Travel insights...

The Lady and the Kapitan: A Polar Love Story

Karina Taylor loves to travel, and for years she has been passionate about a Kapitan.
Powerful and impressive, her Kapitan is no stranger to the rigors of polar travel, sharing the record with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen for reaching 78 degrees south. The Kapitan is also a veteran of the Northwest and Northeast passages – having navigated the Northwest Passage more than any other passenger vessel on Earth – and was the first to circumnavigate Antarctica with guests.
Karina’s Kapitan is the Kapitan Khlebnikov (KLB), the world’s most powerful icebreaker and a Quark passenger favorite.
Karina and her Kapitan – Photo credit: Karina Taylor
A civil servant from Melbourne, Australia, Karina first set eyes on the Kapitan Khlebnikov in the early 1990s.
“The travel section in my weekend paper did a lift out on polar travel. I had been fascinated with travel to Antarctica since I read Sir Ernest Shackleton’s book South as a kid. The article had photos of several expedition ships and then my eyes fell upon the Khlebnikov and I knew straight away it was the vessel I wanted to travel on,” she explained. “It was big and sturdy and simply magnificent. I cut that picture out and for 15 years or so it was stuck on my fridge.”
Karina began learning everything she could about polar travel, and in 2010, decided it was time to take her dream trip. She contacted Quark and was added to a waiting list for two possible Kapitan Khlebnikov itineraries. It didn’t take long for good news to arrive: she was booked for November 2010, for a trip to Antarctica.
“I was elated and spent the year scanning the internet for polar gear. I loved the excitement of parcels arriving from overseas every few weeks with interesting items like waterproof pants, gaiters, buffs and goggles.”
Traveling on an Icebreaker 
The time finally arrived, and Karina traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world and a destination in its own right. This embarkation point is where Karina finally saw her Kapitan in person.
As a polar-class icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov combines power and technology with comfort. Its advanced icebreaking technology and 24,000 horsepower engine can navigate the most remote, ice-choked destinations. The vessel has 51 cabins and suites, each featuring private facilities, large windows, desk, hairdryer, robes and large closets.
“As soon as I boarded the KLB in Ushuaia, I felt completely at peace. The cabins are small, practical and comfortable. I loved that the portholes open to let in crisp air. The auditorium where movies and lectures are held seats everyone comfortably. The bridge is huge, and a fantastic place to watch the skilled captain and his team at work.”
The bar, lounge and library are intimate locations for socializing with other passengers, but Karina says the ship is so huge it’s never a problem finding a quiet spot on deck to absorb the sights and sounds of some of the most remote vistas in the world.
 A stunning view – Photo credit: Karina Taylor
Karina remembers she had to keep pinching herself to prove she was really there and not dreaming! The wildlife was amazing, the scenery stunning, and she got to fulfill a lifelong dream during that first trip.
“We enjoyed the most incredibly perfect weather for our days exploring South Georgia Island, enabling us to have multiple landings per day and picturesque scenic Zodiac cruises. It was here I finally stood at the grave of my lifelong idol Sir Ernest Shackleton, toasted his braveness and shed a tear at the realization I was finally really there.”
It was the trip of a lifetime, but just a year later Karina was on board Kapitan Khlebnikov again, headed for East Antarctica. The highlights of that voyage included emperor penguin colonies, iceberg alleys, and Christmas Eve flight-seeing on one of KLB’s two helicopters.
 
The Icebreaker Experience   
“Flying over pack ice and huge icebergs, ducking and weaving around them thanks to the skills of our amazing pilots, then landing near an ice cave and an emperor colony for the entire day and evening. I don’t have the words to describe this day. It was simply perfect. I didn’t want it to end.” 
Karina says the Expedition teams make the trip, and Quark has some of the best. 
“They share an incredible passion for the destination and an amazing knowledge of the history, geology and wildlife. They get just as excited as passengers at the sight of a blue whale or a fluffy emperor penguin chick being fed by its parent,” she recalls. 
On-board lectures are informative in themselves, but Karina says the flow of knowledge, information and anecdotes is virtually non-stop.
“The expedition teams go out of their way to ensure each passenger has the experience of a lifetime. They are a credit to Quark and I would happily sail with any of them again. I am happy to call many of them my friends to this day.”
In all, Karina has spent 116 days traveling the Polar Regions in the past four years and has seen about 70% of the Antarctic coast. Every trip is an adventure, and leaves her wanting more. 
“Every day is a new and wondrous feeling and experience. Every day takes my breath away. Every day makes me want to plan another trip.”
Fortunately for Karina, there are many options for travel in Antarctica or the Arctic. And for 2016, Khlebnikov will conduct a rare full circumnavigation and semi-circumnavigation of the Arctic, along with four extraordinary Arctic Icebreaker Expeditions.
Contact one of our experienced Polar Travel Advisers today to book your adventure.

