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Arctic Quest : Greenland to Churchill

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Our most diverse Arctic expedition aboard our new ship, the Sea Explorer. In addition to wildlife excursions by Zodiac and tundra hikes, you’ll spend time visiting fishing villages and Inuit settlements, taking time to learn about their heritage and culture. A wonderful expedition to a part of the world where polar bears, whales, seals and humans have all learned to co-exist for thousands of years.

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Expedition Summary

Day 1 Copenhagen, Denmark

Day 2 Embarkation Day in Kangerlussuaq

Day 3-4 West Greenland

Day 5 At Sea

Day 6 Monumental Island

Day 7 Akpatok Island

Day 8 Kimmirut

Day 9 Cape Dorset

Day 10-14 Islands of Hudson Bay

Day 15 Disembarkation Day in Churchill

If you're ready to embark on this wonderful quest with Quark, visit Arctic Quest: Greenland to Churchill for more information.

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Epic High Arctic: Baffin Island Explorer via Fury and Hecla 2014

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An exploration of historic Canadian sites in the Arctic, combined with abundant wildlife equals one special Arctic expedition. This in-depth adventure provides fantastic opportunities for seeing all of the Arctic’s iconic creatures, including polar bears.

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Photo taken at the historic Hudson Bay Company trading post on Day 4 at Fort Ross.

Expedition in Brief:

Arctic wildlife – polar bears, whales, and massive sea bird colonies

Experience the sites of the rarely traversed Fury & Hecla Strait

Traditional Inuit Communities

Remote National Historic Sites of Canada

Cape Dorset, Canada’s Capital of Inuit Art

An abandoned Hudson’s Bay Trading Post

tundra hiking for all fitness levels

Zodiac cruising

Optional kayak adventure option on selected voyages

For more information on this incredible new voyage visit: Epic High Arctic: Baffin Island Explorer via Fury and Hecla 2014

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Top 5 reasons to visit the North Pole!

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1. Be one of 250 people each year to stand on top of the world

Ice Breaker

2. Hear the sound multi-year ice breaking aboard a Nuclear powered icebreaker ship

3. Sip champagne and toast at 90 degrees north

Polar Bear

4. Encounter arctic wildlife and see polar bears in Franz Josef Land

5. Walk or take a helicopter ride at the North Pole

Helicopter

 

Traveling to the Arctic is without a doubt a life changing experience! For more information on our amazing Expeditions check out: Arctic Cruises and Travel

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Part 2: Journey to the Arctic with Janet & John Tangney

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Janet & John Tangney have been married for almost 41 years and live in Oregon. John's full time job is writing Computer Aided Design software, and Janet was previously a pre-school teacher and substitute teacher for high school special education class. While John is a photo enthusiast, Janet also enjoys the hobby. They primarily go to National Parks in the USA on their travels, and love the Northwest. John had previously gotten to go to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions, and hopes to be able to return to there with Janet in a couple of years. They have a website, www.pbase.com/jctangney where they post photos for all to view and enjoy.

Janet & John Tangney embarked on Quark's 11 day Spitsbergen Explorer, Wildlife Capital of the Arctic. This Arctic paradise is perfect for first-time visitors. Below is Part 2 of the their exciting journey!

Saturday, 06-29-2013

Overnight the ship sailed back through the Freemansundet (Freeman Strait), south along Spitsbergen Island, around the southern tip and then sailed north to Bellsund Fjord. Bellsund is dominated by high peaks and rocky cliffs, interspersed with glaciers. The 1 km wide island of Akeloya separaes Bellsund from its two main branches, Van Mijenfjorden and Van Keulenfjorden Fjords and extends up to 80 km inland. We were sup-posed to land on the north shore of Bellsund at Van Mijenfjord, but due to wind and waves, switched to a south shore landing at a small fjord, Recherchefjorden (#10 on map). So, this was a fairly easy landing and return, unlike our previous landing. We hiked around on the tundra for a couple of hours, but other than a few birds didn't see any wildlife. Trappers built the structures that remain in the area in the early 1900’s. There are graves with crosses which have fallen because the land moves with the freezing & thawing cycle of the seasons. Due to the permafrost, the trappers could only dig shallow graves, so they were easy to dig up by animals.

Bellsund Purple Sandpiper

Sunday, 06-30-2013
Overnight, we sailed out of Bellsund Fjord north along the coast of northeast Spitzbergen (island), around the northest tip of Spitzbergen and then into Woodfjorden (4th longest fjord in Svalbard) with plans to land on Worsleyneset, a promontory or small peninsula (#11 on map). A male polar bear was spotted on the shore be-fore we even got in the zodiacs, so we could only cruise around the fjord. We watched him walk briskly by 3 reindeer, but none of the reindeer seemed to care because they could easily outrun him. We would continue to see this same male bear as he made his way along the shore of the fjord.
Once on the zodiacs, a second bear (a female) was seen walking along the shore as we moved further into the fjord. The guides can tell even from a distance if it’s a male or female by the size since males are really much bigger.

