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Getting an Eyeful in Antarctica: An Emperor Penguinís Perspective


DARIEN, CONNECTICUT - Getting an eyeful of an Emperor Penguin in the birdís natural habitat is difficult. The flightless birds spend most of the year at sea, surfacing to breed on sea ice during the darkest, coldest months of the Antarctic winter. For a few weeks in the austral spring, when the sun returns to melt the sea ice, a visit to a rookery is possible with the right equipment - a polar-class icebreaker.

To visit more than one Emperor rookery during an expedition to Antarctica is rare indeed. Yet during a 38-day, 7200 nautical mile voyage from Stanley, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) to Fremantle, Australia, Quark Expeditions will attempt to visit as many as four different rookeries, hundreds of miles apart.

In a world of hand-held global positioning devices, The Far Side Semi-Circumnavigation is one of the only remaining opportunities for travelers to join an expedition reminiscent of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. Although planned to the last detail, the voyage will embrace the unexpected and unfold in response to local conditions. Using weather forecasts, ice charts, and decades of first-hand experience, the Expedition Team will take advantage of every opportunity presented to explore coastlines where very few travelers have been. Every day participants will awaken certain of only one thing - that anything is possible.

The Far Side Semi-Circumnavigation takes place at the height of the austral summer, when the sun never sets. Once the expedition crosses the Antarctic Circle, and continues south below the 70th degree of latitude, daylight will be continuous.

Guest lecturer and renowned ornithologist Tony Soper, co-founder of the BBCís Natural History Unit, will provide insight into the life cycles of the Emperors and other birds encountered. Historian and geographer Robert Keith Headland, who has spent a lifetime studying the human effects on the polar regions, will be a member of the Expedition Team. Awarded the polar medal in 1984, Mr. Headland is an engaging educator who enjoys sharing his voluminous knowledge of Antarctic history. Encounters with marine mammals will be enriched by marine biologist Jaclyn McPhadden, who, between expeditions, studies orcas off the coast of Vancouver Island.

The expertise needed to operate this expedition includes that of the officers and crew of the icebreaker. Their experience benefits from decades of navigating ice-choked waters in the Arctic and Antarctica and is essential to ensure that this expedition far from civilization operates efficiently and safely.

The icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov is renowned in the field of adventure travel and polar navigation. It is among the few ships in the world that can take travelers through pack ice in the remotest polar regions.

Quark Expeditions is the only polar expedition company equipped to take adventurers to the Far Side of Antarctica. The company, which specializes in polar adventures, has not mounted this expedition since 2003. The voyage is in celebration of International Polar Year, which only occurs once every 50 years. Due to the logistics necessary to mount this expedition, it will be some time before the company offers this again.


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