Source: Quark Expeditions

The Galapagos Big 5

There’s really no other place on earth like the Galapagos Islands, where you can interact with an unrivaled diversity of wildlife on land and sea. Catching a glimpse of the endangered Galapagos sea turtle, the giant Galapagos tortoise, or the cartoonish blue-footed booby nesting on bare rocky islands is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Photo credit: Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism
Graceful Galapagos sea lions and three species of prehistoric Galapagos land Iguanas are plentiful on the Islands. You’ll discover that the Galapagos, which has evolved in isolation, has produced an astonishing array of wildlife. Here are just five of the incredible species you might see on your Galapagos Islands expedition:  
Galapagos Sea Lions
According to the Galapagos Conservancy, approximately 50,000 sea lions inhabit the Galapagos Islands. Sea lions are social by nature and incredibly curious. During a Galapagos cruise, you’re certain to hear their noisy bark and find them sunbathing on sandy shores, making them a fan favorite on the islands.
Galapagos sea lions – Photo credit: Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism
Sea lions have a pointy whiskered nose and a male can weigh up to 550 pounds. They feast mostly on fish and from time to time travel for days to hunt for sardines. On land, groups of female sea lions form harems that one male bull will defend. Other males live in colonies. Females give birth to one pup yearly and raise them for up to three years.
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Galapagos Land Iguanas
One of the area’s most famous inhabitants are the Galapagos land iguana. These creatures are tough and can go without food and water for days. Thirty years ago, they were put at risk by incidents with feral dogs. The iguanas were then relocated and artificial nesting areas were created. These actions may have saved the creatures from destruction.
Galapagos Iguana – Photo credit: Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism
There are three species of land iguana now living in the Galapagos; the yellow conolophus subcristatus, the conolophus pallidus and the pink or rosada conolophus marthae. They can grow up to three feet long, weigh up to 30 pounds and can live up to 50 years.
On your Galapagos Island holiday, you can watch them soak up the sun in the morning, or on an excursion, you may witness a Darwin finch removing ticks from these captivating creatures.
Galapagos Giant Tortoise
The endangered Galapagos giant tortoise is one of the most celebrated tortoises, and is one of the only giant tortoises in the world, according to the Galapagos Conservancy. In fact, the Galapagos Islands are named after the tortoise, as the Spanish word for tortoise is ‘Galapagos’.
Galapagos giant tortoise Geochelone elephantopus” by Mfield, Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons 
The massive creatures can weigh up to 550 pounds and are about 5 feet in length, with an average lifespan of about 100 years. There are approximately 25,000 wild tortoises to be spotted on the Galapagos Islands. They lead a simple life, feeding on grass, cactus and leaves, basking in the sun, and napping virtually 16 hours per day.
Blue-footed Boobies
Blue-footed Boobies really do have blue feet, and they’re a key element in its animated courtship spectacle. During mating ceremonies, male birds attract prospective mates with their brilliant feet. Their feet are also great for protecting their young and keeping them warm.
Blue-footed Booby – Photo credit: Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism
Boobies are outstanding fisherman, flying up to 80 feet before diving into the water at a speed of 65 miles per hour to feed.
Galapagos Sea Turtles
A trip to the region wouldn’t be complete without a swim in crystal blue waters alongside the Galapagos sea turtle. These fascinating swimmers return to the Galapagos Islands to nest where their lives began. They lay eggs every 2-3 years and live up to 100 years.

The Galapagos sea turtle is a relative of the green sea turtle, but smaller. These turtles are often energetic, feeding on algae, relaxing on the sea bottom, and offering excellent up-close encounters.
See these fascinating and friendly species, many of which you won’t see anywhere else on earth, on Quark’s Galápagos Expedition: Darwin’s Playground, Central and North, the Galápagos Expedition: Darwin’s Playground, Far West or the Galápagos and Antarctica: Equator to Pole expeditions.

Source: Quark Expeditions

A Life Changing Adventure in the Galapagos Islands

 I’m Tiffany Merritt, Video Content Coordinator for the TUI Group, the parent company of Quark Expeditions. I recently had the good fortune to take a Galapagos Islands expedition, and wanted to share my experience, because it was the trip of a lifetime!
 My best friend Courtney and I have been nearly inseparable for the past 25 years. While we’ve traveled extensively together in the past, nothing prepared us for the trip we both jokingly referred to as our “best friend honeymoon.”

We started our trip on Santa Cruz Island, where we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station and learned about conservation efforts in the Galapagos. Every single island in the archipelago is unbelievable. The vegetation and species are different on every island and often not found anywhere else in the world. After Santa Cruz, the other islands we visited were San Cristobal, Santiago and Isabela Island.

The Galapagos is a haven for wildlife and a utopia for nature-lovers. Although we did some amazing things above the water, like kayaking with penguins swimming alongside us, it was the snorkeling that stole the show for me.
Snorkeling in the Galapagos 
I had snorkeled in Australia, but this was beyond incredible. The snorkeling was easy and we had fantastic guides explaining the types of coral, sharks and fish we were seeing. I wasn’t just being treated to a spectacular show of multi-coloured fish and stunning coral; I was learning about the marine biodiversity and developing a sense of appreciation for it. Snorkeling in the Galapagos was filled with breathtaking splendor, it was like an underwater wonderland that thrilling with every breath.  