Close up we could see that she had lost a radio collar recently, by the indent on her neck. Males are never collared because their head is smaller than their neck (or they just don’t have a “neck”). So a collar would just slide off a male easily. This female had a reddish cast over her fur. Actually her entire lower body is red. There is some mineral in the water that causes this. It’s easy to see the water line on her face and body. The zodiacs were following her from a distance. She walked along the shore out to the end of a narrow strip of land, stopped and laid down. The 8 or 9 zodiacs slowly moved in front of her as she closed her eyes. Occa-sionally she opened her eyes, saw those creatures in yellow jackets floating in front of her, then closed her eyes again. Not long after that that first large male bear approached the same area. He did not disturb her, although the guides think she was probably aware of him in the area.

Polar Bear Polar BEar

Our zodiac driver, Patrick, decided that the male would probably cross over the hill and we could zip around the hill on the water and catch sight of him again. He was right. The bear kept on walking but in a few minutes we again came across him and now he was approaching our zodiac. By now all the other zodiacs were mov-ing into position to watch him. He kept coming towards us and when he reached the water, he stopped, looked around at the zodiacs then walked into the water. He swam across the inlet, crawled out on the other side and proceeded up to the top of a ridge to shake the water off his fur, with a mountain setting behind him. John got a really good photo of him shaking. In the afternoon, we went on a zodiac cruise to the end of Leifdefjord (“love fjord”) to see Monacobreen, Monaco Glacier (#12 on map). Monaco Glacier was named for Prince Albert of Monaco who led expeditions mapping the glacier in 1906-1907.

As we cruised through the fjord, we passed many smaller glaciers. It was like a giant cul-de-sac of glaciers coming down to the sea. Monaco Glacier is over 3 miles wide where it en-ters the sea. We watched a smaller glacier calving and road out the waves. Once a glacier calves, there's literally swarms of birds circling around the area looking for tiny sea creatures that have been stirred up from the ice that fell into the sea. Then all the ice that has fallen now clogs the fjord so it's a very rough ride in the zodiac making our way back to the ship. I took over 1600 photos (90% will probably be blurry due to taking them in a moving zodiac) today alone and that must have been a record for me. John took about 1400 photos. Also saw 2 walrus in the water and 2 Minke whales. Amazing scenery, glaciers and mountains surrounding the entire fjord in all directions. As we returned to the ship, it started sprinkling. It's now raining hard. Anoth-er zodiac cruise is planned in 2 hours in front of a glacier.

Walrus Ice

Tonight at 10pm we passed the 80 degree North latitude (#13 on map) and we had a BBQ out on the top deck. We were wrapped in our yellow parkas huddling together to keep warm. Our ex-pedition leader, Woody, wore Hawaiian shirt with no parka! Off the port side of the ship as we celebrated crossing the 80 degree point, we saw a walrus “haul-out” on a nearby shore. From the collec-tive gathering of warm walrus bodies (at least 50) combined with the right atmospheric conditions, we could see steam rising from the haul-out.

80 Degrees North Walrus

Monday, 07-01-2013
So we are sailing near the ice pack in this as we sail southeast through Hinlopenstretet (Hinlopen Strait) to-day. This strait lies between the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. We haven't seen this kind of ice until today. Up to now, we see icebergs and some sea ice, but this is like puzzle pieces all floating together as it continues to break up along with icebergs, which have calved from glaciers. In the afternoon, we did a zodiac cruise past the cliffs of Alkefjellet on Kapp (cape of) Fanshawe also known as “Mount Guillemot” in Hinlopen Strait (#14 on map) which is the breeding site of 60,000 breeding pairs of Brunnich’s Guillemots. Several species of other birds also nest there in the summer. There is an estimated 250,000 breeding pairs of all birds here for 3 months of the year. The Guillemots fly and swim like pros, but water take offs and landings are hilarious. They glide down low and after a while then just flop ungracefully into the water. Takeoffs are running across the water while flapping furiously taking a long time to actually get airborne. They frequently collide with others attempting to either land or take off. We watched a Great Skua (a large sea gull type bird) tackle one of these little guys, hold him underwater to drown him, all the while other Guillemots were swimming by glancing casually at the take down or just swim-ming by the ensuing murder without even taking notice. Even for those of us who don't fully appreciate birds, it was an amazing site.

