Last season for popular Polar expedition ship | Polarjournal
The Ocean Adventurer, used by Quark Expeditions, has been sailing to polar regions since 1975 and has served countless guests as a safe and comfortable base for their voyages. (Photo: Michael Wenger)

Vessels are the alpha and omega of an expedition cruise to the polar regions. They are the base and home of the participants, the expedition team and the ship and hotel crew for many months of the year. One of the most popular and longest-serving expedition ships, the Ocean Adventurer, will be sailing into the mists of uncertainty for the last time at the end of the coming Arctic season.

When the Ocean Adventurer docks in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik on October 3, 2024, it will not only mark the end of a 5-month Arctic season for the expedition vessel operated by Quark Expeditions. Rather, it marks the end of an era for one of the most popular and longest-serving expedition ships. Quark has announced that the Ocean Adventurer will be decommissioned and replaced by the newer and slightly larger Ocean Explorer starting the upcoming Antarctic season 24/25. What will happen to the “elderly lady” is not clear yet.

An eventful history

With its classic lines, this easily identifiable ship has had an eventful history in the truest sense of the word. It was built as one of eight units in former Yugoslavia for the Soviet Union. She was planned as a passenger ship for political officials and party members and was equipped from the start with the highest possible ice class for passenger ships and all the comforts. On April 19, 1975, she was launched as the Alla Tarasova. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became difficult to find a proper use for the ship.

It was only at the end of the 1990s and with the advent of polar tourism that she and her sister ship Lyubov Orlova became of interest to tour operators and shipping companies. After a major refit in 1998, she was put back into service as the Clipper Adventurer and sailed various routes until 2007. She was then sold on within the former Clipper Cruise Line. Quark Expeditions operated the ship on a long-term basis, but she was also chartered out to other companies. The ship also changed its name twice again following conversions and renovations: from 2012 it sailed as the Sea Adventurer and from 2017 as the Ocean Adventurer.

Lady with a story

Regardless of its name, the ship was a very popular home base for guests and expedition teams for sometimes unique expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Thanks to the stabilizers, she was usually stable and safe even in the notorious wavy waters around Antarctica and in the Greenland Sea. With its classically elegant shape and highly detailed interior, the Ocean Adventurer was one of the most comfortable expedition ships in the shipping companies’ fleets. Thanks to 5,400 hp and ice class 1A, even voyages in the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean or near the Antarctic Peninsula were no problem. And passengers could always count on her maneuverability (and the skills of the captains).

But the ship’s long history also includes sadder chapters that also made the headlines. The best known is that during a voyage in the Northwest Passage, the ship ran aground on a rock that was known but not marked on the nautical charts. This resulted in a leak and a fuel spill. Nevertheless, the ship was towed to the nearest port and the passengers were safely disembarked. And although such headlines are not welcome, the story of the Ocean Adventurer is still less sad than that of her sister Lyubov Orlova, who made headlines as a ghost ship adrift in the Atlantic, infested with cannibalistic rats, and has probably sunk in the meantime.

The Ocean Adventurer is replaced by the Ocean Explorer, a larger, more modern vessel that also already has made a name. It will pamper guests in the polar regions from the 2024/25 Antarctic season. Image: Quark Expeditions

When one ship leaves, a new one often follows in its wake and this is no different here. Quark has announced that it will deploy the Ocean Explorer from the SunStone Ships shipping company starting at the 2024/25 Antarctic season. She is only slightly larger than the Ocean Adventurer in terms of passenger numbers (138 instead of 128), but is also equipped with many of the comfort features that are now often offered and meets the latest safety standards. The ULSTEIN X-BOW ® makes the vessel also more stable and she is running quieter, faster, and will ensure a smooth and safe ride in the wavy waters.

Many people are likely to remember the name of the ship, as she is also a lady with a history. Last year, she made the headlines when she ran aground on a sandbank in East Greenland and had to wait days for help. At that time, like the Ocean Adventurer back in 2010, she had been used by another provider. The two ships therefore already share a history and it is to be hoped that the new Ocean Explorer will inspire its guests for just as long as the Ocean Adventurer has done over the years and which will now be on the polar stage for the last time.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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