Explore the Arctic with Quark Expeditions for your Chance to Win!

Click the icons on the legend to explore this interactive map. Discover all the wonders the Arctic region has to offer; spectacular Northern Lights, unique wildlife including the elusive polar bear, ancient Viking history and the legendary North Pole. Look out for some surprise fun facts along the way.

Enter the contest and you could find yourself exploring the Arctic with Quark Expeditions in 2015.

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Snowy owl

  • Among the largest owls in the Arctic, stands 50-60 cm (1.75 - 2 ft) high, with a wingspan of 140-160 cm (4.5 - 5.5 ft).
  • Feeds on small rodents including voles and lemmings.
  • Typically found in the northern circumpolar region.

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Snow bunting

  • Small isolated populations on a few vegetated valleys in most parts of the low Arctic.
  • Builds its bulky nest in rock crevices.
  • Eggs hatch in 12–13 days, and the young are ready to fly after 12–14 days.

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Snow goose

  • Breeds in Greenland and north of the tree line in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia.
  • Winters in more southerly warm parts of North America and Eurasia.
  • They are visitors to the British Isles during migrations.

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Puffin

  • Known as "little brother of the north".
  • The three species Atlantic, Horned and Tufted each with distinct distributions.
  • They generally live in large colonies.

See live Puffin cam footage


Arctic fox (also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox)

  • A small fox of about 85 cm (2.5 feet) long body excluding the bushy tail.
  • Common throughout the Arctic tundra biome.
  • Has deep thick fur, brown or bluish in summer and white in winter.


Arctic hare (also known as the polar rabbit)

  • Can run up to 60 KM per hour (40 mph).
  • Has a keen sense of smell and may dig for willow twigs under the snow.
  • Female hares can have up to eight baby hares called leverets.


Polar bear

Polar bear

  • An adult male is called a boar and weighs around 350–700 kg (770–1,540 lb).
  • An adult female is called a sow and is about half that size.
  • Their skin is actually black their hair is translucent white.

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Reindeer/Caribou

  • These are known as Caribou in North America and reindeer in Europe and Asia.
  • The only deer in which male and females both have antlers.
  • Alaskan caribou trek north in the summer in one of the largest animal migrations on Earth.


Muskox

  • In winter, they use their hooves to dig through snow to graze on plants.
  • In summer, they supplement their diet with Arctic flowers and grasses.
  • Groups of two or three dozen animals are sometimes led by a single female.


Wolverine

  • Fierce omnivorous feeders which eat almost anything available.
  • They do not hibernate.
  • Well adapted to the snow, with dense fur and large snowshoe-like paws.

Arctic wolf (also known as a snow wolf or white wolf)

  • Can survive in sub-zero temperatures for months in winter darkness.
  • Can go without food for weeks.
  • Like all wolves, they hunt in packs, preying mainly on caribou and muskox.

Lynx

  • Have a short tail and characteristic tufts of black hair on the tips of their ears.
  • Usually solitary, although a small group of lynx may travel and hunt together.
  • Eat mice, lemmings, squirrels, and birds, but prefer the snowshoe hare.

Ribbon seal

  • Distinguished by its striking fur colours, it has two wide white strips and two circles.
  • Diet consists of fish, squid and octopus.
  • Is a solitary animal and forms no herds.

Bearded seal

  • The bearded seal gets its name from its long white whiskers.
  • The females are bigger than the males.
  • Within only a week of birth, the pups are capable of diving up to of 60 m (200 feet).

Ringed seal

  • The smallest of the Arctic seals, and the primary food source for the polar bear.
  • Small heads, short cat-like snouts, and plump bodies.
  • Usually have a silvery to dark grey colour on the underside and darker back with small markings.

Spotted seal

  • Usually breed in isolated pairs.
  • They may congregate in breeding areas but each pair likes to keep its distance.
  • Mainly feed upon fish and crustaceans.

Harp seal

  • Have very dark eyes, with a black harp or wishbone-shaped mark on its back.
  • May dive to nearly 300 m (1,000 ft) , and may remain submerged for up to 15 minutes.
  • The young seals are famous for their snowy white coats.

Hooded seal

  • A striking inflatable bright red nasal appendage adorns the head of sexually mature males.
  • Pups are called "blue-backs" because their coats are blue-grey on the back with whitish bellies.
  • Their diets are composed primarily of various crustaceans.

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Walrus

  • One of the largest of the many families of seal.
  • A group of walruses is called either a herd or a pod wallow, when on land.
  • Recognized by their tusks, which both males and females have.

