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Posts tagged Arctic

The Arctic through the Eyes of a 9-Year Old

by Paul Schuster, Polar Travel Adviser

As a Polar Travel Adviser in Quark’s Toronto office, my research and passion for travel has become quite handy in answering questions and making sure your visit to the world’s intriguing Polar Regions are everything you’ve dreamed of. 

Travel to the Arctic with Quark Expeditions

One question we’re asked often is about polar travel for children. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand what it’s like traveling to an incredibly remote region with a child.

Traveling with kids to the Polar Regions

Owen, a natural born traveler

My son Owen inherited my love of travel. He and I traveled together last year on a Quark arctic voyage and had the time of our lives. Here, he shares some of his favorite parts of his arctic voyage, in the hope of inspiring other kids to travel unafraid and follow their dreams to visit these intriguing destinations.

Owen traveled with me aboard the Sea Spirit to Spitsbergen in June 2014, when he was nine years old. We were able to visit many different areas, including Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, and The Blue Lagoon, the famous hollowed out lava field full of mud and natural hot springs.

Owen immediately noticed the differences between Toronto and this exciting new region of the world. Looking back on his trip, he says, “There were lots of different forms of transportation in Iceland. We were able to travel to the Golden Circle and up to a glacier by Super Jeep. My favorite part of this leg of the journey was snowmobiling, where they provided helmets and everything we needed.”

Traveling with family on an arctic expedition

Owen and walruses

Families traveling with young explorers might wonder what’s in store for their children aboard a ship. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities to keep young, inquisitive minds busy aboard the Sea Spirit, including the opportunity to meet new people and see things they would otherwise only read about in books. The Sea Spirit is where Owen met his friend from South Africa, who was just one year younger.

Owen says, “It was a lot of fun because there was someone else my age and we both liked to play soccer, so we played by the stage area. The experts were talking about animals and when we went on land, they would explain how stuff happens. One day, we saw a bunch of different animals in one place – a whale, some polar bears, a fox, and some walruses. We also saw three reindeer. They were bigger than I thought they would be. Mostly we took pictures of weird-shaped glaciers and interesting things you don’t get to see all the time.”


I have traveled a lot, but it was a different experience having my son with me.

Although we had traveled to Costa Rica when he was younger, this was Owen’s first big trip out of the Americas. It was nice to see his perspective and how he reacted to the environment, the animals, and the ice.

Adventure cruising in the Arctic

The bird life in the Arctic is really quite impressive. Owen and I agreed that one of our favorite parts was Alkefjellet, a giant bird cliff with swarms of birds — tens or even hundreds of thousands.

That experience sparked a real interest in birds I hadn’t felt before. The sea before us was encased in ice, so we hopped in the Zodiac and took a slow cruise around it for a good, uninterrupted half an hour. Owen enjoyed the birds as well as the ride. “That was my first trip in a Zodiac and I thought it was pretty fun — sometimes I would slip on the pontoon and land on my butt.”

Owen exploring by zodiac

Tips for exploring the Arctic with children

Some are skeptical of traveling to Polar Regions with children. However, Quark has a deep commitment to safety, regardless of the age of passengers.

Owen says, “My friends were really interested in where I was going, so that was one thing. The first time my dad told me we were going, I was confused. I thought we were going to the Antarctic. I have a map in my bedroom.”

Exploring Longyearbyen
Exploring Longyearbyen

People are pretty used to the fact that I like to travel quite a bit, so it seemed natural to bring my son along. It was a great opportunity for Owen and everyone was excited he was going to an exotic spot at such a young age.

Everything from the itinerary to meals can be kid-friendly. Dinners are casual and seating arrangements differ, so you can dine at a table for four or eight or more, with open seating. The galley is fantastic at accommodating meal requirements. In fact, our chef talked to the children in the morning to get their impressions of what they wanted for dinner.

When I asked Owen about on-board meals, his response was, “My favorite part was the chocolate party toward the end of the voyage. We had chocolate cake and chocolate bars and ice cream and everything.” Of course!

Our plans for future adventures

We’re not sure what our next adventure will be at this point. I would take Owen to Antarctica and I’d be fine taking him through the Drake Passage. Exploring at sea is really the best time to see seabirds in Antarctica and there is a great lecture program as well, so there are plenty of things to do, no matter which corner of the world we decide to travel in the future.


For his part, Owen says, “If I could do it again, I would love to. I would like to go to the bird cliffs again.”

Questions about traveling with kids on a polar vacation? Contact Paul, who looks forward to speaking to you about his experience traveling with children to the Arctic.   

