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Emperor Penguin Quest:  Expedition to Snow Hill

Emperor Penguin Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill

Duration
14 days
Departing From
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
Starting Price
CA$37,200 CAD
(Incl. Transfer Package)
Adventure Options
Helicopter_Black
Zodiac
Hiking
Paddling
Photography
Stand up Paddleboarding

In 2004, Quark Expeditions made polar history when they conducted the first-ever ground visit to the remote emperor penguin colony near Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Driven by a true expeditionary spirit—and guided by years of polar expertise—our team sailed past masses of dense ice and thick, tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea to experience the legendary rookery, which now numbers 8,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins. Today, it is one of the most exclusive wildlife viewing experiences on the planet. We invite you—almost two decades after our milestone visit of 2004—to embrace the thrill of the search as we once again set out to visit to the emperor penguins at Snow Hill Island. 

Experience a true polar quest as we journey on our new ship, Ultramarine, which is equipped with two twin-engine helicopters that will fly guests to the vicinity of this rarely-visited rookery, whereupon they will walk across the thick sea ice to stand within metres of the most coveted penguin species on the planet. Anticipate scenes reminiscent of “March of the Penguins” and BBC’s “Frozen Planet.” Just imagine the penguins tobogganing across the ice towards the sea. Such wildlife moments are too precious for words!

Available Itinerary

2023 Antarctica Season
14Days
Starting inBuenos Aires, Argentina
Prices from (per person) CA$37,200 CAD
(Incl. Transfer Package)
Day 1
Arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Upon arriving in this fascinating city, known for its architecture and rich European heritage, you will independently transfer to your group hotel (pre-expedition hotel night included in mandatory transfer package).

Day 2
Fly to Ushuaia and Embark

After an early breakfast at the hotel, your group will transfer to the airport and board our private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. Upon arrival, you will be transferred from the airport to a central downtown location to enjoy time on your own to explore quaint Ushuaia—the world’s southernmost city—before making your way to the pier. After a late afternoon embarkation, you will sail along the historic Beagle Channel, which transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America. Enjoy the air of anticipation as you depart—the next land you see will be the Antarctic!

Days 3 and 4
Crossing the Drake Passage

The unpredictable and exciting Drake Passage, which lies at the confluence of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Southern oceans, is an adventure unto itself. While being well taken care of by our expert onboard staff and expedition team, you’ll have plenty of time to gaze out at the expansive ocean waters, photograph seabirds as they swoop around the ship, and get to know your Expedition Team and fellow travelers.

Day 5
Navigating into the Weddell Sea

Onboard presentations by world-respected experts will enrich your polar quest, conveying what it was like a century ago for the brave polar heroes who embraced the unknown. You’ll also learn more about the ice-dwelling emperor penguins.

Days 6 to 10
Weddell Sea and the Quest to Land at Snow Hill

The journey toward Snow Hill Island will put you in explorer mode as the captain and Expedition Leader keep you updated through weather briefings, meteorological and sea ice condition reports. The thickness of ice will determine how close Ultramarine can get to Snow Hill Island, then our twin-engine helicopters will take over.

Like summitting a mountain from base camp, parties will set out from Ultramarine towards the emperor penguin colony. Their adventure begins with an extended helicopter transfer that will reveal a landscape of snow-capped peaks and apartment-building-sized tabular icebergs. The rookery itself is located on the sea ice off the south coast of Snow Hill Island and the landing will be as close to the penguins as possible, yet at a safe distance to avoid disturbing the birds. Upon landing, your party will walk across the ice to the fabled emperor penguin colony. The wind. The ice beneath your feet. Walking next to paths in the snow carved by penguins that came before. And then there are the incredible sounds of the penguins in the distance as you march toward one of the rarest wildlife opportunities on the planet: the colony of thousands and thousands of rarely-seen emperor penguins.

The goal of the expedition is to get every guest to the remote rookery once. The Expedition Team and special experts will be close by to answer your questions and ensure you take in everything there is to see. You’ll observe close up how the emperor penguins behave as a tight-knit community, how they care for their young, and how they body surf across the ice in a way that can only be described as quirky yet efficient. The helicopter expedition in search of the emperor colony might just be the adventure of a lifetime

And while at base on Ultramarine with your attentive Expedition Team, you’ll be immersed each day in the polar experience of the Weddell Sea. Daily activities will include Zodiac cruising among the icebergs, adventuring and learning while atop the ice, paddle-on-top kayaking, or working with our team to observe the weather forecasting and ship operations up close. 

A particularly enriching component of your voyage will be the bespoke educational programs tailored specifically for this expedition that offer both traditional (lecture format) and hands-on opportunities for learning about this fascinating region. Each day our polar experts, who include penguin scientists, biologists and polar historians, will present on various aspects of emperor penguins and their behaviors, ice formations such as the tabular icebergs which you’ll see from the deck of your ship, and the experiences of polar explorers who braved the Weddell Sea over a century ago. Or you might, on one of these days, decide to take the polar plunge, or test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard. Then again, maybe you’ll enjoy a little pampering. If so, you can choose from Ultramarine’s excellent onboard amenities, including the spa, sauna and fitness room.