Blue whale

  • The blue whale is the largest animal ever known to have lived on Earth; they can weigh over 330,000 pounds (150,000 kg).
  • They mainly catch their food by diving, and descend to depths of approximately 500m.
  • Have a filtering system which is made up of baleen plates that hang from their upper jaw. The filters are used to catch tiny animals, plants and krill from the ocean water.

Narwhal

Narwhals (or narwhale)

  • A medium-sized toothed whale and the animal with the largest canine tooth.
  • Also known as the unicorn of the sea.
  • During the winter, they feed on benthic prey at depths of up to 1500 metres (4600 ft) under dense ice floes.

Orcas (also known as the killer whale or orca whale)

  • Worldwide population estimates are uncertain, but thought to be at least 50,000.
  • Normal behavior generally consists of foraging, travelling, resting and socialising.
  • Are among the most intelligent species of marine mammals whale.

Beluga

  • Calves are born gray or brown and fade to white at around five years of age.
  • White whales are smallish, ranging from 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6.1 meters) in length.
  • They have rounded foreheads and no dorsal fin.

Penguin

It is a common mistake to think penguins live in the Arctic and Polar bears live in the Antarctic. They do not. In the 1930s, attempts were made to introduce new animal species to regions where they were not naturally represented. Reindeer were shipped from Norway to South Georgia, and penguins were imported to Norway.

Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon

  • An amazing pure white bird seen in north Greenland and Ellesmere Island.
  • A predator of many birds and small mammals.
  • Flies high and patrols a large territory ready to swoop on prey.

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Ross' Gull

Ross' Gull

  • The most sought-after bird in the world by birders.
  • The most Arctic of all gulls.
  • The first known North American breeding site was only discovered in 1980, in Churchill, Manitoba.

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Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

  • "Fulmar" is Dutch for foul gull.
  • Found in the northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
  • They often soar after ships.

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Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

  • Its migration pattern can cover over 18,000 km (11,000 miles), from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
  • At one time, the millinery trade provided a severe threat to their existence, since their feathers were in great demand.
  • They establish long-term pair bonds with contact being re-established upon return to the breeding colony.

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Spectacled and Steller's Eiders

Spectacled and Steller's Eiders

  • Spectacled eiders of either sex are distinguished by the large "spectacles" of white or light brown, that encircle each eye.
  • The male steller's eider has an almost entirely white head, except for a black eyespot.
  • The wings of both sexes cause a whistling sound in flight.

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Black-Legged Kittiwake

Black-Legged Kittiwake

  • Earned its name from its onomatopoeic call.
  • Pacific populations winter south along the coasts to Baja California.
  • Breeds on steep, coastal cliffs of islands and has the longest claws of any gull because of its cliff-nesting habits.

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The North Magnetic Pole

The North Magnetic Pole is distinct from the Geographic North Pole.

  • It moves over time due to magnetic changes in the Earth's core.
  • Here the planet's magnetic field points vertically.
  • A magnetic compass needle will point to it until but loses direction on getting closer.

Svalbard

Svalbard is an archipelago, and Spitsbergen is the largest island in the archipelago.

  • Spitsbergen is the only island with any major human settlement.
  • Around 60% of Svalbard is made up of glaciers.
  • Longyearbyen has the northernmost gourmet restaurant in the world: Huset.

Greenland

The largest high-Arctic land area and the world's largest island.

  • Contains the world's largest national park.
  • 81% of Greenland’s land is covered by an ice sheet.
  • Home to the world’s fastest moving glacier.

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Novaya Zemlya (Russian Arctic)

Novaya Zemlya consists of two islands parted by the Matochkin Shar.

  • The Northern Island, Severny is mostly mountainous.
  • The Southern Island, Yuzhny is by and large tundra.
  • Its mountain chain is part of the Urals which divide Europe and Asia.

Canadian Arctic

Colloquially known as the ‘Far North’, the Canadian Arctic has three territories:

  1. Yukon
  2. Northwest Territories
  3. Nunavut

Franz Josef Land (Russian Arctic)

Franz Josef Land is a tightly-knit group of about 191 islands.

  • 85% of Franz Josef Land is glaciated.
  • The archipelago is uninhabited except for small weather stations.
  • Arctic poppies can be found on all the islands.

Arctic Ocean

As anyone who's paid attention in Geography class should know, the Arctic Ocean is the world's smallest and shallowest ocean, covering an area of 1,056,000km² (542,427,000 sq. mi). The Arctic is altmost completely covered by sea ice in winter and partly through summer, when the heat can melt away up to 50% of the Arctic's sea ice.

