How to Speak Polar: Cool Terms from a Polar Expedition

October 23, 2015

When you embark on your guided expedition with Quark Expeditions, you’ll learn the Polar Regions have a lingo all their own! To help you prepare for your adventure have you speaking like a seasoned explorer, here some terms best categorized as ‘Polar Speak’:


Ice, Icescapes and Icebreakers

Anchor Ice: submerged ice attached to the sea bed.

Brash Ice: floating ice accumulations of fragments of 2 meters (6.5 ft) across or smaller. 

Calving: a block of ice breaking away from a glacier. 

Crack: a fracture in floating sea ice narrow enough to jump across. 

Crevasse: a crack or fissure in a glacier.

Fast Ice: sea ice attached to land. 

Floe: a piece of floating sea ice. 

Frazil: fine bits of ice suspended in water.

Ice-Shelf: a floating sheet of ice, usually of considerable thickness, attached to the coastline. 

Pack Ice: large pieces of floating ice driven together in a floating mass. 

Slack Pack: a large amount of ice, less dense than pack ice. 

Tabular Berg: an iceberg with a flat top parallel with the waterline.

Tabular iceberg - Photo credit: passenger: lijishan
Tabular iceberg - Photo credit: passenger: lijishan

All Hands on Deck: Nautical Terms

Ice Strengthened: a vessel suited to polar travel, and can include a double or flat hull, or a hull clear of fixtures such as stabilizers; specialized engines; a protected rudder and propeller. Is constructed of thicker steel; has an ice belt, an area of the hull with a thicker layer of steel and additional interior structure.  

Ice Breaker: different from an ice strengthened vessel, with three traits that most ships don't possess - an ice strengthened steel hull; an ice clearing shape; and lots of power to push it through the sea.

Kayak: a watercraft believed to be more than 4,000, and a great way to see wildlife up close.

Zodiac: an inflatable, motorized vessel used for accessing hard to reach places. 

Penguinologist: a person who specializes in all things related to penguins.

Aurora Borealis in East Greenland - Photo Credit: C. King
Aurora Borealis in East Greenland - Photo Credit: C. King

Locations and Landscapes 

Aurora Borealis: commonly known as the Northern Lights, caused by electrically charged particles from the sun entering earth’s atmosphere.

 ATV: short for All Terrain Vehicle, an all-purpose motorized vehicle for covering a lot of ground in a short span of time.

Fjords: formed when a glaciers cut a long narrow inlet; a familiar sight in the Arctic.   

Nunatak: a mountain peak or rock spur that sticks out of a glacier or ice sheet. 

Northeast Passage: connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic following the coasts of Russia and Norway. 

Northwest Passage: the legendary passage through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago along the northern coast of North America. 

Trypots: cauldrons used by sealers and whalers in the process of oil extraction. 

Archipelago: a sea or stretch of water containing many islands, such as the Palmer Archipelago. 

Aurora Australis: the southern counterpart of the famous Northern Lights.

Protocol on Environmental Protection: known as the Madrid Protocol, it designates the Antarctic as a natural reserve. 

Sledging: an over snow vehicle on runners pulled by dogs or men; the way the original explorers traveled.

Want to know more about all things polar? Contact the polar experts today to learn more!

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