Guillemots Gulliemot

Tuesday, 07-02-2013

Backtracking now, north of Spitsbergen Island overnight, we headed south into Smeerenburgfjorden, Smeerenburg Fjord (#16 on map), on the northwest corner of Spitsbergen. John and I opted out of the zodiac landing this morning on the small island of Amsterdamoya. It's all about the whaling settlement in this area in the 1600's, not our thing. John is work-ing on photos that he wants to submit for the DVD which is a collection of photos that passengers could submit, then everyone gets a copy of it. Tonight is the end of submitting photos. I saw 3 puffins fly by me Monday morning. I was just headed in the door, so I couldn't get a shot of them, but I said it to the few people sitting in the lounge. I didn't see any more, so I asked one of the staff if I really could have seen puffins. He said there aren't many here right now, but yes, I probably did. I was bragging that I must have seen the first puffins on the trip, but people from England told me that puffins are all over the coastal areas of Great Britain. Oh well!

After lunch we went on a zodiac cruise from Smeerenburgfjorden (#16 on map) to Fuglefjorden, Fugle Fjord (#17 on map) , exploring the glaciers and looking for wildlife. This entire area is part of Nordvest-Spitsbergen Nasjonalpark, Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. We saw glaciers calving, lots of sea birds, including Common Eider Ducks (I got great photo of that) plus puffins. John got a really good photo of a pair of puffins. It is amazing to think that for nearly 3 months, it never gets dark. But then even more amazing to think that this area is in total darkness for the same amount of time. This whole adventure will be ending in 2 days. I will be glad to get home (I miss petting a dog.) But will be sad to see this end at the same time.

Atlantic Puffins Glacier

Wednesday, 07-03-2013

We sailed at night south along the northwest corner of Spitsbergen then rounding the tip of island, Prins Karls Forland, for a landing at Poolepynten on that island (#18 on map). We are going to see a walrus haul-out this morning on a zodiac landing. John is standing in line to be on the first zodiac out (they usually have 8 zodiacs). We saw a haul-out from a distance at the 80th latitude party. But, hopefully, we will be closer to the haul-out doing a landing. The first group of passengers from 3 or 4 zodiacs will approach the walrus. How they react to us will deter-mine how close we can get. In other words, if they freak and head to the water, at least we will be in the first group to try to see them. They announced all this last night, so I have a feeling they know well how this will play out. They give the worst case scenario, but expect it to be fine. They were quite sure the walrus would be in this location. This is our final zodiac landing so I'm sure they want to end on a high point. I read when we boarded the ship last week that email would end 2 days before we return to Longyearbyen. We have about 24 hours left on board and I'm still emailing. So this may be my last email. I hope not, I would like to write about the walrus when we get back to the ship.

Just got back from seeing the walrus and still have email up and running. Apparently 95 creatures in bright yellow parkas are not enough to disturb a mid-morning nap on the beach for a couple dozen walrus. The crew set out a line in the sand so the passengers would know exactly where to stand. It was 30 meters from the walrus (I haven't done the math yet to convert it to feet.) There were a few scuffles within the group, much to the quiet delight of all of us. There was no steam rising from the gathering as the air temp was warm enough for that not to occur. It was quite a privilege to stand there observing those large lumbering animals. Lunch in a few. Gotta get in line.

Photography Walrus

This will be my last email from the ship. After our walrus encounter this morning, we sailed south into Isfiorden (the fjord where Longyearbyen is located) to a landing on the north side of the fjord in the bay of Trygghamna below the mountain, Alkhornet (#19 on map). Our hike was through lush, often times, soggy tundra and up and down steep hills. The cliffs around our land-ing site were bird colonies and we were told that reindeer frequently graze in the area. The highlight of the hike was seeing 3 beautiful reindeer close-up. It's hard to take seriously an animal with the name "reindeer". They are quite beautiful, but they have this weird black mask across their face making sort of comical looking. We hiked up, way up, to see them. Not everyone made it. I'm quite proud of myself for doing it.

Photography Reindeer

After our photo session with the reindeer, we started our walk back. Annie, one of the guides, pointed out the native willow trees now have leaves on them. In another month they will be sporting their fall colors. These trees are no more than a half-inch high. Technically they are trees, but it's hard to get excited over a fully grown tree that's less than an inch high. Speaking of trees, it has been 10 days or so since I've seen a tree or any plant that's over a few inches high. We do not have far to travel to get back to Longyearbyen (#20 & #1 on map), so will stay in the Isfjorden to-night, then finish our journey early in the morning. We will use zodiacs to get to the dock in Longyearbyen as there are not enough docks to accommodate all the ships that arrive in Longyearbyen. Tomorrow it's back to the airport run. We'll be home Friday night. I hope you enjoyed reading my emails. I en-joyed writing them. When John went to Antarctica, it was so fun for me to get his emails. When he got home, I took the emails and made a journal of his trip inserting the appropriate photos with the emails.

Thought for the day: I have heard only 3 phones ring over the past 10 days. It's probably a communication system within the ship. The phone in the bar rang once and I head a phone in the kitchen area of the dining room a couple of times. It will be back to the world of rings and beeps tomorrow!

