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Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

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Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Quark: Sea Adventurer: Crossing the Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Advance warning: this trip was so amazing in every way that the only word I can find is AWESOME and I have been using it OFTEN! So while I have no personal or financial interest in Quark, it may sound like that because everything about the trip was AWESOME :)

This won't necessarily be a day by day recount like some of the other great trip reviews. It'll be more like a collection of tips, tricks or observations, then some trip listings.

Disclaimer: I've never travelled to Antarctica before, I've never sailed on an ocean before or done a long cruise, and our weather was almost too good to be true. So I have nothing else to compare to and clearly we were VERY lucky with the weather conditions which are out of every one's control and therefore this gave our trip the utmost potential to be great from the outset…

…And this has ended up MUCH longer than I expected so apologies in advance…

Brisbane, Australia
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1. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14


We had a couple of times a swell of 4m or 5m or 6m and I think once a Beaufort of 7. And that was the worst of it. Even when we had a few cancelled outings, the weather wasn't foul - it just wasn't suitable. We had some amazing blue sky days. And we had an evening zodiac cruise in the SNOW! So we had GREAT weather.


I thought it was funny hearing about "Hotel Staff" until I experienced the service! On board there are three groups of people looking after us.

The Hotel Staff includes the fabulous team in the dining room (Hi Alvin!) and the room stewards and stewardesses (Hi Liza!) Turn down service while I am having dinner! My bed made while I am having breakfast?! Totally unexpected.

The Ship's Crew - our amazing Captain who navigated us so close to The Gullet and his team.

The Expedition Team - every team member was professional and knowledgeable and funny. They earned my trust very quickly - from team leader Alex's opening remarks. If they said leave or jump or stop then I would, no questions asked. Put that team together on the Sea Adventurer and I'd sail with them pretty much anywhere.

So the Sea Adventurer is a fabulous Antarctic vessel. She felt stable, and while I did take sea sickness medication almost the entire time in one strength or another, the Sea Adventurer certainly meant I wasn't missing meals.

And meals - I've never eaten so much for so long and so well in my life. 4 course dinners. Buffet lunches with dessert. Amazing buffet breakfast with omelettes and eggs to order. The quality and variety of food was great. And that doesn't mention the 24 hour tea, coffee, hot choc, filtered water station. And the almost ever present cookies. Plus the pre-briefing snacks or ice cream station or sushi buffet, or the BBQ lunch…

I opted for a Main Deck Twin Window and I am glad. I personally think having the view out my window helped me if I was feeling unwell. (Plus my room was pretty much centre of the ship which also helped.) The TV had the presentations live also, so if I wasn't up for the rolling in the lounge room (bow) then I could lie on my bed and not miss out.

As far as extras and amenities go - the gift shop was open a fair bit considering Emily was also part of the Expedition Team! The receptionist was also the massage therapist which I needed twice after lugging the camera around… There was hand-sanitiser to be used outside the dining and lounge entrances, so as everyone was considerate of each other we had no raging bugs go through passengers. Bowls of fruit and dry salty crackers were always available to keep something in your stomach to ward off motion sickness (grab some of the salted cracker packs to have in your room for emergencies). The bar staff were great fun. EVERY staff member had a great memory! (Who can remember 100+ guest names and their room numbers?!) Plus daily updates news sheet summaries from around the world. Great bulletin boards with guides and info sheets… The lecture schedule was great - informative and entertaining. As were the almost-daily recap/briefings. Who can forget Rock of the Day, or Smell the Whales…


Quark provided Muck Boots to loan for entire trip - SO nice not to have to pack them!

Quark provided Quark parka with zip-in fleece to keep - never zipped out the fleece until packing to take home…

I had Icebreaker merino base layers: 3 sets of base pants (2x 200g weight; 1x 150g weight) and base tops (3x L/S 150g weight and 2x S/S 150g weight). I could have got away with 2 sets by wearing 1 while I washed (or had washed) the other set. Hand washing dried quickly/easily overnight in the aircon cabin. (Laundry was well priced and while quoted as back in 48 hours, my experience was in 12 or 24hrs)

Icebreaker merino socks 3x and sock liners 3x. (Again probably only needed 2x but socks I wanted to wash more often, and it was recommended to take a spare set in a dry bag of landings in case you got wet… Often forgot, never needed.)

