Quark Expeditions back in Snow Hill | Polarjournal
Quark Expeditions will have the Snow Hill emperor penguin colony back on the schedule in November 2023. (Image: Rosamaria Kubny)

After being absent for several years, Quark Expeditions has announced the return to the rarely visited emperor penguin colony on Snow Hill Island. The program includes two expeditions in November 2023 to the island located in the northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The 14-day “Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill” from Nov. 12-25. 2023 and from Nov. 24. – Dec. 7. 2023 start and end in Buenos Aires.

The colony of emperor penguins of Snow Hill counts about 8’000 animals and is located in a fascinating scenery. (Image: Rosamaria Kubny)

“The legendary emperor penguin colony on Snow Hill Island holds a special place in our hearts and in the history of Quark Expeditions,” said Andrew White, president of Quark Expeditions. “In 2004, Quark Expeditions made polar history when we visited the remote emperor penguin colony on Snow Hill for the first time. Driven by true expedition spirit and guided by years of polar expertise, our team sailed past masses of dense ice and thick, tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea to visit the legendary breeding colony where 8,000 pairs of emperor penguins now breed.”

The first expeditions to Snow Hill were carried out with the Russian icebreaker “Kapitan Khlebnikov”.

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the largest species of penguin. When fully grown, it reaches a height of between 100 and 130 centimeters and weighs between 22 and 37 kilograms. Emperor penguins can live up to 40 years. The only enemies in the water are leopard seals and orcas. On the fast ice it happens that skuas and giant petrels prey on chicks. (Image: Rosamaria Kubny)

Expedition of the extremes

The start of the expedition begins in Buenos Aires, followed by a charter flight to Ushuaia the following day and embarkation on the “Ultramarine. After a 2-day crossing of the Drake Passage, a 5-day phase “Weddell Sea and the search for land at Snow Hill” is planned.

The ultimate goal of the “Emperor Penguin Quest” is therefore to take guests to the Emperor Penguin colony. A helicopter is used to land nearby and then walk across the thick sea ice to get within a few feet of the penguins. The prerequisite for this are good weather conditions, which make the use of the helicopters possible in the first place.

On the island, to which access is strictly regulated, you can also see the remains of the camp of the Swedish polar explorer Otto Nordenskjöld from 1902/1903. This is now a protected historical site.

Also among the highlights of the expedition is gliding past large table icebergs in beautiful light conditions. (Image: Rosamaria Kubny)

Another important part of the trip is the daily educational program that has been created especially for this trip. Quark Expeditions’ team of polar experts, including penguin researchers, ornithologists, biologists and polar historians, will present various aspects of emperor penguins and their behavior, ice formations such as the tabular icebergs that will be visible from the ship’s deck, and the experiences of polar explorers who conquered the Weddell Sea more than a century ago.

The “Ultramarine,” the newest ship in the Quark fleet, is designed to go beyond the known in the polar regions, discovering new places and immersing itself in the best the regions have to offer. (Photo: Michelle Sole / Quark Expeditions)

Expedition with the “Ultramarine

The “Ultramarine” was taken over from the Croatian Brodosplit shipyard in April 2021, is 128 meters long and offers space for a maximum of 199 passengers in a total of 102 suites including balcony. 140 crew members are responsible for the operation of the ship and the well-being of the guests. The equipment includes two Airbus H145 helicopters, as well as 20 Zodiacs for shore excursions in inhospitable areas.

The “Ultramarine” holds ice class 1A, is registered on the Marshall Islands and the cruising speed in open waters is just under 30 km/h. Guests can enjoy a fitness center, sauna, restaurant, bistro bar and panoramic lounge and bar.

Link: Expedition Emperor Penguins 2023

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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