I went into caves and snorkeled with golden rays, hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, black tip sharks and more. At one point, I had five giant sea turtles swimming around me so closely I couldn’t even move!   I was blown away by the magic underneath the water; by the stunning fish and coming nose-to-nose with sea lions. I was terrified of swimming with sharks before, but honestly now I want to do it on every snorkeling vacation!
Hiking in the Galapagos
The hiking was a bit challenging, but there were different group levels I could choose. We definitely worked up a sweat on the longer hikes. Some were long steep climbs up the volcanic islands with tricky terrain, and you have to be pretty agile to manage them, but there were dedicated groups for those who couldn’t do the super physical hikes.

Galapagos Wildlife
Encountering the Blue-footed boobies made me feel like I was on another planet.  Nowhere else in the world can you see animals in such abundance; everywhere I looked there were florescent coloured crabs, marine and land iguanas, sea lions sunbathing, frigate birds flying overhead and dancing albatross. It’s the best wildlife encounter experience I could have had.

There’s something there for everyone, at any life stage, at any level of activity. The kids on our voyage were fascinated and took part in the educational lectures as well. These were well-traveled kids and they said this was their favorite trip ever!

Nothing Can Prepare You For The Galapagos
I thought I had an understanding of what I was about to experience when I arrived in the Galapagos, but it’s really beyond words. To begin with, there’s nowhere else on the planet to have wildlife encounters this intimate. Every day was packed with newfound knowledge, as we hiked, snorkeled, explored and interacted with our guides.

 By the time I got back on the boat every afternoon, I really just wanted to relax and take in the sunset. Every day, all day, my senses were on overdrive.

If you love adventure, the Galapagos should be high on your bucket list!
 Contact one of Quark Expeditions experienced Polar Travel Advisers to discuss your Galapagos holiday today.
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Source: Quark Expeditions

Photography Tips from 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Lions and tigers and bears… and egrets, and owls and puffins, oh my! Canadian Don Gutoski has snapped photos of the rare and the commonplace the world over, through the lens of his Canon camera. He recently won the 2015 International Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) contest for his “A Tale of Two Foxes,” a picture that graphically captures the effects of climate change.
His award-winning photograph, along with those of other entrants, are on display at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto until March 20, 2016, in an exhibit sponsored by Quark Expeditions®. Gutoski will also be appearing at the ROM on January 28, 2016, to give a lecture and conduct an exclusive tour.
A tale of two foxes- Photo credit: Don Gutoski
Canadian High Arctic Ideal for Wildlife Photography
As an emergency room doctor based in London, Ontario, Gutoski traces his love of photography to a high school course. “I love animals. It was a natural progression to focus on wildlife.” 
He plans vacations around destinations such as the Canadian High Arctic that provide ample wildlife experiences. “My wife calls our adventures ‘fur and feathers’ trips. I look for places that provide good access to wildlife, and the ability to stay out late.” 
Gutoski admits it can difficult to choose a favorite photo. His “All Time Favorites” photo album includes many of his personal favorites. “Sometimes I pick the crowd pleasers, and other times on the species or the degree of difficulty. One pick is the cheetah taking down the impala as it’s a view coming toward me. Most “takedown” shots are from the side or the back. The leopard on the tree branch is most people’s favorite, but I also like the jumping wild dog and the polar bear with the dark background.”
Patience in the Arctic
“You have to be patient. When I photographed “A Tale of Two Foxes”, I had seen the red fox chasing the arctic fox, and I stood for 3 hours in the arctic chill as I watched and waited. The result was the photo that won the contest. There is always a lot of waiting and watching to get the best shot.” 
Gutoski recommends buying a good lens, doing research to learn about your subject and spending time in the field to get a sense of the common routines of the animals. And of course, practice, practice, practice. 
“I carry less in my camera bag than some professional photographers. I used a Canon 1D X camera with 200-400mm zoom lens with built in and external 1.4 TC that gave a focal length of 784 mm to take the fox photo. I always have 2 camera bodies and lots of storage space. I really love the Canon 200-400 zoom and my 1.4 teleconverter.”
He says his love of animals and his personal style influence what he photographs. “However, being more connected to the contest will change how I approach my subjects as I look for that next unique shot. I will always enter the contest if I think I have something worthwhile to submit.” 
Gutoski’s most important piece of advice for wildlife photographers? “Always be patient.”

Enter the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest
You can see Gutoski’s masterpiece “A Tale of Two Foxes” and other the winning photographs from the 2015 WPY contest at the Natural History Museum website, or even better, in person.
Quark is proud to sponsor the WPY exhibition at the ROM. Now in its 51st year, WPY is the most prestigious wildlife photography contest of its kind, drawing entries from amateur and professional photographers around the globe. Winning entries are selected by an international panel of judges based on creativity, artistry, and technical complexity.
As part of Quark’s sponsorship, photographers of all levels and visitors to the ROM are invited to submit their own photographs by January 31, 2016 to the ROM’s Wildlife Photographer of the year contest, for their chance to win a Quark Greenland to Canada: Inuit, Icebergs, and Wildlife 13 day expedition for two (2), a grand prize valued at over $20,000 USD. To enter, contestants can share their image from their unlocked Twitter or Instagram account and tag @ROMtoronto and #ROMwpy. For full details, please visit www.rom.on.ca/wpy.
Photography Tips for Wildlife Photographers
Those looking for the best photography tips for polar, landscape and polar photography can check out the dedicated photography section of our blog. Or, sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on arctic expeditions and all things polar!
Source: Quark Expeditions