Saturday, 07-06-2013 (at home)

John has all our photos (probably 5000 for each of us) downloading as I type this. Yes 5000 each is extreme, but MOST of them are blurry (at least for me) because we were taking most photos on zodiacs! I do have a few photos that I took on my little Canon camera. These were from our Arctic BBQ, crossing the 80 degrees north celebration (#13 on map) and hat contest on the 30th. John and I did not enter the con-test. Temperature at the BBQ was probably about 40 degrees F with a brisk wind. The day we disembarked from the ship and waited in Long-yearbyen for the airport bus, a group of high school age kids from Longyearbyen Skole (primary and secondary school) walked through the city center. One of the stu-dents, Tim, had his husky, Spot, with him. I think this might be a daily occurrence, since all of them seemed to take delight in watching dog-owning tourists, who haven’t petted a dog in many days, take turns petting Spot.

Seed Bank

Epilogue, 07-06-2013
I wished I had Googled this before we left on our trip, as this is really interesting about Longyearbyen. (I never study up where we are going until I get back.) I would have thought the name, Longyearbyen, would have something to do with the long days for 4 months in summer when the sun does not set or the long nights for 4 months in winter when the sun does not rise. No... John Longyear, an American, started the Arctic Coal Company in 1906 employing 500 hearty men. The settlement was known as Longyear City. Today it is Longyearbyen. Coal is still mined there today and the city buzzes year-round with tourists. Winter is for snowmobile tours of the tundra, exploring ice caves and viewing the Northern Lights. It is the world's northern-most town and the northernmost settlement of any kind with greater than 1,000 permanent residents.

Other interesting facts:
- All buildings in Longyearbyen are built on stilts due to permafrost
- The sun sets on Oct 25 and rises again, ever so slightly on March 8
- Residents are required to carry high powered rifles if you leave the main settlement area due to curious and hungry polar bears
- Snow mobiles far outnumber vehicles... more than 4000 registered for it’s 2000 residents
- The world’s northernmost church, ATM, post office, museum, airport and university are located in Long-yearbyen
- Longyearbyen is home to one of the Global Seed Vaults in the world, where seeds from around the world are held in an underground cave. Over 400,000 seeds are frozen at Zero degrees F. (minus 18 degrees C.) in case of a large scale regional or global crisis

And finally, remember John’s photo of the reindeer won the first "Photo of the Day”? That photo won “Photo of the Voyage”. The prize was a DVD with a 1000 images of the Svalbard region taken over several years by one of the Zodiac drivers, Vladimir Seliverstov. John remembered Vlad from his trip to Antarctica in 2010. Gorgeous photos!

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Part 1: Journey to the Arctic with Janet & John Tangney

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Janet & John Tangney have been married for almost 41 years and live in Oregon. John's full time job is writing Computer Aided Design software, and Janet was previously a pre-school teacher and substitute teacher for high school special education class. While John is a photo enthusiast, Janet also enjoys the hobby. They primarily go to National Parks in the USA on their travels, and love the Northwest. John had previously gotten to go to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions, and hopes to be able to return to there with Janet in a couple of years. They have a website, www.pbase.com/jctangney where they post photos for all to view and enjoy.

Janet & John Tangney embarked on Quark's 11 day Spitsbergen Explorer, Wildlife Capital of the Arctic. This Arctic paradise is perfect for first-time visitors. Below is Part 1 of the their exciting journey!

Sea Spirit Arctic

Monday, 06-24-2013

We arrived in Longyearbyen at 2pm and had a couple of hours to explore the town before boarding the Sea Spirit around 4pm. Longyearbyen (#1 on blue map), lies within Isfjorden, the second longest fjord in the archipelago (group of islands) of Svalbard. Spitsbergen is the largest of those islands and is the only permanently populated island in the archipelago. Isfjorden is roughly in the center of Spitsbergen, and a portion of it is within the boundaries of Nordre Isfjorden Land National Park. Before dinner we had a life boat drill wearing life jackets. Then came our first dinner in the dining room. We sailed from Longyearbyen sometime after midnight.

John Tangney Zodiac Arctic Arctic photography

Tuesday, 06-25-2013
Just got our email set up. We've had our safety orientation on land-ings and should be doing our first zodiac landing this afternoon. We sailed south all night from Longyearbyen, now sailing east into Hornsund Fjord (#2 on map), the most southerly fjord in Svalbard. The plan is to zodiac into Burgerbukta Bay (#3 on map) where the 2 arms of the bay each end in glaciers, each about 2km wide. We’ll look for wildlife and see glaciers. Since a polar bear was seen at lunch swimming in Burgerbukta Bay, it was decided we would do a zodiac cruise instead of a landing. We saw that same bear a few times as he continued to paddle up into the bay. We saw another polar bear on land and a bearded seal in the water, plus Kittiwakes on an iceberg while on the cruise. Finally that first swimming polar bear climbed out of the water in front of a glacier, where he kept a wary eye on us.

