This year, we arrived in Svalbard in the beginning of May and were greeted by a fairy-tale winter landscape. The premiere trip was followed by four months of adventures, and when we in September bid farewell to our Artic pearl, autumn had arrived and the archipelago had started to prepare for the dark polar night. Via the link below, please find a slideshow with a selection of images and film clips that summarises this year's unforgettable Svalbard season.
Since 1999, we have gathered travellers from all around the world to explore the enchanting Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. After nearly 20 seasons up in the north we can look back at many memorable trips, all of them unique. When we embark one of our expedition ships and head out in the unspoiled wilderness, we are fully dependent on weather and wind, ice and wildlife. Flexibility, unpredictability and grand nature experiences are the main keywords when you travel to Svalbard with PolarQuest.
Think of a Scottish castle set on a Hebridean rock, inhabited for 700 years by the same family, surrounded by wild and beautiful gardens, and you have an idea of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, which we visited this morning. M/S Stockholm pulled up close to its battlements just like the galleys of centuries ago, and we came ashore beneath its lofty stone tower flying the ancestral clan flag of the Macleods. Inside the castle, elegant 19th century rooms led through thick ancient walls to medieval chambers and even dungeons where many a prisoner was incarcerated in turbulent times.
Then, sailing northwards and westwards, we came upon the Shiant Islands, a lonely group of small, steep basaltic islands, once inhabited and farmed, but now the home only of seabirds and seals. A Zodiac cruise took us into their realm of cliffs and magical caves: razorbills and guillemots flew overhead or formed groups in the water, rock pipits filled the air with their song, fulmars nested on ledges, puffins started to come in to land, and everywhere the watchful seals thronged the rocks and sea around us. In the distance little fishing boats from the Outer Hebrides ploughed the waves while, high above, a pair of white-tailed sea eagles soared. A truly Hebridean day of history and nature, land and sea.
Every spring, PolarQuest organizes a Guide Seminar so all our fantastic guides can meet and prepare for the upcoming Svalbard season, and during two days about two weeks ago we finally got together once again! The days were both busy and instructive with activities such as CPR and practical exercises to become even better at collaborating in the field.
Its approximately 450 inhabitants mainly live of fishing and hunting and have 800 km between them and their closest neighbours. But it’s not only the local pub, the supermarket with freeze-dried food or the little souvenir shop that make the village well worth a visit – it’s the impressively grand nature, the small and colorful houses and the feeling of being very, very far away that affects you. A huge ice cap surrounds Ittoqqortoormiit for nine months, but for a short period of time expedition ships can stop by, and we plan to make a visit during our trip to northeast Greenland with the expedition ship Ocean Nova in September! Join us!
Punta Espinosa is the only landing site on Galapagos youngest island Fernandina. Here we are extra careful since this island is free from feral animals and plants and this is probably how all the islands looked before man arrived. It is a privilege to visit such a pristine place with such remarkable creatures like the flightless cormorant - the only cormorant without ability to fly. Here we also found the largest gathering of marine iguanas we had seen on this trip. We also snorkeled here before lunch.
Underneath the dramatic cliffs on the northernmost part of Isabela, at the Punta Vicente Roca, we saw sea lions and blue footed boobies fishing for food and laying around on the rocks. In the evening we crossed the equator and celebrated with a toast!
AECO represents cruising industry in new Search and Rescue network.
The cruise industry will collaborate with authorities and researches developing the project Arctic Search and Rescue through participating in a new network of operators and stakeholders that togheter will work for a safe Arctic marine environment. With fundings from EU, the project will run for five years and include a live excersise at sea with cruising ships. As a AECO and ASCAR member, PolarQuest will provide with one of our cruising ships to the planned excersise, something we are very proud of and look forward to do!
The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) is one of 21 interational stakeholders and operators that togheter work to strenghten cooperation and innovation in security and emergency response in the Arctic and the North Atlantic, and the expedition cruise industry welcomes the opportunity to contribute to safe Arctic navigation. The network, called ASCAR, is led by Joint Rescue Coordination Center North-Norway, where Search and Rescue (SAR) will be an important focus area for the project. AECO, which represents the majority of expedition cruise operators that sail in Arctic waters, will work closely with authorities, SAR responders and researchers to determine how SAR preparedness and response can be strengthened and developed.
Frigg Jørgensen, Executive director of AECO, says that passenger ships has an important role in the work for a safe Arctic marine environment. “During Search and Rescue operations in remote parts of the Arctic, expedition cruise ships can be the first to arrive on site. Cruise ships carry food, water, medical supplies, doctors, numerous high speed small vessels and other resources that are useful in SAR operations. Previous tabletop exercises organized by AECO and SAR entities have shown that there is a potential for making better use of these resources. ARCSAR’s planned live exercise will be a valuable opportunity to continue to learn and improve cooperation.”