The Top Landing Sites in Greenland

There are a number of exciting regions of Greenland, each with unique attractions and points of interest accessible on your cruise. As the first explorers of the island soon discovered, ice, weather and Mother Nature can affect landing site accessibility, but add to the adventure of exploring Greenland.
Uummannaq: Taking a Piece of Your Heart
Legend has it that when you leave Uummannaq, you leave a piece of your heart behind, to summon you back time and time again. Rich in Inuit culture, this second largest town in Northern Greenland – were the dogsled is still the preferred transportation method for fishermen – was named for its heart-shaped mountain. Uummannaq is home to the Inuit Museum, showcasing the history of the Inuit and their traditions.
Uummannaq houses. Photo credit: Liz Teague
Here, the Uummannaq fjord gives a breathtaking view of the town and if you arrive by water, stay on deck as you enter the fjord. Pilot whales, icebergs, seals and fishing boats share the sea, and glaciers and mountains provide ample opportunity for outdoor adventures. From mid-May to July, the sun does not set in Uummannaq, and in winter, it is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.
If you’re interested in history, check out the Thule mummies and other archeological sites.

Ittoqqortoormiit: One of the Best Reasons to Visit Greenland
For a true wilderness adventure, it doesn’t get much more remote than Ittoqqortoormiit. As the most northerly community of East Greenland, just reaching the town can be an adventure. Sea ice blocks the passage to town nine months of the year, and hunting and tourism are the economic staples for the locals.
Greenland dogs in Ittoqqortoormiit. Photo credit: Yukun Shih
If you prefer fire to ice, take in the Northern Lights dancing in the sky near the warmest hot spring in Greenland in Cape Tobin, with water temperatures reaching 143 F (62C).

Kangerlussuaq: Gateway to the Ice Cap 
Located on the west coast of Greenland, Kangerlussuaq was established in 1941 to serve as a US Air Force base and was an important early warning facility during the Cold War. It was decommissioned in 1992, but history buffs can learn about the area at the city’s museum, or check out the many things to see and do in Kangerlussuaq. 
Visit the Russell Glacier just outside of Kangerlussuaq
Drive down a dirt road and you will run into the ice cap. The Russell Glacier is approximately 14 miles (20 km) out of town. You might also see musk oxen and reindeer, or try sea kayaking in the fjord during summer months. 
 
Ilulissat Unesco World Heritage Site
Ilulissat is Greenland’s 34 mile (55 km) long and 3 mile (6 km) wide fjord where icebergs are the stars of the show. In fact, Ilulissat means icebergs. Take a hike along the shore of the fjord, enjoy a Zodiac ride, or photograph this exquisite work of nature.  
Ilulissat ice fjord
Hot Springs and Polar Bears in Nanortalik
The southernmost city in Greenland, Nanortalik is a city of contrasts, where polar bears roam freely along city outskirts (Nanortalik means “the place with polar bears”). Within the city limits, you are likely to be invited to a choir performance followed by a feast of Greenland’s gastronomic delights. Just 25 miles (40 km) out of town, you can also visit Greenland’s only natural forest.
Some of the most challenging rock walls can be found in Nanortalik with sheer rock faces rising from the fjord. The (3,300 foot) Ketil Mountain will challenge the most experienced climbers.
Uunartoq hot springs – Photo credit: C. King
When you’ve reached your physical limit, recharge and relax in the hot springs located a short ride away on the island of Uunartoq, where water temperatures in the three natural hot springs average 98F (37C) and the air temperature is 50F (10C).
Visit with Vikings
Herjolfsnes is near the southern tip of Greenland, and was once the site of a Viking colony, including a church and graveyard. In the 1920s, the ocean started washing away the graveyards. An archaeological dig in the 1990s unearthed well-preserved clothing, tools, combs and cooking utensils.
Are you ready to take a trip of a lifetime? Contact an experienced Polar Travel Adviser and speak to a Greenland expedition specialist. 
Source: Quark Expeditions

Drone Art Video – A Bird’s Eye View of the Arctic

There’s no shortage of opportunities to experience incredible marine and land flora and fauna in the area around Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge from different perspectives. And now, seasoned wildlife photographer and Arctic Watch guide Nansen Weber has given the world an entirely new perspective, thanks to new drone technology.

His video Drone Art: Arctic Wildlife & Landscapes, featured by National Geographic as its “Video of the Week” – provides a bird’s eye view of the picturesque Cunningham Inlet area of Somerset Island and its surrounding waters.

