Unforgettable Polar Expeditions: A Journey Through the Arctic and Antarctic

By Chris Hanna

(Main photo credit: David Merron)

As an Area Sales Director with Quark Expeditions since 2019, I have been fortunate enough to visit many of the areas we help our guests explore. Embarking on a Polar expedition is to step into a world of pristine beauty and formidable wilderness. My adventures in the Arctic and Antarctic are driven by a passion for exploration, leading me to the remote landscapes of Spitsbergen, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula. This passion was kindled by early travels to destinations like Patagonia and Egypt. Later, driven by a love for history AND wildlife, I came to work for “The Leader in Polar Adventures” – Quark Expeditions and as a result embarked on journeys to the Arctic and Antarctic, regions known for their stunning natural beauty and unique ecosystems.

Polar exploration’s history is marked by the endeavors of explorers like Frederick Cook, Robert Peary, and Roald Amundsen. Their perilous journeys into these remote lands paved the way for contemporary exploration, underscoring the relentless human spirit to discover the unknown. We can now explore the same places with like-minded travelers in the safety and comfort of small expedition ships built for these regions with the most experienced guides in the industry.

Hanging out on the sea ice in Greenland with Expedition leader Alison Gordon (left) and Guest Services Manager Gillian Millet (right)

The Pull of the Poles

The lure of the Polar regions lies in their untouched and remote beauty. These journeys are not just travels but quests for discovery in the planet’s most secluded corners, where the stark landscapes and the silence of the wilderness speak volumes.

The Arctic and Antarctic captivate with their unique blend of history, wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes. From the haunting beauty of glaciers to the rugged, untouched expanses of the tundra, these regions offer unparalleled adventures and the chance to witness the untamed natural world so far removed from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

Iceberg off Western Greenland


The Polar regions boast landscapes of stark, rugged beauty, from snow-covered mountains and glaciers to ice-laden waters. The Arctic’s white expanses occasionally burst with vibrant vegetation, while Antarctic ice mesmerizes with varied hues of blue. Seasonal transitions bring extraordinary sunsets and sunrises, and the Northern lights provide a spectacular display in Eastern Greenland.

The Polar regions, havens for unique wildlife, offer intimate encounters with creatures like the majestic polar bears of Svalbard, playful whales of the Antarctic, and charming penguins, whose antics bring joy in the icy wilderness.

Transiting through the Errera Channel (Antarctica) bound for Cuverville Island at Sunrise

The Arctic is alive with wildlife, from polar bears and walruses to arctic foxes and myriad birds in Spitsbergen. In the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, small remote communities are steeped in rich exploration history. Antarctica, with its pristine landscapes and abundant wildlife, remains a mysterious place, devoid of permanent human settlements but filled with natural wonders.

Navigating the Extremes with Quark Expeditions

As a company, Quark Expeditions has been exploring the polar regions, exclusively, for over three decades.

With Quark Expeditions, one can traverse these icy realms aboard vessels like the Ocean Explorer, Ultramarine, and World Explorer. These small, nimble ships, hosting fewer than 200 guests, offer intimate encounters with the Polar world, guided by expert crews, and equipped with the best facilities for such daring voyages. The expedition teams aboard are the most seasoned polar experts in the industry with, on average, over 150 polar expeditions EACH. My first expedition leader, David “Woody” Wood, has over 300 in his 20+ year career alone! We also feature the largest teams of these experts in the industry with one guide for every seven guests ensuring an intimate and immersive experience!

Quark Expeditions’ small-ship approach offers intimate and impactful experiences. Our vessels, like Ultramarine, are designed for polar conditions, providing safe and comfortable passage through icy waters, and enabling close encounters with the polar wilderness. Ultramarine even features two twin-engine helicopters offering views of the polar landscapes from a unique perspective not available any other way.

Ultramarine in Greenland

The intimacy and accessibility offered by smaller expedition ships provide unparalleled exploration experiences. These vessels enable access to remote areas, ensure minimal environmental impact, and offer a more personal and engaging journey into the Polar regions.