The Arctic generally has very little coastline, and is mostly made up from the Arctic Ocean. The North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

Unlike many other oceans of the world, the Arctic Ocean has very low salinity due to the inflow from rivers and streams and lack of outflow with the salty waters of other oceans. The lack of evaporation also helps keep the water of the Arctic Ocean fresh. Glaciers and icebergs are therefore made from fresh water, and make up around 20% of Earth's fresh water supply.

Close but no cigar

  • There have been many who set out with the intention of reaching the North Pole, but in the end never quite managed it.
  • In 1871 the American Charles Francis Hall led the Polaris expedition which ran aground and was wrecked at Etah, Greenland.
  • Amazingly the crew survived the winter and were rescued in the Summer of 1872.

Find out more


Claims and Successes

  • The explorer Robert Peary claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909, although there actually isn’t any evidence to support this. In fact, many argued that with the equipment he used, the expedition could not have succeeded.
  • Ralph Plaisted reached the North Pole over the ice in 1968 and flew out, Wally Herbert crossed the Arctic via the North Pole in 1969.
  • Discrepancies over distances and speeds recorded by Peary and his team still cast doubt over their achievements to this day although the controversy continues.

Find out more

First to the pole

  • Success stories weren’t reliable until the 20th century, when claims could be substantiated.
  • It was on May 12th 1926 the crew of the airship Norge recorded the first undisputed sighting of the Pole.
  • However it wasn’t until 1948 - when the Soviet party commanded by Alexander Kuznetsov landed their aircraft close by and walked to the Pole – that the first people, undoubtedly, walked on the North Pole.
  • Quark was the first to take passengers from Murmansk, Russia to the North Pole in 1990. In 2015, Quark will operate its last three voyages to the North Pole aboard 50 Years of Victory.

Find out more


Close but no cigar

  • There have been many who set out with the intention of reaching the North Pole, but in the end never quite managed it.
  • In 1808 Frederick Cook claimed to have reached the pole in the year before Robert Peary made his similar claim.
  • Though later debunked, his expedition did discover Meighen Island, the only discovery by a United States expedition of an island in the American Arctic.

Find out more


Close but no cigar

  • There have been many who set out with the intention of reaching the North Pole, but in the end never quite managed it.
  • In 1895 Fridtjof Nansen set out for the pole from his ship the Fram.
  • However, worried they wouldn't have enough supplies to reach the pole and then Franz Josef Land the expedition turned back on the 7th April Nansen observed the way ahead was "a veritable chaos of ice blocks stretching as far as the horizon."

Find out more


Close but no cigar

  • There have been many who set out with the intention of reaching the North Pole, but in the end never quite managed it.
  • In 1879 The USS Jeannette under Lt. Cdr. DeLong set out for the pole but was caught fast in pack ice near Wrangel Island.
  • For 21 months the ship drifted to the northwest, closer the North Pole. In June 1881, Bennett Island was discovered and claimed for the U.S.

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Close but no cigar

  • There have been many who set out with the intention of reaching the North Pole, but in the end never quite managed it.
  • In 1827 the British naval officer, William Edward Parry set off from Spitzbergen at Seven Islands.
  • He reached 82°45'N which remained the highest latitude attained for 49 years.

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Franklin's Lost Expedition

  • Quark Expeditions' best-selling voyage is based around Franklin's lost expedition to the Arctic.
  • Franklin's expedition, in 1845, became icebound in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Quark Expeditions follows Franklin's wake and takes explorers on a thirteen-day voyage including the fastest moving glacier in the world.

Find out more


Introduction to Spitsbergen Spitsbergen Explorer Spitsbergen Circumnavigation Three Arctic Islands East Greenland Arctic Quest In the Footsteps of Franklin Epic High Arctic North Pole Greenland Explorer Iceland Circumnavigation Northwest Passage Scotland to Norway Tromso, Bear Island and Spitsbergen Greenland’s Far North

Spitsbergen Circumnavigation

Big Island, Big Adventure


The complete in-depth Svalbard experience takes you around Spitsbergen, the Seven Islands, Edgeøya, Nordaustlandet and the smaller outlying islands of the archipelago.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Enjoy the same highlights as the Spitsbergen Explorer.
  • Iconic Arctic wildlife: polar bears, harp seals, Arctic hares, minke whales and more.
  • Visit monaco glacier, hike through Arctic tundra and polar desert.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Spitsbergen Explorer