Using a drone-mounted camera over a period of four months, Weber captured stunning video of the area and its wildlife, including 100s of beluga whales frolicking in the Cunningham Delta, and a polar bear skirting icebergs on a deep water swim.  
The video guides viewers down the path of a river, mere meters above the water and in the shade of towering, jagged cliffs, before propelling the vantage point sharply upward to see the rolling hills of the tundra above. Massive waterfalls streaming over steep rock walls are captured from bottom to top, thanks to the drone’s unique ability to travel vertically.
Weber explained to National Geographic his motivation for creating the piece: “As Canadians, the Arctic is our backyard – one that so few know about; a hidden gem. I believe all Canadians should know more about this unique environment.” 
A CBC article about the video was shared over 7,000 times in social channels.

Stunning Arctic Wildlife and Landscapes at the Top of the World 
Our Arctic Watch partners and founders the Weber family (Nansen, his brother Tessum, and parents Josée Auclair and Order of Canada recipient Richard Weber) welcome guests on an arctic safari above the Arctic Circle to observe musk ox, beluga whales, arctic fox and even the odd migratory polar bear in their natural habitat. Contact a Polar Travel Adviser today to learn more an about an arctic holiday at Arctic Watch and other.  
  
Source: Quark Expeditions

How to Get to the Arctic

In New England, they have a saying, “You can’t get there from here.” It’s often used by people being asked for directions to a place that can’t be described without a long and complicated explanation. 

When you take part in a Quark arctic adventure, you’ll never hear anyone say, “You can’t get there from here,” because there are many options available for travelers across North America, in Europe and around the globe.
As you study these options, there are a few important points to remember:
You may be tempted to break your travel into separate tickets, but breaking up your fares rather than traveling on one ticket can increase the chances of delays and cancellations.
 Be sure and check your carrier’s luggage limits before traveling; typically the limit is 20 kilos for checked luggage, but limits can be more restrictive.
We have excellent packing lists to help you prepare.
For passengers who booked flights through Quark, we also offer a 24-hour Air Desk Helpline, to assist you in the event of flight problems, delays or cancellations.
 

 
North American Gateways to the Arctic
There are direct flights from most major North American Cities to the Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC) in Anchorage, Alaska. One of the top five airports in the world for cargo, the Ted Stevens Airport serves nearly five million passengers annually. It features visitor information centers, a large collection of Alaskan Native Art, and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is onsite as well. This airport is the beginning point for many amazing arctic experiences.
There are many direct flights to the Edmonton International Airport (YEG) from major cities across North America. The airport features more than 60 shops and restaurants, a large collection of art, live entertainment, free Wi-Fi and charging stations. Banking, visitor information, car rentals and valet parking are all available. This airport is the starting point for many Northwest Passage adventures.
Ottawa is the Capital of Canada, and the Ottawa International Airport (YOW) is on the direct flight path of many airlines to international cities. YOW features many amenities for travelers, including banking, currency exchange, baggage storage, and a free cellphone parking lot, where drivers can wait for passengers to call or text that they are ready for pickup. This airport is your gateway to the ice.
Yellowknife is the capital city and largest community in the Northwest Territories. The Yellowknife Airport (YFZ) is the arrival and departure point for several Quark arctic experiences, including Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, situated north of the Arctic Circle. Direct flights into Yellowknife Airport come from many northern communities, including Calgary and Edmonton.

European Gateways to the Arctic
There are flights directly into Copenhagen Airport, Denmark (CPH) from most international cities. In advance of their visit to the airport, travelers can download the CPH Airport app to their smartphone, to receive up to the minute flight information, shopping offers and to book parking in advance.
“Where Scotland Meet the World”, Edinburgh Airport, Scotland (EDI) has direct flights from most international cities. Edinburgh is the embarkation point for Quark’s majestic Scotland to Spitsbergen adventure, which features a blend of Norse and Scottish history.
Svalbard Airport, Longyearbyen Airport (LYR), serves the island of Spitsbergen, located on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago of Norway. Just outside of the community of Longyearbyen, it is the northernmost airport in the world. To reach Longyearbyen, travelers may want to connect via Helsinki and Oslo.
Keflavík International Airport (KEF) in Reykjavik is the largest airport in Iceland, and direct flights from many international cities arrive here. For the intrepid traveler, the popular tour Beyond Reykjavik: Iceland Off the Beaten Path is available. This airport is the jumping off point for a number of Quark adventures, including the Iceland Circumnavigation and Three Arctic Islands. 
Tromso Airport, Langnes, Norway (TOS), has two terminals and features dining options, shopping and a spectacular view. Our Tromso, Bear Island and Spitsbergen expedition begins here. When traveling to Tromso Airport there are a number of options, but we recommend a flight via Oslo, Norway.
Another option for North Pole adventurers is a direct flight to Helsinki Airport (also known as HELSINKI-VANTAA Airport), Finland (HEL) from most international cities. Here, you can spend an extra night to explore this amazing city. Many of Quark expeditions begin or end in Helsinki, the capital of Finland.
Contact an experienced Polar Travel Adviser with any questions about traveling into and out of the Arctic regions – we’re the experts!

