As we've readied the Ocean Endeavour for its upcoming sailings, our Operations team members have put a great deal of work into purchasing, testing, and stocking everything you'll need to participate in a variety of exciting Adventure Options throughout your guided Antarctic cruise.
Operations Manager Jake Morrison has taken two dozen small ship adventures himself and still gets out into the field a few times a year. We asked Jake to tell us a bit about what it took to prepare the Ocean Endeavour, fresh from its multi-million dollar renovation, for this epic season of adventure in Antarctica.
Operations Manager Jake driving a zodiac in the Arctic with Quark
How do you prepare for kayaking adventures on small ship cruises?
Jake: “We have 14 to 18 different kayaks onboard, with a mix of doubles and singles. We've stocked dry suits; accounting for different sizes, we have about 35 dry suits. PFDs (personal flotation devices) are mandatory for safety, and we have a variety of sizes available to make sure passengers find one that fits.
Obviously, kayaking requires quite a bit of other equipment – you have spray skirts for the cockpit of each kayak, so we offer those in different sizes. We also provide pogies, which go over your hands to keep them warm and dry, as well as booties for your feet. All accessories including a dry bag, sponges and pumps are provided.
On Ocean Endeavour, we have a good supply of maintenance kits, sealants and cleaning supplies to ensure the kayaks are kept in great shape.”
What equipment is provided for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Antarctica?
Jake: “We like to have lots of snowshoes and poles in stock, since this can be a really popular choice when offered at certain landing sites, where weather conditions allow.
Those who choose to go skiing are provided cross-country ski boots, skis and poles. Each passenger receives a Quark parka at the start of their journey, so they'll already have a warm, waterproof outer layer. And in the months leading up to your expedition, our Polar Travel Advisers provide packing lists and advice to help you choose the best inner and outer layers. Typically, we try to avoid wearing cotton under layers and encourage you to bring merino wool garments, which have fantastic moisture-wicking properties.
We also stock over 350 pairs of muck boots (you're going to need them for landings!), ranging from men's size 4 to 14, and can accommodate size 15 with advanced request.”
What should I know about Antarctic mountaineering and camping?
Jake: “For mountaineering, passengers are provided harnesses and ropes, helmets, carabineers, shovel, mountaineering boots, ice axe, ice screws, ice hammers and snow stakes.
We can take up to 60 passengers overnight camping in Antarctica and if you want to know what to expect, check out this review from one of our camping guides, Dave Riordan. You can choose to camp out in a tent, but we encourage people to use bivvy bags and sleep under the stars, to take in the full experience. Camping in Antarctica is a cold experience whether you're in the tent or not, but we have great gear to keep people as warm and comfortable as possible. We recently ordered a huge shipment of fleece-lined sleeping bags, which are fantastic for conserving body heat in these conditions.”
What should we know about Zodiac cruising equipment?
Jake: “Ocean Endeavour carries 20 brand new Mark V HD Zodiacs, which are a great luxury. Each one seats 12 people and is outfitted with PFDs, all brand new this year.
Each Zodiac has an extensive safety kit including food rations, water, flares and emergency blankets. Staff carry navigational equipment and HF radio, and rangefinders to stay a safe distance from icebergs.
Quark has its own comprehensive accreditation module for Zodiac drivers. Expedition Leaders are assessed and ranked Level I to V, determining which drivers can attempt specific landing sites. Level IV and V drivers are assigned the more difficult landings.”
How did you prepare for stand-up paddleboarding?
Jake: “Stand-up paddleboarding is an awesome Adventure Option, and judging by the response last year, it's going to be super popular. We conducted a trial launch last year on the Ocean Diamond and now we're launching it this season on the Ocean Endeavour.
This program required a lot of gear be sent to the ship -- the boards themselves, the paddles, and gear similar to the kayak program, including dry suits, PFDs, and neoprene booties to keep participants comfortable and safe. We worked with technical staff to design custom racks to store the equipment onboard, to ensure it stays safe and in great shape.”
It takes a lot of preparation to gear up for various adventure activities in Antarctica and the Arctic, but we're sure you'll agree it's worth it. Contact a Polar Travel Adviser to learn about each of the exciting activities you can participate in on your expedition!