We turned around and headed back to the ship, not wanting to harass the bear any longer. Some of the passengers expressed unhappiness that we did not get closer to the polar bear, like in Churchill Canada, where John went on the Tundra Buggies. In Churchill, the bears are gather in late fall waiting for the sea ice to start forming (which is earlier there than most anywhere else in the Arctic) so they can get out on it to hunt for seals from the sea ice. So the bears are closer together in Churchill and you can see them close up. This area is typical of how polar bears spend most of the months of their lives, on the sea ice, looking for seals swimming just below the ice. The Quark guides try to get us as close as possible to see bears, but from experience, they make a judgment on how close they can approach in a given situation so as to avoid disturbing the bear or changing its natural behavior. I am glad that they did not get so close that we would have disturbed the bear!

Arctic Polar Bear Bearded Seal

Wednesday 06-26-2013
It’s sunny today and very cold as I write this from outside on the back deck on my iPad. I think it's in the high 30s but that only an estimate and it’s quite windy. They announced earlier that it was 4 degrees and everything is in that foreign language, metric. During the night we round-ed the southern tip of Spitsbergen and are now headed north through Storfjorden (means great fjord). Storfjorden (#4 on map) separates the island of Spitsbergen on the west from Edgeoya and Barentsoya to the east. We will look for bands of sea ice and hopefully polar bears and seals on the ice. A polar bear was spotted on the ice lying down. It was at a good distance, but once he stood up and started walking, he was still very recognizable without binoculars or a telephoto lens. We then spotted a bearded seal sunning himself (herself?) on the sea ice.

Bearded Seal on ice Polar Bear

The polar bear, still walking, walked “behind” the seal from our viewpoint., but he was still at some distance from the seal and neither seemed concerned about the other. We usually ate lunch on the deck. They served hamburgers or chicken burgers and a dessert. On sunny days, like today, it was just nice to be outside for lunch. We continued to watch the same polar bear walking across the sea ice. He slipped in the water and then climbed out and shook off the water. The setting was iconic with the bear on sea ice that is breaking up now that it is summer. In the afternoon, we sailed to Dolerittneset (#5 on map) on the northwest corner of the island of Edgeoya for a zodiac landing. It is named for the dark, dolerite (balsaltic) rock along the steep cliffs. The huts on the shore are remnants of the 18th century Russian and Norwegian whalers and hunters. Along part of the shore, walrus bones are scattered, a sad reminder of their slaughter over 3 centuries.

Walrus Arctic Tern

We did not do a landing because there was information there is a sick or injured polar bear hanging around that region. We saw a group of male walruses hauled out on the beach. Our group of 9 zodiac boats were all lined up about 50 feet from shore where they were sunning themselves. Zodiacs mostly travel together in pairs so as not to disturb wildlife, if possible. But this group of 6 males didn't seem to care how many boats were passing beside them. One of them turned over to scratch himself with a flipper and that was about it for movement from the group. Another one appeared to use his long tusks as a prop for his head to rest on. His tusks were stuck straight down in the sand and his eyes were shut. We also saw reindeer, a few in the distance along the mountain sides. One reindeer was much closer and once he saw us, he seemed to follow the zodiacs as much as he could, posing and prancing quite nicely in perfect settings. No disrespect intended, but this reindeer looked like a clown, with those huge black eyes. Also photographed arctic terns.

I have finally mastered using my huge yellow parka. It's heavy and cumbersome, but I seem on top of it now, actually zipping, snapping and velcrowing the various parts together before I go outside instead of freezing while trying to do these things once I am outside. John is at a polar photography discussion tonight and I'm off to bed. We will sail over night into the Freemansun-det (Freeman Strait) which separates the islands of Edgeoya and Barentsoya . In the afternoon, we sailed to Dolerittneset (#5 on map) on the northwest corner of the island of Edgeoya for a zodiac landing. It is named for the dark, dolerite (balsaltic) rock along the steep cliffs. The huts on the shore are remnants of the 18th century Russian and Norwegian whalers and hunters. Along part of the shore, walrus bones are scattered, a sad reminder of their slaughter over 3 centuries.

Yellow Parka

Thursday, 06-27-2013
Yesterday we landed on the north-west corner of the island of Edgeoya. Today we are sailing in the Freemansundet (Freeman Strait) which separates Edgeoya and the island of Barentsoya. The strait is only 6 km wide, and can be blocked by ice late into summer. Barentsoya is the 4th largest island in Svalbard. We will first land at Sundneset (#6 on map), which means sound point, on the south-west corner of Barentsoya and hike through the “rich tundra”. The Arctic gets very little precipita-tion, so it is a desert. Wildflowers are blooming now and no plant is more an 2 or 3 inches tall and yet they can be hundreds of years old. We saw polar bear prints by the river and assorted antlers and skulls of reindeer and a few rein-deer higher up on the hillsides. We were among the first to make our way down to the zodiacs after seeing the bird colony to head back to the ship. For John, Kittiwakes are definitely are not in the category of large male mammals.

