The Dream of Exploration

June 27, 2019 Doug O'Neill

I grew up in a small rural town, where the nearest body of water was a creek. I dreamed about the sea, imagining what it would be like to be part of the world of exploration and discovery.

Today, I feel lucky to be part of the team at Quark Expeditions, because I’m not only immersed in that world of ship-building and seafaring, but, more important, I get to help provide that same gift of adventure to others, in the most awe-inspiring places on Earth. Want to hear someone struggle for words? Talk to them when they come back from their first trip to the Arctic or Antarctic. It’s near impossible to find the right way to express what one sees, and feels, in those regions. It has to be experienced.

Today, I am really excited, because we’ve just announced the name of a ship that is going to create brand new experiences for our guests in unprecedented new ways. Ultramarine, our groundbreaking, purpose-built expedition vessel – its name, in Latin, means “beyond the sea” – will set sail in late 2020, and its passengers are going to have the opportunities for moments no others have had, because they’re going to be able to reach places no others have gone.

When we were first told about this amazing new ship, it made me think of one of my favorite passages from the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Ultramarine embodies this ethos. It’s a technological and engineering marvel, but what it truly represents are the unique experiences people will have out in the breathtaking polar wilderness, the stories they will bring back home, and the feelings that will stay with them forever. Adrenaline-pumping moments like viewing gigantic icebergs from the seat of a kayak. Wondrous instances of silence like standing alone on the bow of the ship staring out at the vast white landscape. Wildlife sightings so startling and surreal they make you cry.

And, for me personally, I look forward to being in a helicopter as it soars over the polar seas and remote worlds of ice and snow. I think about the helicopter touching down onto the surface, and then the feeling of climbing out to set foot in a place few have been before, then strapping on a pair of skis to continue my polar journey in yet a different way.

Over a century ago, explorers like Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott started to sail the polar seas, because they had a vision and a dream to explore the farthest reaches of the planet. Ultramarine honors that dream, and, as we’ve always done at Quark Expeditions, continues to extend those footsteps into magical new, undiscovered places. I can’t wait to live that dream.

About the Author

Doug O'Neill

Even though I’m a seasoned traveler and travel writer, I was 27 years old when I hopped on an airplane for the first time. As one of eight children in a rural Ontario family, travel was limited to road trips to Wasaga Beach – in a very crowded Pontiac. But I eventually caught the travel bug and have now visited 40-plus countries. Landing at Quark Expeditions as Brand Copywriter seems like a natural step on a journey that started with a degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo followed by a Certificate in Magazine Journalism at Ryerson University, which ultimately led me to a print-and-digital publishing career at various Canadian magazines. One of my most fulfilling career experiences was launching a travel blog that I produced for several years at a national magazine. Hiking (or simply time spent in nature) tops my list of passions. In 2015 I completed the 800-km Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. I’m a certified hike leader with Hike Ontario and I volunteer with the Bruce Trail Conservancy. I’ve co-authored a nature book, “110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” released by Firefly Books in April 2019.

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