A special guest blog post from Hans Lagerweij, Portfolio Managing Director, TUI North American Specialist Group.
Since I joined Quark Expeditions® as president in 2010, our North Pole voyages have always fascinated me.
First, there is the ship, which is unlike any other vessel in the Polar Regions. The 50 Years of Victory was the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker until this year, when the Arktika launched. With an incredible 74,000 horsepower, Victory can break through 10-foot (3 meter) thick multiyear ice at the same speed that a regular expedition cruise ship sails through water.
Then there is the itinerary itself – unparalleled amongst other voyages on offer. All of Quark's North Pole expeditions start in Murmansk, Russia. It's fascinating to realize that 300,000 people live there, above the Arctic Circle, making it the largest city this far north. From this embarkation point, the voyage immediately heads straight to 90°N. Upon arrival at the North Pole, we celebrate with a champagne toast and, if conditions allow, have a barbecue, go on hot air balloon rides and maybe even partake in a polar plunge. On our return south, we visit the archipelago of Franz Josef Land, which features outstanding beauty, fascinating history and arctic wildlife, such as polar bears, whales and walrus.
In the summer of 2017, Quark will add an extra program to the July 20 departure: the first North Pole Summit: Breaking Ice. Breaking Barriers. On this special voyage, 7 international thought leaders will share their unique perspectives on everything from climate change to environmental issues to how to pursue your dreams.
Traveling on any polar expedition with Quark brings a rare global perspective to all participants. Quark is a true global citizen: passengers hail from over 50 countries and represent different age groups and faiths. What binds us together is our quest for discovery and exploration, as well as a shared passion for the unique natural environments that our planet offers.
We believe it is important to unite the passion of both our expedition staff and our passengers. As global citizens, we can raise awareness and become champions for some of the major challenges our world faces today.
Global warming is an obvious one, especially as it relates to the Polar Regions; however, there is also an enormous stress on wildlife around the globe. Although not a polar animal, elephants are one such example. This past summer, the results of the Great Elephant Census revealed some worrisome findings: only 350,000 African elephants remain, and 144,000 elephants were lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade.
You don't have to excel at math to understand the significance of those numbers. And unless we act globally by supporting the local communities involved, banning corruption, fighting poaching, stopping ivory trade* and protecting and restoring natural habitats, our grandchildren will only be able to see elephants in zoos.
Next is probably the polar bear, whose natural habitat is also severely threatened.
As global citizens, it's time to act now.
I'm looking forward to being a part of this special North Pole voyage this summer – both for the thrill of the destination and for the programming and opportunity to take part in these important discussions that I'm passionate about. I hope you'll join me on this once-in-a-lifetime expedition to the North Pole in 2017.
*British citizens and U.K. residents can act now by signing this petition to fully stop the ivory trade in the United Kingdom.