Kittiwakes Kittiwakes

The wind had picked up after we landed, so now the guides were strug-gling just to hang onto the zodiac as the waves pounded the shore. While all landings are planned to be wet landings, this would be considered a soaking wet landing. Getting through the surf in the zodiac was interesting. Waves hit the zodiac from the side drenching everyone. Back to the ship for lunch as we sail a short distance to another landing on Barentsoya (#7 on map). There we will see a huge colony of nesting Kittiwakes. They looked like standard sea gulls to me. These birds spend the most of the year at sea, mostly around Europe, but fly here in the summer to make more Kittiwakes. The ship had moved in the meantime so the zodiacs could face the waves going forward instead of from the side. All in a day's work for these guides. But I got some interesting photos of the crew's struggle to keep the zodiac in place to get the passengers inside. It was a definite E-ticket ride today. After our zodiac left, the other zodiac drivers moved the site a short distance to anoth-er landing site which wasn't quite so wild.

Zodiac Zodiac

Friday, 06-28-2013
We will not do any zodiac trips today. We are sailing northeast of Barentsoya Island (#8 on map) around the sea ice and small icebergs, looking for polar bears, walrus, seals and sea birds. We will sail east toward as far as Kong Karls Land (King Charles Land) before turning around and heading back through the Freemansundet (Freeman Strait). Kong Karls Land (#9 on map) is an island group (of 5 islands) within the Svalbard Archipela-go. These islands, which have the largest concentration of polar bears in Svalbard, are part of the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. There is a ban on all traffic to these islands, including up to 500 meters away from shore and 500 meters above land, to protect sensitive polar bear denning areas. We had dinner two nights ago with two very interesting passengers. One of them is an executive producer of National Geographic TV. She's British but currently lives in Washington DC. And the other is her husband who is a producer for BBC nature documentaries such as Frozen Planet. She expressed some interesting in staying in contact after looking at some of his photos. John is quite pleased with that development.

Iceberg Iceberg

We had 2 excellent talks by the expedition team today. One was about glaciers and the other about grizzly bears in British Columbia. Speaking of photos they have a computer on board for the pas-sengers to put photos they have taken during the trip. Not many people had put photos on yet (John is excluded from that state-ment). To encourage people to add photos there will be a "Photo of the Day". So for the 4 previous days, John's photo of a rein-deer was picked as the “Photo of the Day" and posted on the monitor where the next day's agenda is posted. Needless to say, he is quite happy. In all fairness, it was an accomplishment to get a non-blurry photo of the reindeer as we were in a zodiac at the time plus using a lens that did not have vibration reduction on it.

 

Photo of the day Reindeer Photo of the day

 

Check out Part 2 of Janet & John's journey!

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Life Aboard the Sea Spirit

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Currently aboard the Spitsbergen Voyage, we have a special program with the Chinese Arctic Youth Group, that is incorporated by Quark's GSA Amazing Cruises and Travel.

Annie Inglis, Expedition Co-ordinator, has sent us an update from the Sea Spirit:

Spitsbergen Explorer – 28th July to 4th August, 2013

 

xPolar-Bear.Antarctic-600x410.jpg.pagespeed.ic.1vC7DmWlX2

Photo courtesy of passenger slideshow Spitsbergen voyage June 24th 2013

Our very excited students boarded the Sea Spirit in Longyearbyen on 28th July for their much anticipated expedition in Svalbard. The Expedition staff and ship’s crew were very pleased to see them and welcome them to their new home, for the next 7 days.

We travelled up the west coast of Spitsbergen and, fortunately, the sea was fairly calm so everyone was up and about. All students attended two essential presentations in the morning, one covering Safety On Land (and caring for the environment) and another was Safety on Zodiacs.

In the afternoon of 29th July, we had our first excursion, landing at a place called Texas Bar. Here, we found a polar bear which had died in the last few weeks. It was fascinating to be able to get close to huge bear and see it in great detail. The students began parts of their science work, collecting rocks, examining moraine, identifying plants and water sampling. After returning to the ship, we moved to Monaco glacier and then all went out on the zodiacs again to cruise near the glacial face. Some saw seals and a calving whist everyone saw thousands of birds and beautiful blue ice.

The next day we ventured to the sea ice, in the far north, above 81 degrees North. Here we were surrounded by the sea ice and a truly wonderful Arctic scene. It was a perfect environment for polar bears for which we searched all day.

