The Polar Routes Blog

The Trip Of A Lifetime Aboard Le Commandant Charcot

Le Charcot bow sunset
21 April 2023
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Antarctica, Ponant, Wildlife

In March of 2023, our Co-Director Martin Johnson and his wife Sarah lived the polar dream with PONANT aboard their magnificent Le Commandant Charcot flagship, which sailed from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula. Read on for Martin’s personal take on the many plus points of expedition cruising on this unique vessel, as well as their memorable days in the Antarctic sun spotting penguins, whales, and seals amongst the stunning vistas. I first visited Le Commandant Charcot at its launch event in 2021, in a cold and windy northern French port called Le Havre. Despite the less-than-illustrious surroundings, from the minute I stepped on board, I could tell this ship was something special. As you enter, you’re greeted by a soaring 5-storey atrium space, with cool lines, stylish furniture, and a huge digital art installation that runs the full height of this space, I had never seen anything like it before on…

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Our Routes in the Antarctic Peninsula

10 March 2023
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Antarctica, Our Routes, Q&A

…with Polar Specialist, Ben The latest edition of this series offers personal insights into an adventurous expedition cruise by our Polar Specialist Ben Rowley, who enjoyed his amazing 12-day journey with AE Expeditions sailing from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula. WHAT DESTINATIONS DID YOU VISIT? The Antarctic Peninsula. HOW DID YOU GET THERE?  I flew from London to Buenos Aires and on to Ushuaia, before boarding Greg Mortimer and crossing the Drake Passage. FIRST TIME OR REPEAT TRIP? First time! FAVOURITE LOCATION?  Neko Harbour – the huge glacier looms close and the backdrop is immensely beautiful. Paradise Bay is a very close second! MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT?  We came across a female blue whale with her calf on the Drake Passage on the way south. The marine biologist on our expedition was over the moon with this sighting and said she’d never seen a blue whale calf in this area. In truth,…

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Our Routes in Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia

1 February 2023
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Antarctica, Our Routes, Ponant, Q&A, Wildlife

…with Senior Polar Specialist, James The latest edition of this series offers personal insights into an exceptional polar expedition cruise by our Senior Polar Specialist James Townsend, who set sail with his partner on an epic 16-day journey with PONANT that took them from the southernmost point of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula, allowing for a full discovery of the most beautiful sites of these southern lands.   WHAT DESTINATIONS DID YOU VISIT? I joined Ponant on their Great Austral Loop itinerary, which is a 16-day expedition to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica. HOW DID YOU GET THERE?  I flew direct from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires, where I checked in for an included overnight stay at the 5* Sofitel Recoleta. The next day all passengers flew together on a charter flight to Ushuaia (the southernmost point of Argentina), where we boarded our ship, L’Austral. FIRST TIME OR REPEAT TRIP?…

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A Day In The Life Of… A Polar Photography Guide

Michelle Sole
19 January 2023
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A Day In The Life Of, Antarctica, Arctic, Quark Expeditions

We spoke to Photography Guide Michelle Sole to find out how she spends her time snapping wildlife on her many trips to the polar regions. From the age of thirteen Michelle spent 10 years chasing winters around the world and competed for Great Britain as a downhill ski racer. Having always had a love for animals and the outdoors, in 2011 Michelle moved to South Africa to learn the ropes as a safari guide and wildlife photographer. In 2017 Michelle swapped elephants and lions for penguins and polar bears and started working for Quark Expeditions. She now divides her time between the icy Polar Regions and the African sun. Michelle’s photographic work has been published in Africa Geographic and The Guardian. How does a typical day start for you? Being British a typical day starts with a good cup of tea! Each morning we monitor the weather and the ice…

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The Heart Of Greenland

8 November 2022
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Arctic, Greenland

Rising impressively out of the Arctic Ocean, Uummannaq is the most northerly town in Greenland, catering to both the summer and winter seasons with unforgettable excursions in the rugged Uummannaq Fjord. “Uummannaq” means “heart-shaped” in the Greenlandic language of Kalaallisut, in reference to the rough outline of the mountain it encircles, but a name which also extends to the aura of the place itself when meeting the open and friendly inhabitants and the Inuit culture. Enter The Twilight Zone Uummannaq has two main seasons for tourism. The summer season generally runs from June to mid-September with the sun never setting in July and August, while winter activities in perpetual twilight mostly take place between mid-February and mid-April, though this is dependent on the extent and thickness of the sea ice.  Return To Santa The Uummannaq Museum, which contains several exhibitions and a small library, also handles letters that arrive from around the world…

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A Day In The Life Of… A Port Lockroy Field Operations Coordinator