The emperor penguin colony at Snow Hill is the goal of this expedition. However, if weather or ice conditions prevent us from visiting the colony or shorten the duration of our visit, we may explore some of these other sites. Your possible landings in Antarctica will take place on the eastern side of the Peninsula, which is an extension of the Transantarctic Mountains and is the most northern stretch of Antarctic land. 

Brown Bluff
An immense cliff of volcanic rock, towers 2,225 feet (678 meters) over rookeries of Adélie and gentoo penguins, some of which will be incubating their eggs.

Devil Island
The Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04 discovered the narrow island, which is 1 mile (1.6 km) long and has a low summit at each end.

Hope Bay
Three members of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition (1901-04) spent the winter in a hut on the shores of Hope Bay. The hut is located close to the jetty of Esperanza Station, an Argentine research station.

Paulet Island
Located in the northwestern Weddell Sea, Paulet Island is home to a large Adélie penguin rookery. With a volcanic cone that rises 1,158 feet (353 meters), the island reminds you that this was once a very active landscape. In addition to penguins, you may be interested in visiting a historic hut built by members of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1901-04. A cross marks the gravesite of crew member Ole Wennersgaard.

Seymour Island
Northeast of Snow Hill Island is a smaller island that was originally mistaken for a cape. Seymour Island is significant for fossil finds and for the remains of the KT Boundary, which marks the transition between the Cretaceous Period (dinosaurs and reptiles) and the Tertiary Period (mammals) of geological times. This era is known for the mass extinction of many forms of life, including dinosaurs. 

Days 11 to 13
Cruising

The journey back across the Drake Passage provides a final opportunity to enjoy the invigorating Southern Ocean air. Spend time on the deck watching for seabirds and scouting for whales, enjoy presentations by your Expedition Team, and celebrate the experiences you've shared getting off the beaten track in the remarkable world of Antarctica.

Day 14
Disembark in Ushuaia and Fly to Buenos Aires

You will arrive in Ushuaia in the morning and disembark after breakfast. The mandatory transfer package includes a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park for a taste of Patagonia, after which you’ll transfer to the airport for the return group charter flight to Buenos Aires.

Reminder

Important reminder: Embracing the unexpected is part of the legacy – and excitement – of expedition travel. There are no guarantees that we can achieve everything we set out to accomplish. A measure of flexibility is something all of us must bring to a voyage. There are nearly 200 recognized sites in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetlands and the places mentioned above may be changed to others equally as interesting.

  • Leadership throughout your voyage by our experienced Expedition Leaders, including shore landings and other activities
  • All Zodiac transfers and cruising as per the daily program
  • All shore landings as per the daily program
  • Shipboard accommodation with daily housekeeping
  • All meals, snacks, soft drinks and juices on board throughout your voyage (Please inform us of any dietary requirements as far in advance as possible. Unfortunately, the ships’ galleys cannot prepare kosher meals.)
  • Select beer and wine during dinner; and coffee, tea and cocoa available around the clock
  • Formal and informal presentations by our Expedition Team and guest speakers as scheduled
  • A photographic journal documenting the expedition
  • A pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan for landings and Zodiac cruising excursions
  • An official Quark Expeditions® parka to keep
  • Hair dryer and bathrobes in every cabin
  • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program
  • All luggage handling aboard the ship
  • Emergency Evacuation insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of USD $500,000 per person
  • One 10- to 15-minute helicopter flightseeing excursion (weather and logistics permitting)
Inclusion / Exclusion Category
  • Mandatory Transfer Package*
  • International airfare
  • Passport and applicable visa expenses
  • Government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned
  • Meals unless otherwise specified
  • Baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance—strongly recommended
  • Excess-baggage fees on international flights and domestic flights
  • Mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac landing and cruising excursions, or any other gear not mentioned
  • Laundry, bar, spa services and other personal charges, unless specified
  • Phone and Internet charges (connectivity may vary by location)
  • Voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and shipboard crew
  • Additional overnight accommodation
  • Arrival and departure transfers, except where explicitly stated
  • Adventure Options not listed in Included Activities
Inclusion / Exclusion Category

Departure Dates and Cabins

Showing 1 - 2 of 2 Departures

Adventure Options

Arctic Landscape
Arctic Landscape
Flightseeing aboard Ultramarine
While polar landscapes are spectacular from the sea, they’re even more stunning from the air, a view you can enjoy while seated in one of the two twin-engine helicopters stationed on Ultramarine.
Passenger enjoying the Polar Plunge experience in the Antarctic
Passenger enjoying the Polar Plunge experience in the Antarctic
Polar Plunge

The Polar Plunge is scheduled once during each voyage. Throughout the journey, the Expedition Leader and Captain constantly monitor conditions in order to choose the optimal time and location. The Polar Plunge sometimes takes place onshore or, in many cases, from the gangway or Zodiac.

Zodiac cruising near penguins
Whale fluke with a Zodiac in the distance
Zodiac Cruising

Zodiacs are used for transferring you ashore, transporting your luggage when necessary and for taking you ocean-level cruising among icebergs, whales and seabirds. During the expedition, you will visit remote and isolated sites that are accessible only by Zodiac.