Source: Quark Expeditions

Meet the Expedition Heroes of Kapitan Khlebnikov

Legendary Russian icebreaker and polar pioneer, the mighty Kapitan Khlebnikov, makes its anticipated return to navigate uncharted terrains. Purpose-built and designed to maneuver through dense pack ice, the ice-class Khlebnikov provides unparalleled access to the most remote areas of the Arctic, as well as extraordinary opportunities to flight-see on two on-board helicopters.
The first vessel to circumnavigate Antarctica and holding the record for the most transits of the Northwest Passage, Khlebnikov is one of few passenger carrying polar-class vessels that combines power and technology with comfort. Enjoy an exclusive chance to experience this engineering and technical marvel up close.

Expedition Heros
Quark team members are all polar-passionate and seasoned veterans with rich backgrounds in marine biology, history, geology and more. Quark offers one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the expedition world. And that means more expert guidance for your trip-of-a-lifetime! Here are some of the Expedition Heros you’ll meet on your Arctic Icebreaker Expedition onboard Kapitan Khlebnikov.

ALEX McNEILExpedition LeaderOne of Quark’s key expedition team members since 2007, Alex has traveled extensively in the Arctic and Antarctic, completing over 50 expeditions, and has developed a strong passion for these regions. As a skilled boat handler and mechanic, Alex has worked in some of the most challenging conditions. His keen interest in geology, ornithology and marine biology will create a polar experience you will never forget. Alex was an Expedition Leader on Khlebnikov in 2010, and is excited to return to experience “a rare opportunity and privilege.”

CHELI LARSENExpedition Leader Cheli has been employed in the expedition cruise industry for the past 16 years specializing in the Polar Regions. She has also worked as a Field Assistant for TVNZ Natural History unit working on a number of documentaries. Cheli was last on board the Khlebnikov in 2009 and remembers her experience as ‘the pinnacle’ of her long career in this industry.

 

 
ANDREA MACHACEK
Born and raised in Salzburg/Austria, Andrea worked for four years as project manager in Vienna, organizing events and incentive projects across the world: from Dragon boat competitions in Shanghai to ice-rallying and dog sledding in Finland and also camel racing in the Sahara desert. 
But it was her first trip to Antarctica that awoke her passion for the Polar Regions. Since 2011, she has been sharing her enthusiasm and respect for these sublime but fragile regions with fellow passengers on Expedition ships in her maternal German as well as in English, Spanish and French. She also worked as Assistant Expedition Leader and Naturalist on Expedition Cruise ships sailing around the British Isles; following the West coast of Africa from Cape Town to Agadir and conquering the islands of the South Pacific.
When not working on Expedition ships, she very much enjoys traveling and discovering the world, especially on horseback. She rode through Quebec maple forests, the Rajastani Thar desert, the Upper Tauern mountain range and Iceland. She took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok and spent last summer exploring interior Yukon & Alaska in a 1989 Toyota truck. When back at home in Austria, Andrea works as voluntary Emergency Medical Technician with the Red Cross.

PAMELA LE NOURY
Hailing from South Africa, Pam is a marine scientist, PADI dive instructor, zodiac skipper and sailor, and has worked in and on the ocean just about every day for the past 15 years. She has participated in several marine research cruises, has published 3 APPS for smartphones on sharks & rays and whales & dolphins and Antarctic Wildlife, and enjoys teaching people about the oceans and conservation through her travels. Pam started expedition cruising in 2008 and has now been almost everywhere a small cruise ship can take you; 110 countries from the poles to the remote reaches of every ocean – loving life as a citizen of the sea. When not at sea – Pam is a beach bum in her home town of Umdloti.

NORMAN LASCA, Jr
Norman P. Lasca is Professor Emeritus of Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  He holds degrees from Brown University and the University of Michigan.  Widely traveled, he has worked extensively in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic areas surrounding the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica for over 50 years. He is a widely published scholar and editor whose expertise lies in Earth-surface processes, especially those related to glaciers and glaciation.  His recent research has dealt with the glaciation of Russia’s Siberian coastal region and with erosion problems in the US National Forests of the upper Midwest. He serves on several national and international geological commissions, as well as on non-profit boards and on technical advisory committees for various municipal and state agencies.  He is a licensed Professional Geologist and Professional Hydrologist, and is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. In addition to his geologic work, his interests include ornithology and Arctic botany. 

ROBERT HEADLAND
Bob Headland is a Senior Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.  His principal interests involve historical geography and associated studies.  Specifically, his work concerns human effects on Polar Regions – especially the smaller islands and archipelagos.  The archival details and other historical records from earliest expeditions to recent events have allowed him to provide data for studies of long periods of climatic variation, glaciological and biological changes in Polar Regions. Bob is an advisor to several expeditionary organizations, departments of government, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a member of the Institute for Historical Research of the University of London where he delivers lectures for several courses.  In 1984, he was decorated with the Polar Medal and is a member of both the Arctic Club and Antarctic Club. 
Bob has spent many years with Quark Expeditions, educating travelers on the history of polar exploration aboard icebreakers in the Arctic and Antarctic. During this time he has been associated with the conservation of the historical huts and related sites in both Polar Regions. 
 