Vicky enjoying mountainous terrain
31 October 2022
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A Day In The Life Of, Antarctica, Q&A

Port Lockroy is based on Goudier Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. Since 1966 the site has been open to visitors during the Antarctic summer (November to March) and is now managed by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, which runs the site as a ‘living museum’ with a popular gift shop. All profits from the shop go towards the renovation of other historic sites in Antarctica. Port Lockroy is also the world’s most southerly public post house – affectionately known as the Penguin Post Office. We spoke to Field Operations Coordinator Vicky Inglis for her thoughts on living and working there. How does a typical day play out for you?  We’ll get up around 7 am, to the sound of the day’s duty cook heating water for tea and coffee. Breakfast is usually something like muesli or homemade bread and jam, maybe porridge if it’s looking like a cold or wet day. The Base Leader…

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Our Routes in Antarctica

10 October 2022
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Antarctica, Aurora Expeditions, Wildlife

…with Senior Business Development Manager, Gaynor For the latest installment of Our Routes series dedicated to sharing travel experiences from our experts all over the polar regions, Gaynor Atherton, Senior Business Development Manager UK & Ireland, shared with us her memories from an awesome Antarctic voyage with Aurora Expeditions! YOUR MAIN DESTINATIONS? The Antarctic Peninsula. HOW DID YOU GET THERE?   Flew to Santiago then down to Punta Arenas – from there it was a flight to King George Island to join the Aurora cruise. FIRST TIME OR REPEAT TRIP? First time. BIGGEST CHALLENGE? Mentally preparing myself for Polar Plunge that was coming! And packing for a cold climate within my luggage allowance – I did it though! BEST HOLIDAY EXCURSION/EXPERIENCE? Doing the Polar Plunge for our chosen charity The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT? Viewing a calm and curious Leopard Seal right next to our Zodiac on our first day! …

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A Guide to Svalbard Wildlife

16 September 2022
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Arctic, Poseidon Expeditions, Svalbard, Wildlife

Whilst the scenery of Spitsbergen is a huge reason to visit this remote archipelago in the high Arctic, the biggest draw of visiting this region is of course its wildlife. It’s home to a vast range of birds, some mammals and plenty of marine wildlife and it is pretty much guaranteed you will spot some of each on your expedition cruise to Svalbard. Here we list some of the incredible creatures you could be lucky enough to encounter… Svalbard Reindeer The smallest sub-species of Reindeer, Svalbard reindeer are usually spotted in fairly sparse groups around the archipelago. Characterised by their short, somewhat stumpy legs, and short dense fur which provides the much-needed insulation for life in this remote region. You’ll often spot clumps of this fur whilst exploring landing sites, and are sure to spot them grazing on steep cliff faces, or lounging in the tundra. Walrus Despite there being…

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The Ross Sea: A Marine Wonderland

7 September 2022
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Antarctica

Often referred to as the last intact marine ecosystem on the planet, the Ross Sea region contains the world’s largest protected marine park area spanning 600,000 square miles – one and a half times the size of the largest national park on land. Wonderful Wildlife One of the most productive areas of the Southern Ocean with seasonal fluctuations, the region is home to around half of Ross Sea orcas and South Pacific Weddell seals, more than 30% of the world’s Adélie penguins and Antarctic petrels, and around 25% of all emperor penguins. Minke whales are common sights here, as are Crabeater and Leopard seals. There are 95 fish species and over 1,000 invertebrate species in the depths, with rare and vulnerable species such as unique sponges that live for up to half a century, plus breeding grounds, habitats and other areas of importance for ecosystem integrity. Ross Sea Ice Shelf…

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Our Routes in Svalbard

18 August 2022
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Arctic, Quark Expeditions, Svalbard, Uncategorised, Wildlife

…with Senior Marketing Executive, Laura We are delighted to be launching the polar edition of a new and revealing Our Routes series dedicated to sharing travel experiences from our experts all over the polar regions. Our debut blog begins with a feature on Senior Marketing Executive, Laura Radford, who recently enjoyed a wonderfully wild trip to Svalbard and couldn’t wait to tell us all about it! YOUR MAIN DESTINATIONS?  Svalbard and Oslo. HOW DID YOU GET THERE?   Flew from London to Oslo and stayed overnight at an airport hotel. The next morning, I took a charter flight to Longyearbyen in the heart of Svalbard.  FIRST TIME OR REPEAT TRIP? First-time ever visiting Svalbard, the furthest north I had journeyed previously was Tromso in the Arctic Circle. FAVOURITE LOCATION?   This is really difficult to say as each place we sailed past/landed on the expedition cruise with Quark was unique. From polar bears on the sea…

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