Wow!! What an amazing day on the 31st July for the expeditioners aboard the Sea Spirit. This morning we ventured out in the zodiacs to explore the ethereal basalt cliffs of Alkefjellet, in the Hinlopen Strait. As we drew close we were absorbed into the cacophony of sound and ceaseless movement of several hundred thousand birds, mostly Brunnich’s guillemots. The sky swarmed with birds, many with small fish in their beaks, and the cliffs were crammed with guillemots closely guarding their young chicks. Returning to the ship, many commented how quiet it seemed after all the noise of the colony (despite all the excited chatter of 75 school children!)

As we made our passage northwards after lunch, and just after crossing 80o North again, we saw huge columnar whale blows ahead. The expedition staff were thrilled to announce the extremely rare sighting of a blue whale. Then, over the course of an hour or more, there were no less than 6 of these magnificent animals, the largest on the planet. It was breathtaking to watch these mammals feeding, showing their flukes and turning towards us. Their blows were heard from the ship and the mottled blue colour of their 30m body seen clearly seen. We felt incredibly privileged to have observed these creatures.

Coming into our afternoon landing site, sharp eyes spotted one polar bear, then a second, on the hills beyond our landing. We watched from a distance and then landed on the other side of the bay at Sorgfjorden. It was here that a short battle between two French war ships and a fleet of Dutch whaling ships was fought. Whilst wandering on the site, walruses in the water were spotted, carefully watching us from a distance.

It was a tired but happy group that returned to the ship – the special ice cream buffet was well-earned. There was much high-spirited talking in the lounge, amongst new friends and old, late into the evening. A fantastic day!

The following day, 1st August, we brought the ship into Smeerenburg fjord in the far north west of Spitsbergen. Here, we zodiac cruised some of the historic areas, dating back to the 16th century where whaling was undertaken. Lots of harbour seals were found, balancing on rocks close to shore. Towards the end of the excursion a polar bear was found and a few lucky students got a great view. The wind and waves increased a little and our guests were pleased to have their new Quark waterproof jackets to keep them warm and dry. The afternoon saw us in Fuglefjord where, after seeing 2 polar bears on the way, we found a polar bear resting on an island. We all had an incredible experience on the zodiacs, watching this relaxed bear that seemed to be just as interested in us. It was healthy and fat and may have been a male. It walked over the rocks, very close to the water, and we observed its behaviour. It was very close to us and we were all very excited to see it and watch it for over an hour and a half. We left it undisturbed when we finally returned to the ship. Probably thousands of photos were taken during the afternoon – and many very good ones too!

The evening saw the ship reposition to Magdalenefjord where we enjoyed a wonderful and tasty Arctic barbecue, outside on the deck. Many of us made some crazy hats to wear and then later we enjoyed a few games in the lounge – including some team events. A lot of laughter and fun was had by all.

Tomorrow will see us looking for puffins, the clowns of the bird world, and then we will visit Ny Alesund where the Chinese Research Station, Yellow River, is located. Everyone is looking forward to this visit.

The students have been fantastic to have onboard the Sea Spirit. The Expedition Team have enjoyed their enthusiasm and knowledge. They have been happy and friendly and are a credit to their families, schools and country.

 

Best regards from the Sea Spirit team.

Annie Inglis

Expedition Co-ordinator

Quark aboard the Sea Spirit

 

 

 

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North Pole Adventure with Chris

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Name:

Chris McFarlane

Job title:

Assistant Manager, Operations

Trip Name: North Pole

Pre-post night city: Helsinki

Ship name: 50 Let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory)

Date of Travel:

July 1, 2013 to July 12, 2013

What word best describes your travel style & why? (Adventurer ,Check-lister, Learner , Escapist)

Adventurer. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a list of places that I’m interested in travelling to, and I certainly enjoy checking them off, but what drives me to travel is a sense of adventure and exploring foreign places and cultures. I’ve always been a very curious person.

Give a brief overview of your role at Quark and what you like most about it:

I work in the Operation department in Quark’s head office. My role revolves around ensuring the smooth and safe operations of our expeditions, including making sure we have the best ships, staff and equipment in the industry. I like that operations is really the front-line department of the company, and because of this we get the chance to work closely with all other departments (finance, marketing and sales) to get a very holistic view of our business. On top of this, we get the opportunity to experience a few voyages every year which is amazing!

Did anything interesting happen during your journey to the destination? (interesting seat mate, tips for smooth entry, Anything interesting in B.A./Ushuaia?)

I decided to spend a day in Reykjavik, Iceland on my way to meet the group in Helsinki. It was gorgeous, and I highly recommend breaking up a trans-Atlantic flight with a stopover in Iceland if you get the chance! I rented a car at the airport and clocked close to 500kms in 24hrs driving around this unique island. The highlight was definitely a late evening visit to the famous Blue Lagoon spa by the airport – so relaxing!

bluelagoonspa

Photo courtesy of Blue Lagoon Spa

What were the weather conditions like during your trip?

