weekend kayak course before they leave on their trip, where they can get a feel for the boat, practice a wet exit, and have a few more hours under their "spray skirt."

Whether it’s the slow pace at which you glide through the water, the bond with a small group of your fellow paddlers, or the primal way you’ll be immersing yourself in these regions, kayaking offers an experience unlike anything else you've ever, or will ever, have.

Kayaking

Interested in kayaking? Take a look at our Top 7 ultimate kayaking expeditions:

 

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Explore Greenland

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From unique cultures and rare wildlife to majestic landscapes and towering icescapes, Greenland is beyond imagination.

Describing Greenland as multicultural might seem a little unorthodox, however when you learn about its rich Viking history, the journey of the Dorset people, as well as the Greenlandic people and the Danish immigrants, you’ll agree that Greenland is a melting pot of old and new mores.

Child of Greenland

Visiting communities big (up to 5000 residents) and small (some as small as 150 people), you’ll be guided by locals who provide a unique perspective on your experience. Children in both modern and traditional dress play with husky puppies in training to become sled dogs; village elders lay their pelts out on the front porch to dry in the Northern sun; old Viking churches still erect transport you back to the days of Erik the Red and the Viking settlements of yesteryear; all paint a beautiful photo in your mind’s eye of the Greenlandic way of life.

Greenland is a green and lush country with vegetation aplenty. Hiking presents opportunities for everyone to enjoy the scenery. Sit on a rock on the beach and watch as the sun inches west, take a hike far and high to explore the land in all its beauty or just follow your photography guide to capture the moment. While hiking through the valleys, you’ll come across Uunartoq Springs, naturally occurring sulfur hot springs with an average temperature of 38°C (100°F). Sit back, relax and enjoy the view as you watch incredible icebergs floating past.

Greenland ice

Kayaking was invented here. The word ‘Qajaq’ was adopted by the rest of the world. Traditional kayaks were made of drift wood, animal skin and bones. A kayak demonstration will show Eskimo rolls amongst other tricks. Experience kayaking in Greenland for yourself by taking a more contemporary kayak out; professional guides will show you all the nooks and crannies of this wondrous land and steer you around the immeasurable icebergs.

When you think of icescapes, you have probably never imagined anything like Ilulissat icefjord. As the fastest moving glacier in the world (at a rate of 25-30m per day (82-98ft), this UNESCO World Heritage Site should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list. The icebergs that calve from this fjord are so enormous it is hard for the average person to even begin to fathom their size. Measuring more than 600m (2000ft) below the surface of the water and two city blocks long, these icebergs cannot leave the fjord until they break up into smaller icebergs; there is, quite literally an iceberg traffic jam.

Whale fluke in Greenland

If wildlife is your thing, Greenland offers rare, but impressive sightings. During the Arctic summer, you can spot humpback, minke and fin whales – these creatures weigh up to 70 tons! You’ll spot ring seals swimming around the fjords, birds both at sea and flying over land, and perhaps even floating on calmer waters waiting to catch their dinner. Even the pre-historic looking musk oxen roam around Greenland near Kangerlussuaq, preparing for the upcoming winter.

An expedition to Greenland with Quark doesn’t end with your on-land experiences; quite the contrary. Your on-land experiences are complemented by your shipboard home-away-from-home. While aboard Quark’s all-suites ship, Sea Spirit, you’ll be treated to five-star meals, all-inclusive drinks, lectures from experts in the fields of marine biology, glaciology and more. Laurie Dexter, recipient of the Order of Canada, your onboard historian, will regale passengers with stories of the Vikings, Dorset and modern-day Inuits.

With a warm blanket and hot tea in hand, relax on your private balcony to watch as the sun sets and the Aurora borealis dances you into a deep slumber, preparing you for another day of exploration.

 

 

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View from a kayak

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The view from a kayak on a perfect, sunny day in Antarctica.

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We offer a number of different adventure options to keep the explorer in you active while travelling with us. Read all about them in our digital Adventure Options brochure.

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Taking it all in

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During my recent voyage with Quark there were moments where I was left speechless. There were many opportunities to explore the rugged landscape and get up close with the wildlife in their natural setting. The surroundings were so spectacular that I would have to remind myself to pause and take it all in. Antarctica is unlike any other place in the world that I have traveled to. Quark Passenger, D. DaSilva, Antarctic Explorer Dec. 2012 on the Ocean Diamond.

 

Dion 2

Dion montage

Dion 4

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Adventurous travelers explore Antarctica by paddle

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Quark offers a wide variety of Adventure Options for those travelers who want a bit more action during their expeditions. Kayaking is a popular choice that offers an intimate way to explore the polar regions. Paddle yourself through the clear waters and don’t be surprised if you are followed by curious wildlife along the way. This photo is of Quark Passenger from the US and our Kayak Guide, Scott McCormack, both enjoying their afternoon in Antarctica.

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