Icebreaker merino glove liners (2x) (wore one literally to death - one finger rayed/split - will contact Icebreaker; then wore spare pair which had been in the dry bag for excursions)

Ski gloves

RE gloves - the liner gloves were great - I would wear them on deck for photos as it kept my hands warm and I could still use the camera. On excursions, I'd also leave the ski glove on my left hand and take the right ski glove off.

Zip off safari pants - wore them on board on warmer days over base layer pants (from Iguazu part of trip)

L/S safari shirt - wore on board on warmer days over base layer tops (from Iguazu part of trip)

300g Vigilante Fleece Trakky Pants - wore them on board over base layer pants

Icebreaker 200g 1/4 zip 200g weight high neck L/S top - wore on board over base layer top

Fleece tracksuit top - wore on board (around waist most days!) - but handy to put on to race out to see whales or ice bergs if Quark parka wasn't handy nearby. (Needed to bring my own for travels prior to receiving Quark one. And was handy to have it separate, and the Quark one zipped in)

Waterproof pants for excursions - mine were insulated and waterproof so I only wore baselayer pants under them. Still not sure if the pants aren't flawed though - I dropped to wet sand knock-kneed for photos a couple of times and water definitely seeped through into my base layer pants. But then, maybe it is also about the pressure applied to the water…

Swimsuit - for Iguazu part of trip, but for Polar Plunge...


Hiking boots and Teva walk-in sandals - sandals on warmer days :) - for on board and on deck

Buffs - SO HANDY - I brought 2x Summer and 1x Winter - I wore a summer one almost every excursion just as a big headband - and in raspberry colour it helped me spot myself in photos :)

Neck gaiter, Fleece beanie (cheap from BigW)

2x Sunglasses with straps

2x carabiners - used them to attach waterproof camera and ski gloves to Quark parka

Travel sickness medication - I used what I brought from home as I had tried it at home (rather than the freely provided medication from the ship doctor)

Sunscreen! Lip Balm! Moisturiser! Panadol!

Liquid travel wash (I brought an extra travel clothes line but there was one in the shower)

(Tissues were provided in the rooms along with shampoo and body gel)

String gym bag - I put a sick bag!, loose tissues and my D20 camera in it and took it to all lectures and meals - meant I was hands-free on days the ship moved, and it meant I had a camera handy for random icebergs or whales or happy snaps at meals

Powerpoint Adapters + 4 point powerboard with 2 USB slots - for charging most things


Sleeveless fleece vest - never wore it but ended up using it to pad camera gear in waterproof bag during excursions

Collapsible water bottle - Quark provided one on Sea Adventurer

Non spill insulated drinking mug and green tea bags (I didn't drink tea in my cabin but a lot of other people did)

I had one nice Tshirt (and bought one in gift shop) and a travel dress (from BA part of trip) - wore them maybe once, but didn't need to (When almost everything I wore was black, no one would notice how often you wear the same thing)

A bag of silicone gel packets - I brought them to help with dehumidifying the SLR after outings, but if I just left it in the dry bag while I ate etc it was fine (although the temptation to download and view the outing's photos IS hard to resist!)


Some non-ARS$ cash. You can put all gift shop and ship expenditure (drinks, massage, email, laundry) on a credit card at the end. But you will need cash at Grytviken if you want to send a postcode, and similarly at Vernadsky.