Wildlife Capital of the Arctic


Located above the Arctic Circle, Spitsbergen welcomes travellers from around the world to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Unique Arctic wildlife – polar bears, walrus, reindeer.
  • Polar desert exploration.
  • Continuous summer daylight.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Introduction to Spitsbergen

Polar Bear Safari


A perfect introductory voyage to the Svalbard archipelago, this 9-day expedition will satisfy those short on time while still promising Arctic flora, fauna and icescapes.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Unique Arctic wildlife – polar bears, walrus, reindeer.
  • Continuous summer daylight.
  • Tundra hiking with amazing flora.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Three Arctic Islands

Iceland, Greenland, Spitsbergen


Voted one of the Top Tours of a Lifetime by National Geographic Traveler, this is recommended for those who want to experience the contrasting beauties of three diverse Arctic countries.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Spitsbergen, Greenland, Iceland.
  • Arctic wildlife: polar bears, musk ox, reindeers, walruses and bird cliffs.
  • Glaciers, icebergs and fjords.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

East Greenland

Northern Lights


The east coast of Greenland is known to be a top place to see the Northern Lights dance, which the Greenlandic people believe is their legendary ancestors spirits playing in the sky.”

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Spectacular Greenland landscape.
  • World’s largest fjord system.
  • World's largest and most remote national park.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Arctic Quest

Greenland to Churchill


Quark Expeditions’ most in-depth Arctic voyage, this expedition offers wildlife, history, culture and tradition for those interested in an immersive Arctic experience!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Arctic wildlife – polar bears, walrus, and massive seabird colonies.
  • Unique landscapes of west Greenland and Canada.
  • Traditional Inuit Communities.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

In the Footsteps of Franklin

Greenland and Canada’s High Arctic


Sail north along Greenland’s western coast towards Canada’s High Arctic to see spectacular limestone bird cliffs, the prehistoric muskox, and rich history dating back thousands of years.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Unique Arctic wildlife — polar bears, walrus, whales, and massive sea bird colonies.
  • West Greenland and Canada’s High Arctic.
  • Traditional Canadian Inuit and Greenlandic communities.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Epic High Arctic

Baffin Island Explorer via Fury and Hecla


Visit remote National Historic Sites of Canada, settlements from 4,000 year-old cultures as well as Cape Dorset, Canada’s capital of Inuit Art.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Arctic wildlife – polar bears, whales, and massive sea bird colonies.
  • Experience the sites of the rarely traversed Fury & Hecla Strait.
  • Traditional Inuit Communities.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

The North Pole

The Ultimate Arctic Adventure


The culmination of Arctic expedition endeavors; crushing through the ice, admiring soaring seabirds and visiting Franz Josef Land, your voyage will be one that you will never forget.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Top of the World 90° N.
  • Nuclear-powered icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory.
  • Helicopter flights and optional aerial sightseeing by hot air balloon.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Greenland Explorer

Valleys and Fjords


Sailing Greenland's coast is the best way to sample the rich history and diversity of this beautiful and dramatic country where you will encounter an ancient culture surviving in a modern world.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • UNESCO World Heritage site Ilulissat Icefjord.
  • Historic places from Norse and Viking eras.
  • Arctic wildlife such as whales, birds and seals.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Iceland Circumnavigation

Ultimate Fire and Ice


Explore this small island of geological extremes; encounter volcanic landscapes to lava fields, ice sheets, gushing hot springs and cascading waterfalls.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit Golden Circle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Visit the Blue Lagoon and the highland lava desert and sulfur pits of Húsavík.
  • Arctic bird life such as puffins, and great whale watching opportunities.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Northwest Passage

Franklin's Legend (Westbound)


For centuries, fortune-seekers risked their lives to find the Northwest Passage. Experience first-hand those islands, waterways and wilds that still yield a gratifying sense of achievement for all those who make the voyage.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore Beechey Island, made famous by explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen.
  • Iconic Arctic wildlife: muskox, caribou, polar bears, Arctic fox and more.
  • Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Scotland to Norway

Crossing the Arctic Circle


This mystical expedition cruise offers rich culture and wildlife experiences, including some rare opportunities that will delight those interested in birding.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The ancient history of the Scottish Isles combined with the exceptional landscape of the Norwegian Fjords.
  • Enjoy amazing bird life, with thousands of North Atlantic seabirds.
  • Sail deeper into fjords and visit islands that larger ships cannot.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Tromso, Bear Island and Spitsbergen

Fjords and Bears


Discover the Svalbard Archipelago and explore the wildlife haven of Spitsbergen, a rugged land of deep fjords, mountains and ice sheets. Search for walrus, reindeer, and polar bear.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Unique Arctic wildlife: polar bears, walrus, reindeer.
  • Polar desert exploration.
  • Snowshoeing on selected expeditions.
  • Optional kayak adventure.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Greenland’s Far North

Ultimate Thule


Explore the Thule region, synonymous with ‘the true Greenland’ for its untouched icescapes and sparsely populated Inuit communities.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The beauty of the fjords of West Greenland.
  • Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Unique Arctic wildlife – polar bears, walrus, narwhal, whales, and huge sea bird colonies.

