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The Lady and the Kapitan: A Polar Love Story

4 min read

Karina Taylor loves to travel, and for years she has been passionate about a Kapitan.

Powerful and impressive, her Kapitan is no stranger to the rigors of polar travel, sharing the record with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen for reaching 78 degrees south. The Kapitan is also a veteran of the Northwest and Northeast passages - having navigated the Northwest Passage more than any other passenger vessel on Earth - and was the first to circumnavigate Antarctica with guests.

Karina's Kapitan is the Kapitan Khlebnikov (KLB), the world's most powerful icebreaker and a Quark passenger favorite.

Karina and her Kapitan - Photo credit: Karina Taylor
Karina and her Kapitan - Photo credit: Karina Taylor

A civil servant from Melbourne, Australia, Karina first set eyes on the Kapitan Khlebnikov in the early 1990s.

“The travel section in my weekend paper did a lift out on polar travel. I had been fascinated with travel to Antarctica since I read Sir Ernest Shackleton's book South as a kid. The article had photos of several expedition ships and then my eyes fell upon the Khlebnikov and I knew straight away it was the vessel I wanted to travel on,” she explained. “It was big and sturdy and simply magnificent. I cut that picture out and for 15 years or so it was stuck on my fridge.”

Karina began learning everything she could about polar travel, and in 2010, decided it was time to take her dream trip. She contacted Quark and was added to a waiting list for two possible Kapitan Khlebnikov itineraries. It didn't take long for good news to arrive: she was booked for November 2010, for a trip to Antarctica.

“I was elated and spent the year scanning the internet for polar gear. I loved the excitement of parcels arriving from overseas every few weeks with interesting items like waterproof pants, gaiters, buffs and goggles.”

Traveling on an Icebreaker

The time finally arrived, and Karina traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world and a destination in its own right. This embarkation point is where Karina finally saw her Kapitan in person.

As a polar-class icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov combines power and technology with comfort. Its advanced icebreaking technology and 24,000 horsepower engine can navigate the most remote, ice-choked destinations. The vessel has 51 cabins and suites, each featuring private facilities, large windows, desk, hairdryer, robes and large closets.

“As soon as I boarded the KLB in Ushuaia, I felt completely at peace. The cabins are small, practical and comfortable. I loved that the portholes open to let in crisp air. The auditorium where movies and lectures are held seats everyone comfortably. The bridge is huge, and a fantastic place to watch the skilled captain and his team at work.”

The bar, lounge and library are intimate locations for socializing with other passengers, but Karina says the ship is so huge it's never a problem finding a quiet spot on deck to absorb the sights and sounds of some of the most remote vistas in the world.

Photo credit: Karina Taylor
A stunning view - Photo credit: Karina Taylor

Karina remembers she had to keep pinching herself to prove she was really there and not dreaming! The wildlife was amazing, the scenery stunning, and she got to fulfill a lifelong dream during that first trip.

“We enjoyed the most incredibly perfect weather for our days exploring South Georgia Island, enabling us to have multiple landings per day and picturesque scenic Zodiac cruises. It was here I finally stood at the grave of my lifelong idol Sir Ernest Shackleton, toasted his braveness and shed a tear at the realization I was finally really there.”

It was the trip of a lifetime, but just a year later Karina was on board Kapitan Khlebnikov again, headed for East Antarctica. The highlights of that voyage included emperor penguin colonies, iceberg alleys, and Christmas Eve flight-seeing on one of KLB's two helicopters.


Karina and Kapitan Khlebnikov - Photo credit: Karina TaylorThe Icebreaker Experience 

“Flying over pack ice and huge icebergs, ducking and weaving around them thanks to the skills of our amazing pilots, then landing near an ice cave and an emperor colony for the entire day and evening. I don't have the words to describe this day. It was simply perfect. I didn't want it to end.”

Karina says the Expedition teams make the trip, and Quark has some of the best.

“They share an incredible passion for the destination and an amazing knowledge of the history, geology and wildlife. They get just as excited as passengers at the sight of a blue whale or a fluffy emperor penguin chick being fed by its parent,” she recalls.

On-board lectures are informative in themselves, but Karina says the flow of knowledge, information and anecdotes is virtually non-stop.

“The expedition teams go out of their way to ensure each passenger has the experience of a lifetime. They are a credit to Quark and I would happily sail with any of them again. I am happy to call many of them my friends to this day.”

In all, Karina has spent 116 days traveling the Polar Regions in the past four years and has seen about 70% of the Antarctic coast. Every trip is an adventure, and leaves her wanting more.

“Every day is a new and wondrous feeling and experience. Every day takes my breath away. Every day makes me want to plan another trip.”

Fortunately for Karina, there are many options for travel in Antarctica or the Arctic. And for 2016, Khlebnikov will conduct a rare full circumnavigation and semi-circumnavigation of the Arctic, along with four extraordinary Arctic Icebreaker Expeditions.

Contact one of our experienced Polar Travel Advisers today to book your adventure.

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