I took:

MacBookAir (with Lightroom) - used it for backing up and viewing photos, and accessing a ship email account

Canon 550D SLR with 3 batteries

Canon EF 100-400mm + lens hood (lens hood was FABULOUS for keeping snow and drizzle off the glass)

Canon EFS 10-22 + lens hood

Canon D20 waterproof camera + carabiner neoprene cover and carabiner + float strap, with 2 batteries (never tested or needed the float; sadly a kayaker lost her camera into the ocean)

Lens Pen

* Lens cloths (I brought 2 of these bronzemoonoutdoors.com.au/online-shop/carson… as they were great to have attached to my camera strap so I had them ready and they didn't' fly away)

* I used the long Polar buff over the SLR+100-400! It was great! Kept it (marginally) warmer, kept the snow and drizzle off

OpTech waterproof covers - did end up using them OVER the Polar Buff for extra protection

Heaps of SD cards + WD External hard drive + card reader + chargers etc

* I had planned to use on-shore my Lowepro Flipside Sports camera backpack, so had bought a Big River dry bag and rigged webbing straps for it so the camera backpack would go in it and I'd be hands-free for getting in and out of zodiacs. That lasted for a few days of outings until my neck and shoulders couldn't handle it anymore, and I bought the last Operations Research dry bag from Emily in the gift shop. I was often worried bout my gear begin unpadded in the OR bag (and early one when I let it rest on the zodiac floor the lens cap on the 10-22 lens got jammed under the filter rim!!!) but then I padded the lens not on the SLR in the unused fleece beanie, or an unsaid buff or vest, and always rested the bag on my boots, never the floor. And it was fine - great in fact.

Never used:

Backup point-and-shoot Panasonic FZ5 12X digital camera

EF-S 18-55mm

EF-S 55-250


!!!!THE TRIP!!!!

It was awesome :)

Every morning we'd get a wakeup call starting with some appropriate music (Riders on the Storm!) followed by Good Morning Good Morning… Alex would tell us the current outside temperature, usually the swell and wind information and how our day was looking. I wasn't an earlier-than-needed-riser :) so I'd then have time to get dressed and ready for the amazing breakfast (early risers could opt for the earlier Continental breakfast - or do both!) Then there'd be a presentation on sea days, or an excursion to get geared up for.

And gearing up took practice - sunscreen on before anything else to give it a chance to set. Base layer pants and sock liners were already on, then socks and water proof pants. Muck boots. Layer over base layer top. Neck gaiter only sometimes, buff around hair. beanie rarely. Glove liners. Quark Parks. Put the hood up BEFORE you put on your life jacket so the hood isn't trapped :) Sunglasses. Back pack on. Ski gloves on… Then hope you haven't' geared up too soon and your zodiac group (Go Shackleton!) isn't' waiting in your personal sauna for too long…

We had so many outings - landings, cruises. Sometimes the schedule was ambitious, and it was always weather pending (and we were in charge of the weather). There were often options - hikes, zodiac cruises, landings. I didn't' take up the kayak option, but those who did were always optimistic and hopeful of weather conditions allowing them to hit the water.

We made multiple stops in the Falkland Islands - West Point Island was our first, followed by Saunders Island. We also enjoyed a visit to Stanley and a visit with PeterScot :)

Then back at sea (Scotia Sea) as we headed to South Georgia.

Salisbury Plain was the first time I think my breath was truly taken away. Sitting on the ground, being inspected by a pair of King Penguins was a surreal moment (that some wonderful fellow passenger was kind enough to photograph and share - DO remember to do that for your fellow solo travellers - it is MOST appreciated!)

Prion Island and the wandering albatross nests was next, with more landings at Stromness and Grytviken and a toast to Shackleton. Our pre-sunrise landing at Gold Harbour was off due to unfavourable conditions, but we landed at St Andrews Bay to commune with more King Penguins and Elephant Seals. The conditions again prevented a re-attempt at Gold Harbour (50kn winds) and a later cruise in Cooper Bay, but we photograph the macaroni penguins porpoising (and the commentary about seeing a flying penguin was true in the conditions!) (the wind is feral and it is snowing pellets) So instead the ship cruises through Drygalski Fjord. The wind is howling (I am inflated like a bizarre yellow balloon in my parka up on deck) And then of course at dinner we see our first gigantic iceberg - not a bergy bit or brash ice - an iceberg that could be a Little House on a Prairie! For an Aussie girl it's quite a novelty!

It's more sea time - swell!, Fin whales, icebergs - and we make a not-common not-easy landing at Point Wild on Elephant Island.

The team excel as always in managing conditions, expectations, safety and outings.