FABRICE GENEVOIS
Fabrice Genevois is a freelance biologist who lives amongst the volcanoes of the Auvergne region, in the central part of France. His polar experience goes back as far as 1989, when he spent 18 months working as a field researcher on seabirds and marine mammals of the remote Kerguelen Islands (French Subantarctic Territory). His detailed observations on the breeding behavior of the Blue petrel led to the publication of many scientific papers and his work was awarded with the Dplome de l’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in 1996 (Paris, La Sorbonne).
In 1992, he began working as field guide and lecturer, leading French groups in Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland islands, onboard the Quark Expedition icebreakers. From then on, he was deeply involved with polar tourism, leading groups to remote places of the Arctic and Antarctic.  As a biologist, the main subject of his lectures is natural history, especially birds and mammals biology and ecology. For the past 17 years, Fabrice Genevois has been travelling extensively in polar regions and is now familiar with remote destinations in the Arctic like the Northwest and Northeast Passages, the Canadian High Arctic (including Ellesmere Island), Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard, Franz-Joseph land and the Geographic North Pole. In the deep South, his expeditions led him to the shores of the Ross and Weddell Seas, the far side of Antarctica, the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas, the Antarctic peninsula and the South Shetlands, as well as most of the remote Subantarctic Islands of the Southern Ocean.

COLIN SOUNESS
Originally from Lochgilphead in Argyll and Bute, Colin became fascinated with the mountains and glacial landscapes of Scotland earlier than he can remember.  This love of the mountains and wild spaces drew Colin into academic study and he graduated from Edinburgh University in 2004 with an MA in Geography, having specialised in glacial geomorphology and physical geography fieldwork.  This led straight into a season’ working in Antarctica where Colin spent 5 months crewing on a British-led sailing and mountaineering expedition. With this experience behind him a desk job carried little appeal, so Colin joined the Royal Air Force as an infantry officer in 2006. However, missing all things glacial, Colin left the RAF in 2007 to re-commence his studies, enrolling as a Masters student in glaciology at Aberystwyth University.
Several years later and Colin has now recently completed his PhD which focussed on surveying and better understanding the glacial landscapes of the planet Mars. He has also participated in fieldwork in the Himalayas and on the Greenland ice sheet, and has racked up many more hours of sailing time including a late season 3-man crossing of the North Atlantic starting in Nuuk, Greenland, and finishing in the Scottish town of Oban, not far from where Colin was born! When not sailing with Quark amongst the world’s most beautiful landscapes, Colin travels and writes about his experiences. 
 
NIKITA OVSYANIKOV
Dr. Nikita Ovsyanikov graduated from Moscow State University in 1974 with a doctor of biological science degree. He has been involved in research in the Arctic since 1977. Since 1990 he has undertaken research of polar bears and knows them better than any human. He has had 500 close encounters with polar bears. Based on his policy, the Russian rangers do not carry guns–only flare guns. His policy for approaching polar bears: Stand tall. Carry sticks to appear taller. Do not act like prey. Make noise, but not with the human voice. Ironically, with their no gun approach, the Russian rangers safety record is better than countries where rangers and guides carry guns.
Nikita has spent  longer time in the Arctic and around polar bears, than most people on the planet. He is the Deputy Director for science and senior research scientist of Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve. On Wrangel Island, Nikita has studied in particular the dynamics of the polar bear population and behaviour for decades. He has also visited polar bear habitats and populations in most other areas of the Arctic, from Hudson Bay to Svalbard, Franz Joseph Land and the North Pole.

Don’t miss out on the chance of a lifetime aboard Kapitan Khlebnikov – where the science of exploration is just as riveting as the landscapes. Contact an experienced Polar Travel Adviser today to book your Arctic Icebreaker adventure.

Source: Quark Expeditions

Greenland: An Arctic Wildlife Adventure

Guest Post by: Kirstine Dinesen, www.Greenland.comGreenland has a diverse wildlife population on land, in the sea and sky, despite the fact that an icecap covers 80% of the island. 
Polar bears, muskoxen, humpback whales, walruses, sea eagles and reindeer are common species on the Arctic island. Despite the ice cap, Greenland’s wildlife has managed to gain a foothold in this magnificent place. Fjords do not pose a hurdle for land mammals, birds create their own highways, and ocean species are tied together through a global, borderless ecosystem.
Life beneath the Surface on your Greenland Cruise
Beneath the surface of the ocean, seal species, humpback whales and walruses live together in food-rich waters. Greenlandic marine dwellers are some of the world’s most spectacular creatures, and they are not afraid to expose themselves to small expedition cruise crowds or bigger coastal sailings!
 The whales of Greenland tend to steal the show; several species can be spotted frolicking and feasting in Greenland’s waters. Seeing such magnificent creatures right in front of you, whether they be killer whales on hunting sprees or fast narwhals zipping in between sea ice cracks, it is an experience you’ll remember.
 
 Photo: Humpback whale tail almost submerged. Photo credit: Visit Greenland
Life beneath the surface of Greenland’s waters is unique. Along with walruses and whales, the ocean contains a variety of fish and shellfish. These are all a part of a larger food chain including Greenlandic inhabitants, as fishing is a main source of income in Greenland.

