Caroline Maber’s diary reveals the excitement of visiting Antarctica and the hard work required to become an Expedition Guide for the region.

Travelling to Antarctica

Travelling to Antarctica is an incredible privilege. Probably the most remote place on earth, there is nowhere as surreal or so far removed from life at home. A visit to this icy kingdom is not just about the beautiful scenery or the wildlife; thanks to the quality of the guides and their knowledge, a trip is a true learning process, one that inspired me to embark on my own journey to train as an Expedition Guide for the polar regions.

Expect a range of expedition crew on all expeditions, from expert kayak and mountaineering guides to biologists, geologists and historians. All guides are trained to the highest safety standards and must be prepared for all and any events, which means experience in a diverse range of skills – not only do you learn how to drive a Zodiac, but you must also be able to check and change fuel lines and tanks, deal with punctured chambers and know how to navigate a ‘man overboard’ situation.

 

 

Thankfully, this is rare occurrence, but the training is incredibly important. In freezing conditions, you must prove capable of turning your boat around quickly in order to reach a person on the first attempt and minimise time in the icy water. If a Zodiac driver falls overboard, they will be wearing a kill cord that cuts the engine, however they will need to able to clamber back into the Zodiac to re-join the guests, who will hopefully assist!

Landing a Zodiac on beaches in choppy waters is another skill, acquired with plenty of practice and a generous helping hand from the landing team who willingly stand knee to waist deep in the freezing sea to get the job done. All guests are taught how to safely enter and exit a Zodiac – if you’re mobile and in good health, age is no restriction to expeditions, and crew have been known to welcome guests in their 80s and beyond.

A compass and handheld GPS are a guide’s best friends, used to take a bearing of the ship as passengers disembark, amongst other things. In snowy conditions, with little to no visibility, without these important tools it would be near impossible to plot a course back to base camp.

 

 

Teams of experienced mountaineers take active guests on exciting hikes to incredible viewpoints, while those happy to hang out on beaches with the penguins will have photography experts and biologists on hand. Expert kayak instructors lead paddling programmes, which provide a lovely alternative for kayak enthusiasts to head ashore instead of hopping in a Zodiac, while further exciting activities offered on certain departures include skiing, snorkelling, diving, paddle boarding, snowshoeing and even camping out under the stars.

 

 

Back on board, expect fascinating lectures led by the incredible guides who will discuss the wildlife or geological features observed that day or historians telling compelling stories of the explorers that led their expeditions into the unknown in these areas. There really is something for everybody!

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Flora Sweeting
Charlotte Winter
Seren Winn-Darley

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