See the full itinerary and detailed voyage map

Arctic Monkey

The Arctic Monkey was discovered in 2002. It is well known for its alarming, loud and shrill tones. Proving popular, Arctic Monkeys have since spread across dance floors all over the United Kingdom and into homes. It is the only animal to possess seven Brit awards, 2 Mercury music awards and has been nominated for two grammies. No arctic creature has had such proven success in the music industry as the Arctic Monkey.

The Northern Lights
  • The aurora borealis is a pattern of coloured lights sometimes seen in the night sky in most northern parts of the world.
  • Caused by solar particles impinging on the Earth's atmosphere.
  • In the southern hemisphere the aurora australis or Southern Lights are equivalent.

See number 38 in this link to find out more >


Highest Temperature Recorded
  • Fort Yukon, Alaska has recorded an extreme high temperature of 37°C (100°F).
Lowest Temperature Recorded
  • The lowest world temperature recorded in inhabited areas was not recorded in the Arctic.
  • Thermometers plunged to -68°C (–90.4°F) in Oymyakon, Siberia (Feb 6 1933).
Arctic Sea Ice
  • The average summer area by which the area of Arctic sea ice has diminished since 1979 is 10% per decade.
  • Many scientists predict the Arctic Ocean could be seasonally ice-free within a few decades.
Polar Atmospheric Vortex
  • A polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near either of the planet’s geographical poles.
  • Also known as a polar cyclone or circumpolar whirl.
  • A cold-core, low pressure area of counter-clockwise circulating air, typically spanning less than 1000 km (620 miles).

Find out more >

Tree line
  • Boreal forest occurs only to the south of the tree line.
  • Above it the vegetation is tundra.
  • Dwarf willows may be many decades old but stand barely 15 cm (6 in) high.
Hot Springs

Greenland

  • Hot Springs southern Greenland has a few: the water is heated by deep layers in the Earth's crust moving against each other.
  • Unlike Iceland, where hot springs are caused by volcanic activity
  • The hottest spring in Greenland is around 60 °C (140 °F), in Iceland some are boiling

Fastest moving glacier

Greenland

  • The world’s fastest moving glacier is the Jakobshavn Glacier.
  • It is moving at 46 metres a day.
  • It drains 6.5 percent of the Greenland ice sheet per year.

Blue Lagoon

Geothermal spa, Iceland

  • The warm water, around 37–39 °C (98–102 °F) is rich in minerals particularly silica and sulphur.
  • Bathing in it is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases.

National Park

Greenland

  • Greenland's National Park is the world's largest.
  • It covers a whopping 972,000 sq. km.
  • That’s almost the size of France and Spain combined!

Find out more >

Flora of Spitsbergen

Svalbard is home to many species of mosses, lichens, grasses, herbs, and flowers; many of which have developed various adaptations in order to survive in the cold climate.

  • Plants in the Arctic are able to grow under a layer of snow.
  • Some Arctic plants, such as lichens, can survive on bare rock.
  • The long hours of sunlight in the summer months are used to produce flowers quickly within this short time period.
Norwegian Fjord System

A fjord is formed when a glacier retreats, after carving its typical U-shaped valley, and the sea fills the resulting valley floor. This forms a narrow, steep sided inlet (sometimes deeper than 1300 metres) connected to the sea.

  • Norway has over 1100 fjords.
  • Fjords can be deeper than the oceans that they empty into due to the force of the descending glacier carving into the bedrock.

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About Quark Expeditions ®

For over 20 years, Quark Expeditions® has been the leading provider of polar adventure travel. With its diverse fleet of specially equipped vessels and seasoned expedition leaders, they offer travelers unparalleled access to the most remote regions on earth: the Arctic and Antarctica.

In 2013, Quark Expeditions® was voted "World's Leading Polar Expedition Operator" by the World Travel Awards, received the "Blow the Budget" award from the Amadeus & World Travel Mart Travel Experience Awards and was named one of National Geographic Traveler's 50 Tours of a Lifetime for their "Three Arctic Islands" voyage.

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