And then we land on the Antarctic Continent at Brown Bluff. There is ice on the beach, Adelie and Gentoo penguins, snow, wind, clouds, amazing water colours. It feels truly like Antarctica. I commune with some Adelies before the weather turns - my zodiac back is comfortable and not wet, but not so others!

We can't get to Paulet Island as the ice is closed in.

There are active discussions about did we in fact go in the Weddell Sea, if we were in the Antarctic SOund :)

(Same active discussions about can you cross Asia off the continents list if all you've done is han gout in Singapore airport…!)

I knew in advance our before-breakfast cruise in Cierva Cove would be called off when I woke up pitching from the head to foot of my bed, to the rhythm of the safe in my closet sweeping from left to right :)

So we're steaming on towards Peterman Island, when after breakfast we bolt outside for humpbacks bubble feeding. And later it's Orcas off the bow. There's literally NEVER a dull moment.

Later we are heading towards the Lemaire Channel. It is supposed to be picturesque, but we have rain and snow/hail/sleet (I still cant' figure out what it was!) with low cloud, grey skies and grey seas. But the icebergs are blue and I see another mini iceberg collapse.

We also land on Peterman Island and go for a short hike through ice, giving way of course to Gentoo and Adelie penguins on their highways.

And then we have another big day - we cross the Antarctic Circle. It was seemingly timed so we could finish another excellent breakfast :) The crew are dressed up to pay respects to King Neptune to try and garner his goodwill for our sea crossings :) It's all in good fun and dress up is always amazing when you see what can be cannibalised into a costume! Some of the expedition team have never crossed the Antarctic Circle, and so it may have meant even more to them than to me who had never got close and failed or sailed many times but never crossing that imaginary line.

Then we have a landing on Detaille Island before we return for a BBQ on the aft decks.

And then we head off to The Gullet.

It is another mind blowing moment where you have to put the camera down because you can never do it justice. We have blue skies, no wind, no snow. The pack ice makes a curious checkerboard, with seals of various types claiming a square.

And it's another demonstration of the prowess of the captain, and the amazing working relationship between him and the expedition team leader. Because while we had been hoping to be the first ship to get through the Gullet this season, it was never going to happen as the ice would block our way. It seems our captain and ETL knew that, but he had a great ship and great weather and wanted to see how far we could go, for our pleasure. And it was appreciated so much.

And so we go as far south as we can - 67o 03' south.

And so before we turn around, it is decided that is the best place to do the Polar Plunge. I'd always said I would do it. I had just gone below deck to put more sunscreen on so was in my room when the loud speaker call went out. So I switched for warmth for crazy and went and queued at the zodiac loading bay! Of course there were a couple of skinny dipping plungers. Solan had the music blaring and I shivered/shuddered until my turn. A zodiac with the ETL (and photographer!) is in the water to help if you decide to stay in too long, and you are harnessed with a rope. After 1-2- I am stopped as a palm-sized bit of ice floats by. And then 1-2-3 and I am in (girlie squeal and all, captured on shots and video). I couldn't' find the rung to get out but must have levitated. I couldn't' get up the stairs fast enough - literally again, as I hadn't let them unharness me! Then it's a half-shot of Vodka before I bolt for the hot shower. I come back to cheer on the other lunatics afterwards. (That night after dinner I return to my room to find a certificate saying I jumped in water of 0.3oC…) Dave from the ET makes a great slideshow of the before, during and after photos of each jumper.

And then we're off again. We have a stop at Vernadsky Station (Ukraine) in the Argentine islands. I don't' try their moonshine as I've had Irish Whisky with Shackleton and Vodka South of the Circle…

Next we're anchored in Pleneu Cove and we're offered an after dinner zodiac cruise in the snow as there' son wind (to my inexperienced eye it is a blizzard!) Snow covers everything and everyone and to me it has the magic of a White Christmas.

Then we have out most ambitious day yet - 4 landings. And the weather again smiles on us and they are all amazing.

First a very quiet landing at the Almirante Brown base in Paradise Bay, where we climb the snow covered hill in to see the sunrise. Then a zodiac cruise by the glaciers and through the brash ice. Beautiful. The conditions are so good I have the confidence to get out my SLR during a zodiac ride for the first time.