Memorable Moments in Polar Wilderness

Through my travels, I have had some amazing experiences. From standing atop a glacier in Greenland to spotting a polar bear in Spitsbergen and a minke whale in Antarctica, each moment was a testament to the raw, unfiltered beauty of these regions. These experiences were not just about seeing but feeling the essence of the Polar wilderness.

Each experience with wildlife is thrilling. I remember my first trip where we observed a polar bear in Spitsbergen from the ship. This was the largest land predator on Earth, and it was unaware of my existence. Truly humbling,

On my trip to Antarctica, I had the incredible experience of witnessing a playful and inquisitive juvenile minke whale frolic around my zodiac boat for 20 minutes – which felt like an eternity! He swam underneath us repeatedly and would pop up on either side before ducking back under. He was playing peekaboo with us! But we knew he was really aiming to play when he blew bubbles at us. As whales must consciously breathe, this was intentional and as if to say, “I see you!” Of course, even just delighting in the antics of penguins was among the unforgettable experiences that highlighted the raw beauty and vibrant life in these icy realms.

Minke Whale

Standing atop the Eqip Sermia glacier in Western Greenland was an awe-inspiring moment for me, feeling the solitude of a place untouched by other humans. I shared the whale experience and this one with my wife, Jenn, which made it even more special. This was yet another one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I am delighted to help make a reality for our guests.

Such moments are symbolic of the Polar regions, filled with unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that deeply connect travelers to these untouched territories.

Chris and Jenn at Danco Island surrounded by Gentoo penguins

Cultural Encounters and Local Life

My travels have also led to meaningful interactions with the local communities, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who reside in these harsh conditions. Whether it was having coffee in a Greenlandic home or engaging with the people of Qikiqtarjuaq in the Canadian Arctic, each encounter was a bridge to understanding the unique cultures of the Arctic.

Visits to remote Arctic communities like Qikiqtarjuaq, along with the Greenlandic communities of Uummannaq and Itilleq, revealed the deep connection of Indigenous peoples to these lands. These visits provided rich cultural insights, their warm hospitality and rich traditions on display, adding a profound human element to the Polar experience.

Chris and Jenn in Ittileq, Chris enjoying a coffee in Pauline’s home.

Commitment to the Environment

Quark Expeditions’ ‘Polar Promise’ embodies our dedication to sustainable exploration. Through it, our efforts to reduce emissions and waste, alongside significant contributions to conservation and community projects, underscore a deep commitment to preserving these extraordinary ecosystems for future generations. My experiences were an education in the immense power and fragility of our planet, highlighting the importance of sustainable travel practices.

Expert Advice for Aspiring Polar Explorers

If these sound like experiences you would love to have, you have resources to help you plan your own amazing expedition. Working with expert travel partners like CIRE Travel and Quark Expeditions enhances the polar expedition experience, ensuring a journey that is not only memorable but also aligned with the traveler’s aspirations and respectful of the delicate polar ecosystems. For those inspired to embark on their own Polar expedition, selecting a knowledgeable and responsible travel partner is crucial. Their expertise ensures a journey that is not only memorable but also respectful of the delicate balance of these unique environments.

Chris with CIRE team

Personal Transformation

The expeditions were transformative for me, reshaping my understanding of nature’s fragility and grandeur, and instilling a deep sense of responsibility to advocate for the preservation of these pristine environments.

The Polar regions have transformed my perspective, instilling a deep appreciation for their stark beauty and the critical importance of their preservation. These travels have been a journey of personal growth and environmental awareness. I pushed my boundaries and deepened my connection with nature.

Chris Taking the Polar Plunge in Antarctica!

It is my sincere hope that everyone has the opportunity to visit these amazing places and experience their own transformation. I am happy to help make that a reality with partners like CIRE Travel.


CIRE Travel is a full-service travel agency headquartered in New York, NY.  Our expert corporate travel planners, honeymoon travel agents, and luxury travel planners support clients across the country and around the world.

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