Emily in Antarctica

Here I am sat in a hotel in Uruguay, excited as a child on Christmas eve, ready to embark on a great, white, floating adventure!

It’s a job I’ve been seeking for years, and around 6 months ago I was so humbled to be welcomed to the Intrepid team as a kayak guide on their expedition cruise ship, the Ocean Endeavour. For the next 2 months I’ll be part of the team delivering trips to Antarctica. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

What’s the job?

Simply put, my job is to take people kayaking from our expedition cruise ship in Antartica. Of course, there’s a whole lot more to do that just paddle around and when I’m not paddling I’ll be driving zodiacs, taking guests ashore, interpreting wildlife, being a friend to guests and just generally getting stuck in wherever needed. We also take guests camping on the shore and for a polar dip (our swimmers will certainly be excited to hear!).

What did I have to do to prepare?

Antarctic tourism is very strictly managed, everyone must study the IAATO guidelines and take a pretty comprehensive test on everything from what you can take ashore, what to do if a penguin jumps in your Zodiac or where exactly you can land on each island. Personally, I think it’s great that the industry is so closely managed and it was great to attend so many webinars on which gave an insight to topics like driving near ice, bird flu and how to manage it, new guidelines for various places etc. It’s certainly a whole other world, which it will definitely take a while for me to get used to and understand. Luckily, the last two days surrounded by these amazing professionals has reassured me that there’s so much expertise and friendliness within our team that I’m in good hands who are willing and eager to help me learn the ways of their world.

As well as the IAATO test and webinars, there was a ship security test, a medical exam, studying the citizen science programme we will be running onboard, as well as trying to learn some information about the history, geology, animals and geography of Antarctica. Certainly a lot to think about, and I’ve certainly only uncovered the tip of the iceberg (excuse the pun!).

One of the hardest things was of course packing! What shoes, what gloves, what to wear for paddling, what to wear on the ship etc. I won’t bore you with my indecision over gloves, socks, bras, memory sticks and everything in between so here’s a photo of most of what I squeezed in my bag. Luckily, we are provided with a lot of the outside layers and big muck boots, so that made it a little easier. Thanks to the Willowgate Glamourous Gliders for providing my Scotland hat, I will certainly send a photo of it in Antarctica, maybe while swimming if I’m brave enough?!?! And to Sam and Hayely for providing me with warm things to hopefully stop me freezing!

What have I done since I left home?

So far I’ve spent a lot of time on flights, waiting for flights and chatting to my colleagues. We spent a night in Buenos Aires (Argentina) before flying to Montevideo (Uruguay) and have been here 2 nights getting to know each other, setting the tone for the season and waiting for our ship to arrive. As I speedily write the last of these sentences I can see the coach pull up outside the hotel to take us to the dock as our ship has now arrived and we’ll spend today loading it up with supplies, everything from paddling gear, books for the library, stock for the shop, coats for guests etc.

Once we’ve loaded everything on, we’ll leave port here in Montevideo and sail down to Punta Arenas (Chile) where we’ll meet our first guests. Our first trip starts on the 3rd November and it will take all of that time to get down there. Lots of days to help each other get used to the boat, set-up operations and get ready to give our guests the best trip to Antartica we can manage. I CAN NOT WAIT!!

Our first trip will finish in Ushuaia on 13th November so hopefully if I can find some WiFi I’ll send you another update then.

Until then I hope all our Willowgate family are doing well, enjoying swimming, paddling and hanging out with the dogs and I’ll send you some photos soon (hopefully with penguins in)!

For many of us, the ‘boat world’ is something which isn’t too familiar to us, and Antarctic expeditions even less so. I’m right at the beginning of my journey to understand how expeditioning in Antarctica works but I’ll do my best to explain it in this writing now.

I am so thankful that Willowgate has been so supporting in allowing me to have this once in a lifetime experience!