Then it's breakfast and time on the bow as we enter Neko Harbour. The harbour is glass and the zodiac cruise is magic. The sun is out and it literally makes diamonds on the water (the weather is so brilliant it is too glare-y!) Every zodiac ends up with a couple of humpbacks to watch as they float then dive then surface. It's quiet, the glaciers are beautiful (except when you hear thunder and realise it is a glacier creaking!)

Back in for lunch (lasagne!) then we're out again, this time a zodiac cruise around Useful Island. The ice formations are amazing, the light play on the water is beautiful, we have porpoising penguins, and humpback whales are again beckoning.

Back for dinner, and then our final outing - a zodiac cruise around Orne Island/Harbour. We can see the chinstrap penguin colony and their highway. And then the humpback whales arrive. Not just a couple/ Dozens. Whale blow every direction we look, to the horizon. I've run out of space on my memory card (forgot to download during the day) but the light is low and I don't care - I just sit back and take it all in, swivelling from one direction to the next (making me seasick out on flat water on a zodiac believe it or not). Fins, flukes, whale blow. Mind-blowingly, gob-smackingly awesome day form wakeup call to eyes closed.

Next day we take a cruise in Wilhelmina Bay around Enterprise Island. Totally different day - cold, blowing snow, grey sky, grey sea. (My sunglasses fog up and collect snow!) By the afternoon, we're anchored and out for a landing at Portal Point near the top of the Gerlache Strait. There's a great hike along a ridge up to a snow covered glacier. It's our last Antarctica continent landing. So we build a snowman. On an Antarctic glacier. Then there's a zodiac cruise through the ice formations on the way back to the ship, in the snow. It's ghostly - clear water almost black, snow falling, blue and white ice.

Next day we pass through Neptunes Bellows and enter the caldera of Deception Island. We wait most of he day for the weather to be stable then we land at Telefon Bay and hike to the crater and viewing point. The not-visited-before Argentine station contacts our ship asking if they can buy any cigarettes as they have run out, so a trade is arranged and we have an impromptu visit to their station before dinner! They put on coffee and cake which is incredibly generous.

Then we're off to the Drake for 2 days of sailing. We'd been sheltering in the caldera of Deception Island all day while a low pressure system had passed through (and hammered other boats ahead of us) but when it was our turn, we again had all the weather luck. But again we are SO lucky, on our final sea day, 30 miles out the visibility is so good we can SEE Cape Horn. And contact is made with the Chileans who allow us inside the 11 mile zone so we are within 5 miles of Cape Horn and cheerfully sail around it, seeing the Albatross statue and generally not believing our good fortune.

And then sadly it is time for disembarkation and back to the real world.

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Thumbs up for a great trip report! And if anyone asks for mine (as I am so so bad at writing them) I will just say "see above" !!!

I love the description of "snow pellets" - it really does describe that stuff that wasnt snow or hail but somewhere in between !!

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3. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Phew!! Mlg that was absolutely fantastic...........

You remembered everything and I am so pleased I was there to experience the most wonderful trip to the end of the world.....

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4. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Awesome trip report!

Newcastle upon...
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5. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

This is fantastic - so descriptive and emotive. Great detail and thanks for all the tips.

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6. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

I think the word "Awesome" is greatly over-used..... but not this time!

Jumping into the sea??? Jeez.

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7. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

She sure did Peterscot - I have the video to prove it !!

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8. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Hey Mlg, a truly AWESOME report! We were very fortunate to be on the same trip and you have summed it all up far better than I could ever hope to do.

It really was an experience of a lifetime and I still can't believe how well we were looked after by everyone: hotel staff, ship crew and expedition team. We have nothing but praise for all of them.

Now that we are back home and people ask how it went, I find myself almost at a loss for words. It's so difficult to describe an environment that literally moves you to tears to someone who hasn't been and who has very little interest in ever going...