Arctic Wildlife from East to West Coast
The unique animal kingdom of Greenland consists not only of marine species but also a wide variety of land animals. At the west coast in the area around Kangerlussuaq, more than 10,000 animals graze in green mountains surrounded by inland ice. This is where the great musk ox live.
Along the west coast, as well as in large parts of the east coast, reindeer graze, and each year they migrate long distances between the interior and the coast in search of food.
 Photo: A pair of musk oxen in summer. Photo credit: Visit Greenland
The polar bear is another well-known and magnificent animal found in and around Greenland. The iconic white-coated bear is especially common on the ice between land and sea. The beautiful polar bear hunts seals and birds from the sea ice around Northern and Eastern Greenland. It is one of the only bear species that doesn’t hibernate during winter, as it is used to the arctic winter weather.
When you explore the wildlife of Greenland, the birds are rare and beautiful as well. With varied species and unique names, Greenland is home to some of the most spectacular bird species in the world. White-tailed eagles, ravens, owls, guillemots and kittiwakes (a member of the gull family) are just some of the many incredible birds flying over the landscape, sea and mountains of Greenland.
Taking a Wildlife Adventure
In spite of the ice cap covering 80% of the total landmass in Greenland, ice has little impact on the wildlife, which has adapted to its frosty environment.
Since the first humans arrived in Greenland more than 4,000 years ago, dog sledding has been the number one means of transport. Even though it has in many places been replaced by motorized vehicles, it is still an option when traveling the winter landscape. The sleds have become a focal point of winter tourism and they are an obvious (and exciting!) choice when exploring Greenland.
Want to learn more about what to see and do in Greenland?  Contact us to plan your Greenland expedition.  
Source: Quark Expeditions

Meet the Galapagos Tortoise

Earlier this year, baby tortoises were spotted on the Galapagos Island, of Pinzón. This is incredibly exciting, especially to Quark voyagers, because wild baby Galapagos tortoises have not been seen on the island for over a century.
At Quark, we take pride in making exploration travel accessible to anyone with an adventurous spirit. As such, we’re excited to extend this to our new Galapagos Islands expeditions, as well!Evolution small ship expedition to Galapagos
Homeland to a variety of determined species 
The Galapagos Islands are a small collection of islands off the coast of Ecuador, and home to many unique species of animals, such as the Galapagos giant tortoise. Galapagos tortoises are one of only two species of giant tortoise on the planet.
The tortoise was brought to near extinction by the rats European explorers inadvertently brought to the islands with them, and by the people who followed. Now, thanks to the dedicated and passionate conservation efforts of the Galapagos Conservancy and others, not only are there wild baby tortoises on Pinzón Island, but giant tortoises have been re-introduced to the island of Santa Fe, where they were wiped out over 150 years ago.
Seeing giant tortoises in the Galapagos
Galapagos tortoises live only in the equatorial region, on the islands named by the Spanish explorers who discovered them. In fact, giant tortoises, which can live more than a century, only inhabit a select few of the islands of the Galapagos archipelago. Traveling with Quark on your Galapagos cruise, you will be certain to visit the tortoise’s preferred islands, such as Isabella, San Cristobal and, of course, Pinzón.
Since they sleep as many as 16 hours a day, getting a good look at one is a foregone conclusion, once you know where they live. There are actually two main types of Galapagos giant tortoise, and you’ll want to see both.
The larger Galapagos tortoise – the domed tortoise which has a high, domed shell – prefers the larger islands, like Isabella Island and Santa Cruz Island, where higher elevations grow plentiful vegetation low to the ground.
The smaller type of Galapagos tortoise is referred to as the saddleback tortoise, due to the shape of its shell.
The saddleback tortoise is the type of tortoise the Galapagos Islands were actually named after, since “galapagos” literally means saddle, in Spanish. Saddleback tortoises prefer the smaller, arid islands, like Española and Pinzón. There they feed on taller vegetation, such as cactus pads. During dry seasons fresh water can become quite scarce on such islands, so Galapagos tortoises have developed the ability to hold water in the base of their necks and their bladders for extended periods of time. Their extremely slow metabolism, combined with sleeping up to 16 hours a day, results in the ability to go months without eating.
 
Giant tortoises lounging in the shade
For nature-lovers and wildlife photographers, there’s an aspect of the Galapagos tortoise lifestyle that is quite accommodating. Rather than spending a great deal of time in the ocean hunting fish or squid, like many smaller aquatic tortoise species, giant Galapagos tortoises are vegan–they are herbivores–and eat only plants. These tortoises spend the majority of their time on land, lounging under the shade of a shrub, or burrowed into a cool, relaxing mud bath on the larger islands, where swampy areas exist. 
The situation today is win-win, for both the tortoise and the adventurers who are fascinated by this rare and ancient animal.
The economic impact of ecotourism has made it worthwhile for governments to set aside money and land for conservation efforts aimed at protecting these fragile species. In the end, these remarkable efforts provide rare opportunities to encounter fascinating species such as the Galapagos tortoise. 
Want to meet a Galapagos tortoise in person? Take a look at one of various Galapagos Islands tours here. 
Source: Quark Expeditions