Arctic 2016 Sale

Source: Quark Expeditions

8 Impressive Arctic Explorers You May Not Have Heard Of

There are many arctic explorers whose names and stories we know well – Sir John Franklin, for example. In 1845, he and his crew of 129 men sailed from England in search of the Northwest Passage, never to be heard from again.

8 Impressive Arctic Explorers - Photo by Filip Kulisev

Yet the Arctic has a rich and storied history of exploration that surpasses even well-known explorers like Franklin, set over hundreds of years, of which you will learn about on your polar cruise. Here are eight explorers who may not be household names, but still hold an important place in arctic history:

 North Pole - Photo by Samantha CrimminNorth Pole – Photo by Samantha Crimmin

Robert Peary: First Explorer to the North Pole?

Robert Peary is credited with one particularly significant accomplishment: being the first explorer to reach the North Pole. While there is speculation to this day that Peary might have been superseded in this accomplishment by his mate Frederick A. Cook a year earlier, or that Peary was up to 60 miles short of the North Pole and thus never made it there at all, he is still credited with the feat. He was also known for an exploration style based on Inuit survival techniques, and for losing eight toes to the frigid weather, despite those survival skills.


Matthew Henson: First African-American Arctic Explorer

Matthew Henson was often considered the primary assistant to Robert Peary on many of expeditions. He is known for being the first African-American arctic explorer. While Peary received most of the recognition for being the first to reach the North Pole, Henson’s navigation skills were considered crucial to Peary’s expeditions. Henson was also highly admired by the Inuit for his ability to hunt, drive sleds, and speak their language.

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Richard Weber: Traveling the North Pole on Foot

Known as one of Canada’s most impressive polar explorers, Richard Weber has many other great accomplishments under his belt. His polar milestones include being the first person to reach the North Pole from both sides of the Arctic Ocean, and the first to reach the North Pole on foot. He and his family currently run the amazing and breathtaking Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, Quark’s first land-based polar expedition in Nunavut, the Canadian High Arctic.

 Polar Bear - Photo credit: Samantha Crimmin

Polar Bear – Photo credit: Samantha Crimmin

Richard Evelyn Byrd: Journey to the North and South Poles by Air

Richard Evelyn Byrd was a pilot and American naval officer and is credited with five Antarctic expeditions. He is considered the first person to fly to both poles, and was one of the first to spend the winter on the continent, which nearly cost him his life. Although Byrd was highly decorated with 22 citations and special commendations – one of which the Medal of Honor – it is believed his disappointment in being rescued from Antarctica haunted him most of his life.

Ranulph Fiennes: World’s Greatest Living Explorer

Ranulph Fiennes, described by Guinness World Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer”, is responsible for a number of “firsts” in polar exploration. Impressive accomplishments include being the first person to reach both the North and South Poles, and the first to cross Antarctica on foot. This particular adventure was also the longest unsupported polar journey in recorded history, during which he was forced to amputate his own frostbitten fingers on his left hand. At the age of 64, Fiennes also became the oldest Briton to climb Mount Everest.

 Greenland with Quark Expeditions - Credit: Quark Passenger (name unknown)
Greenland with Quark Expeditions – Credit: Quark Passenger (name unknown)

Ann Bancroft: First Woman of Polar Journeys

Hailing from Minnesota, Ann Bancroft is not only the sole woman on this list, but the first woman to complete many arctic and Antarctic expeditions. She was the first female to ski across Greenland and the first woman to ski across Antarctica. Bancroft is also credited with being the first woman to stand on both poles. Because of her many accomplishments, she was inducted into the U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame.

‘Top Gear’ Team:  Race to the North Magnetic Pole

This  team of adventurers included Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, hosts of BBC’s show Top Gear. In the show’s Polar Special episode, the group raced to the North Magnetic Pole.  Clarkson and May by polar-modified Toyota Hilux; Hammond by dog sled. Clarkson and May became the first explorers to reach the area by car.

Top Gear Team - race to the North Magnetic Pole
Top Gear Team – race to the North Magnetic Pole – Photo credit: BBC

Fridtjof Nansen: East West Journey to the North Pole

Although Fridtjof Nansen’s initial goal to reach the North Pole by traveling the Arctic Ocean’s east-west current (rather than the more common west-east path) failed, Nansen is credited with setting the record for traveling to the northernmost latitude. Although his ship ended up frozen in pack ice and abandoned, Nansen’s expedition and the ship’s design were heavily influential in future polar exploration.

Learn about these explorers, and many more, and follow in their footsteps, on your next Quark polar expedition.  

Source: Quark Expeditions