My own comments about what we needed and didn't need are slightly different from yours... We took three sets of thermals, three pairs of merino sock liners and three pairs of thicker merino socks, two pairs of glove liners and two pairs of outer gloves (one of those was an old pair that was to be used as a spare, but never needed - so we really only invested in one decent pair). We did always carry a snap lock bag in our backpack with spare socks and gloves, but never needed. That quantity of thermals, socks, glove liners etc was perfect.

Our backpacks were the Sea to Summit waterproof day packs www.seatosummit.com/products/display/162 and these suited us very well. We did not have extensive camera lenses to carry around so this size was more than sufficient for camera, binoculars, water, spare gloves, socks, sunscreen and all the other bits and pieces that you take ashore. I had an Olympus Tough camera on a caribiner clip on the Quark jacket so always had a camera available on the zodiac for quick shots of whales, ice bergs, people etc. As an extra precaution I put my "good" camera inside a large snap lock bag inside the waterproof backpack.

We visited Iguazu falls after the Antarctica trip and the waterproof backpacks were ideal for that location also.

DIDN'T USE: dishwashing gloves - had read these would be useful but never got to wear them. I did note that one of the zodiac driver used hers but felt no need for them. Apart from that, everything was put to good use, so thank you to all those who went before us and provided such useful packing list suggestions.

WISH I HAD: I took one fleece vest and wish I had another one in a different colour because I lived in this! So, unlike Mlg who didn't use hers, I would have like another... I also found a vest ideal as a mid layer as I got quite warm on the landings which involved hikes. Thermals, then a vest, followed by the Quark jacket with its own fleece removed, was usually sufficient for me. I took quit a shirt sleeved tee shirts because I had been told it was very warm on the ship. I actually found the temperature very pleasant and not overly hot. Could have done with a couple of long sleeved tee shirts instead but managed fine.

I found that the beanie I had didn't keep my ears warm enough, it tended to ride up somehow - must be to do with the shape of my head.... Fortunately, I found a hat in a shop in the Falklands which had a fake fur trim with wonderful ear muffs and I wore that for the rest of the trip. As it was bright red it had the added advantage of picking yourself out in photographs!


Found the ship to be very comfortable indeed, we wished for nothing as far as facilities and services went. We liked the open seating for meals as it enables us to get to know fellow passengers. The lounge was the gathering place for happy hour and all lectures and presentations.

Dining room is aft and food and service exceeded my expectations.

We had a cabin on the same deck as the lounge and dining room and felt this was ideal - upstairs to the viewing decks and library, down stairs to the zodiacs. Everything else was on our floor, including reception and shop. There is a small gym on board, but did not use it at all.

Beds were very comfortable, plenty of wardrobe space, bathroom was more than adequate and the cabin was serviced twice a day.

There were plenty of viewing areas all over this ship, we also enjoyed the open bridge policy.

Quark had walking sticks available on board and I did use these for quite a few of our landings. Had not experienced these previously but found them handy on rocky terrain and on glacier walks

The DVD provided by Quark at the end of the trip was an added bonus. Not only did it have all the photos submitted by fellow passengers, but also the expedition team's Go-Pro footage, weather maps, daily programs, ice charts, wildlife sightings, crew biogs etc.

To all of you still in the planning stages, enjoy! You're in for an amazing experience, hope your trip goes as smoothly as ours did.

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9. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Enjoyed reading the reviews of this expedition. We did the Falklands-S Georgia-Peninsula itinerary with Quark back in 2007 and had a terrific expedition. I'm guessing Alex (ETL) is Alex McNeil ... if so, agree that he is a terrific leader. We had him on one of our Greenland voyages last year and were very impressed; and are looking forward to having him on the North Pole expedition this year. Dave ... if Dave Riordan ... does a great job with the voyage DVD and slideshow, selecting the perfect passenger-shared shots to create a visual reminder of the voyage.

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10. Re: Crossing Circle via Falklands & Sth Georgia: Feb 2-24, '14

Thanks mig for your excellent trip report LOVED reading it & have taken note of your advice on what to take, camera equip etc.

Camini thank you also & we will be looking in to the SeatoSummit dry daypacks :)

Sounds like it was an amazing trip & can't wait till we go,