In February 2023, I was invited by Quark Expeditions on a 14 day voyage, starting and ending in Ushuaia, to go where only the tiniest percentage of Antarctic voyagers ever go; south of the Antarctic Circle, 66°30′ S.
Sarah Schlederer, Business Development Manager for the UK and Ireland, welcomed a group of four of us aboard the all-suites, all-balcony expedition ship: the World Explorer.
We were all delighted to share some of our highlights from this unique and very special trip…
MY BEST MOMENTS…
“Antarctica is such a diverse and ever-changing ecosystem, and there are so many animal encounters that take your breath away. From the moment you open your curtains in the morning until the sun sets, you are in awe of the beauty surrounding you.
Whilst there were so many wonderful experiences for me, my wow moment has to be my encounter with a minke whale and is one that I will cherish and remember forever. We were all on lookout duty to see what we could spot; the quiet, still and calm surrounding us. The only noises around us were our own voices, the burr of the engine from our zodiac as well as the occasional sound of the ice cracking around us.
You then get a sense of excitement, and your heart starts pounding in your chest when someone spots an animal coming towards us in the distance. Watching from the zodiac, this curious minke swam around us, as curious of us as we were her. The realisation that this powerful creature is inches away from you whilst we are sat on an inflatable boat, she was in control and had the power – we became the exhibit and intrigue.
She was so close that I was able to capture the moment with my GoPro under the water. Antarctica has encapsulated a part of my heart, and I long to go back to experience and discover more.”
MARK DAVIDSON RECOUNTS THIS UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE...
“Without doubt, the most eagerly anticipated element of the trip was when we would make landfall on the Peninsula, included in the full day excursion programme along with a stand-alone cruise. However, I found that the zodiac cruise was the best way to appreciate the magnitude, power, and silence of the continent. The excitement of Quark’s excursions really started when we saw the zodiacs being winched to sea level from their housing on “World Explorers’ upper deck.
Our first day out was choppy, and the waterproofs were put to good use, but the first whale, penguin and seal sightings from sea level more than made up for it. Operated by a member of the Expedition Team, the 90-minute cruises were all beautifully planned to give us a wider view of the area. Not just wildlife, but shipwrecks, icebergs and glaciers. All members of the Expedition Team communicate with each other through radios, so any special sightings were passed on to the others.
Each zodiac accommodated ten of us together, along with an Expedition Team member as driver and guide. They ensured photo opportunities were maximised by asking the passengers on one side to kneel, while the “back row” snapped away. Everything was handled in a safe, professional, and fun environment. My lasting memory of the entire trip is zooming across the open water, watching the other zodiacs criss-cross the bay with towering icebergs and glaciers on either side. It’s times like these I appreciate how lucky I was to be there.”
AMY ANDERSON TRULY CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF THIS ENCHANTING LANDSCAPE…
“To say I crossed the southern circle was such a huge accomplishment, but it wasn’t until I set my feet onto Antarctica’s soil that I felt an overwhelming raw emotion. Despite seeing so much along the journey through the channel and the Drake Passage, I couldn’t wait to sink my mud boots into a glacier and some of the historic landing sites.
I’d eagerly await my group's call every day to enter a zodiac and take the ride over to the location on our carefully planned itinerary, and it never disappointed. From standing next to many colonies of penguins (some invading my personal space) to tumbling down the snow in hysterics, I had found my pivotal moment that I had reached my bucket-list destination.
My personal highlights included the much-anticipated trip to Port Lockroy. I was so excited to send some postcards home from the southernmost post office in the world (proven to be relatively speedy!) and getting to witness how this site still operates for key scientific research. The volcanic landing of Deception Island and Whalers Bay tugged on my heartstrings and took me back into a real moment of history, a place which shall stay with me forever. Every corner we visited was so contrasting in nature and atmosphere, and I can truly say I experienced everything that the 7th continent has to offer.”
MILLIE WINDELER TALKS ABOUT THE EXPEDITION TEAM
“Travelling with Quark is synonymous with living inside a nature documentary. Landings and continent aside, the one part of the whole experience that impressed me most was just how cleverly the expedition team utilize your time so you can learn as much as possible.
Before coming to Antarctica, I could never distinguish between the different types of penguins and other sea birds. I couldn’t tell whales apart, nor the various seals living here. During our time onboard crossing the Drake, we explored landscapes, glaciers, katabatic winds and icebergs. We discovered the history of polar exploration. We learned so much about the flora and fauna of Antarctica that by the time we’d reached the continent, we were all pointing to the storm petrels, humpbacks, leopard seals, adélies, and so much more, calling them by name as if we were now the experts.
The expedition team are what sets Quark aside from any others. They are the only company with their own dedicated training program that attracts the best of the best, and I’ve never met a group of people quite so passionate about what they do. They shape your experience entirely and made our trip truly memorable.”
Specialising exclusively in expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, Quark Expeditions has been the leading innovator of polar adventure since the company took the first group of consumer travellers to the North Pole in 1991. Quark Expeditions has been innovating ever since.
With a diverse fleet of specially-equipped small expedition vessels — with the most luxurious of them equipped with helicopters — Quark Expeditions delivers deeply immersive polar experiences — and is able to take guests deeper into the polar regions than anyone else.
If you want to learn more about this once-in-a-lifetime trip to the most remote place on earth and experience an adventure with the wonderful team at Quark Expeditions, contact me to find out more.