This was my first North Pole trip so I wasn’t sure what to expect weather wise, but I’m told it was overall above average. We started with a record-breaking hot day in Murmansk that was a bit of a sweaty one, and aside from one day of thick fog on the sail to the Pole we had clear skies and sun. Our day at the Pole was slightly overcast and about -1 degrees Celsius, but the wind stayed down which allowed us to have fun all day on the ice! On our sail back to Murmansk we were blown out of one landing opportunity in Franz Josef Land, but we were able to get on the Zodiacs and in the Helicopter for two others so overall it was a success.

Best memory on the ship or your overall impression of the ship and/or staff:

My best memory on the ship was sailing North and encountering the sea ice for the first time. Watching our ship steam ahead and break through meter thick ice at full speed was truly amazing and really gave me a sense of how powerful these nuclear icebreakers really are. After the first hour or so of breaking through the ice we also encountered our first polar bear – what a day!

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Top 3 things you did or experienced on your Polar expedition:

1) Watching the ship break through some seriously thick ice for the final 5 nautical miles to the 90 degrees North.

2) Seeing my first polar bear

3) Getting in the ship’s helicopter and seeing the vast expanse of sea ice from high above

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Describe a wow moment or particularly special memory from your trip:

Maybe not a wow moment, but the traditional Russian parade music that blared as our ship casted her lines and left port was definitely very memorable!

Sum up your trip in 3 words:

Unlike any other.

What would you say to anyone who is considering travelling to the Polar Regions:

If you’re considering travelling to the Polar Regions you are probably an adventurous, curious and likely experienced traveler. If this is the case, it will be one of the best trips of your life!

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Are there any other experiences, restaurants, food, people, places or sites you would like to highlight?

I will mention Reykjavik, Iceland again because I was truly surprised by the unique beauty and very friendly people I encountered there. A must visit!

 

 

 

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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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Polar bear snow bath

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Although they are often placed together in cartoons and drawings, it is a common misconception that polar bears and penguins live in the same polar environments. Polar Bears can be found in five nations: U.S. (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. Luckily for penguins, polar bears do not live in Antarctica.

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Our #IcePhoto today is from the passenger slideshow on our Spitsbergen Explorer voyage. Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island within Norway's Svalbard island chain, is often referred to as the wildlife capital of the Arctic!

Got an ice photo of your own to share? Post it to twitter and tag with #IcePhoto! Follow Quark Expeditions on twitter @quarkexpedition where we share photos and videos and chat about all things polar!

Follow us: @QuarkExpedition on Twitter | QuarkExpeditions on Facebook

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To the Arctic with Quark Expeditions

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We sat down with Quark's Polar Travel Manager Terri Chalmers and asked her to tell us a little bit about her Three Arctic Islands voyage with us last fall. She also shared a few of her favourite photos from the voyage - thanks Terri! Thinking of taking this expedition? Read all about it from the eyes of a Quark passenger below!

 

Name: Terri Chalmers

Job title: Polar Travel Manager

Trip Name: Three Arctic Islands

Pre-post night city: Oslo/Reykjavik

Date of Travel: Sept 4-17, 2012

 

1. How would you describe your personal travel style & why?

I'm always looking for excitement and something new. I like to visit remote places.

 

2. What were the weather conditions like during your trip?

It was a mix but was mostly sunny and mild temperatures. Not as cold as you'd think!

Three Arctic Islands by Terri Chalmers

3. Best memory on the ship or your overall impression of the ship and/or staff:

I know I might sound biased but we really do have fantastic expedition staff – always striving to provide the best, most memorable experience possible.

 

4. Top 3 things you did or experienced on your Polar expedition:

- Snuck up on a group of musk ox on the side of a hill in Greenland

- Saw a polar bear on an ice floe, with her fresh kill

- The Northern lights!

Three Arctic Islands by Terri Chalmers

5. Describe a wow moment or particularly special memory from your trip:

- Cruising in the zodiacs along the beach, watching a mother polar bear and her cub.

- The water was so cold during our Polar plunge, that they had to use a Zodiac to break the thin layer of iced that had formed at the surface before we could run in! But don’t let that stop you from trying it - the warm ship and hot beverages are not far away!

 

6. Sum up your trip in 3 words:

Breathtaking

Exhilarating

Emotional

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7. What would you say to anyone who is considering travelling to the Polar Regions:

Don’t let the thought of going to a cold environment dissuade you from visiting. The stunning landscapes and the immersion in nature and its wildlife are more than worth it.

Three Arctic Islands by Terri Chalmers

8. Are there any other experiences, restaurants, food, people, places or sites you would like to highlight?

Reykjavik is a great city in which to extend your trip. Easy to get around on foot, lots of interesting sights and culture, fantastic food. Ask your polar travel adviser for details on extending your trip!

 

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