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Legendary Snow Hill: March to the Emperor Penguins

2018 - October 6, 18, 30, and November 11

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Make Polar History

First offered by Quark Expeditions from 2006 to 2010, this exclusive once-in-a-lifetime journey is back on with the return of the legendary Kapitan Khlebnikov, one of the most powerful icebreakers in the world.

This is the closest you will ever get to starring in your own version of March of the Penguins—a chance to experience one of the most captivating regions in the Antarctic wilderness. A visit to the Emperor penguin colony at Snow Hill Island off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is the very definition of polar adventure.

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Window of Opportunity

Ice-choked and impassible for most of the year, Snow Hill Island is only accessible for a few weeks when things thaw slightly. Guests fly in via helicopter, then walk across the sea ice to commune with thousands of Emperor penguins and their chicks. Seven years in the making, our reunion with these penguins is long overdue—and you can be part of it.


Join the Colony

Imagine flying in a helicopter to the vicinity of this astounding rookery, then walking across the sea ice to come within several feet of chicks so young they’re huddling with their parents. Watch in awe as these extraordinary creatures toboggan across the ice on their way to the ocean to dive for food. If you’re lucky, some may even approach you! An experience like no other, it’s like a wildlife documentary come to life.


Part of the Legend

The Kapitan Khlebnikov will be your home away from home during your expedition. No mincing words: this ship can practically go anywhere—and you’re going with it. Not only was it the first in the world to circumnavigate Antarctica with passengers—it did it twice. No other vessel has transited the Northwest Passage more often.


Witness the Beauty
of the Antarctic

Experts On Board

Featured Expert

Bob Headland

As a Senior Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, Bob’s principal interests involve historical geography and its associated studies. Specifically, his work concerns the human effects on the polar regions.

Bob is an advisor to several expeditionary organizations and has spent many years with Quark Expeditions, notably on voyages with the Kapitan Khblenikov. During Snow Hill trips, he will be educating travelers on the history of polar exploration.


Featured Expert

Fabrice Genevois

A passionate biologist and noted author, Fabrice has travelled extensively in both polar regions and is deeply familiar with many of their remote areas. His work focuses on natural history, specifically birds, mammal biology and ecology.

Fabrice also conducts field research on birds with the French National Museum of Natural History and lives among the volcanoes of the Auvergne region in central France. As a Kapitan Khblenikov veteran, he will share his unique perspective on Emperor penguin biology on Snow Hill voyages.


5 Snow Hill Island Highlights

The majestic Emperors and their unique breeding cycle is a story of resilience and survival. Elegant, dignified, famous—the real stars of this show have the most intricate of lives, which is a big part of the draw. Their annual migration and the arduous time spent in this barren wilderness defies description.
The return of legendary icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov to the Quark fleet is cause for celebration, its polar pedigree secure in the history of expedition travel. Purpose-built to withstand everything the pack ice can dish out, it has circumnavigated Antarctica twice and the Arctic once. It was also the first to successfully bring travelers to Snow Hill—all with Quark.
Located in the Weddell Sea, Snow Hill Island gets its name from the snow-covered hills that span across it with rocky peaks—some 6,500 feet (2 km) high—falling steeply in black rock outcrops, sweeping glaciers into the sea. In some areas, ice extends hundreds of miles into the water, making the area impassable for most of the world’s bigger ships.
Most Antarctic cruises begin and end with the crossing of the Drake Passage, the famously rough stretch of sea between South America and the 7th continent. For many people, it’s actually a rite of passage, an adrenalin-packed adventure that adds authenticity to the expedition experience.
Ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to the Emperor penguin colony yield spectacular views of the wildlife—penguins by the thousands, plus leopard seals, albatross, Cape petrels, Antarctic petrels, and minke and humpback whales. The exclusivity of the situation puts you in a very privileged polar club.


Expedition in Brief

  • Experience thousands of pairs of emperor penguins—including chicks—in their natural habitat.
  • View other iconic Antarctic wildlife, such as whales, seals and seabirds.
  • Travel aboard the legendary Kapitan Khlebnikov, the storied icebreaker and the only vessel to circumnavigate Antarctica twice.
  • Cross the famous Drake Passage on your way to explore the Snow Hill emperor colony.
  • Enjoy helicopter sightseeing and Zodiac cruising for a unique perspective of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 1

Ushuaia, Argentina

You will begin your journey in Ushuaia, a small but bustling port town at the tip of South America. This Argentine hot spot is the ideal gateway for you to explore the southern extent of Patagonia while preparing for your adventure ahead. Get active in the mountains or savor some handcrafted chocolate at a café in town.

Day 2

Embarkation Day

In late afternoon, we will transfer you and your fellow travelers from your group hotel to the pier, where you’ll board Kapitan Khlebnikov. This iconic icebreaker should be instantly recognizable at the port, as the shape and bulk are distinctive, especially from a distance.

Days 3 and 4

At Sea

Crossing the legendary Drake Passage is as much a part of the Antarctic experience as penguins and seals are. With ideal weather conditions, your passage could be relatively easy, but be prepared for some rough seas in case the Drake lives up to its reputation.

Days 5 to 11

Weddell Sea and Snow Hill Island Emperor Penguin Colony

As we approach the island, remember that no two polar expeditions are alike, particularly this voyage through the icy Weddell Sea, since landings and wildlife sightings are determined by weather and ice conditions, as well as the natural cycles of the wildlife. But it’s exactly this element of the unknown that makes expedition-style travel so exhilarating and adventurous.

That said, our expeditions will have some elements in common, such as landings, wildlife sightings, helicopter sightseeing and ice—truly massive amounts of ice! Having broken away from the ice shelf, large tabular icebergs, so named for their plateau-like flat top and steep sides, will signal your arrival to Antarctica. 

Located on sea ice, the emperor rookery is situated some distance from Snow Hill Island, so your captain will navigate your ship to a position in the ice that’s within helicopter range of the rookery. As we draw near, a few curious penguins may be attracted to the open water by the ship, so keep your eyes peeled for them. Deployed in a rotation of flights, our on-board helicopters will land as close to the penguins as possible, yet still at a safe distance (at least 0.75 nautical miles/1.4 km), to protect the birds. Since you must carry all your own gear for the entire distance to the rookery and back across sea ice several feet thick, you’ll want to keep items in your backpack to a minimum. A must-bring, however, should be your camera.

Days 12 and 13

At Sea

A day at sea can be as busy as any day ashore. Share stories and photos with your shipmates in the lounge, relax in our Polar Library or attend dynamic presentations by your Expedition Team, who may even screen documentaries. Lecture topics can range from the Historic Age of Exploration to whales of the Southern Ocean.

Day 14

Disembark in Ushuaia

This morning, you’ll say farewell to your Expedition Team and fellow travelers before disembarking to catch your homeward flights.