Although I have many different jobs (I am the environmental manager for the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), teach medical courses, work as an operational paramedic and work on ships as a climatologist/geologist/ornithologist(Birder) as well as zodiac driver and medic. My official title is lecturer, zodiac driver and medic (I lecture in climatology and ornithology, and sometimes do a bit of geology, as my background is in physical geography, and I have 25 years experience birding). We are all part of the expedition team (there are 10 of us), we have an expedition leader and assistant expedition leader and then a mix of lecturers, usually an historian, birder, geologist, marine biologist, sometimes photographers, and then one or two people who can lecture on different topics, depending on their specialty. We all drive boats and for me to get this job I had to get my skippers ticket (Boat drivers licence) to drive boats offshore.
- Clouds driving the big MK6 Zodiac
When I am working on the ship I only need to think about a few of these jobs, but our job requires us to be very multi talented. Most of us drive zodiacs (inflated rubber boats), we guide people ashore, we lecture and I then am the medic as well!
Our standard day will start at about 7:30am when we lower the zodiacs by crane onto the water (on some ships it is really fun as the crane is lowered to deck 4, where there is a little gate where we climb into the boat and then we get lowered about 20m and hope that nothing happens to the crane as you hang there). We will then pick up the guests and shuttle them to the landing site.
Being lifted up by the crane when recovering the boats from the water
We split the driving, so 3 will drive and 4 will be onshore, those onshore guide the passengers and interpret what they are seeing. So effectively we are like Polar field guides, thus, even though my speciality is climate, I am expected to be able to talk in detail about the geology, seals, birds, penguins, history and ecosystem. Each landing lasts about 3,5 to 4.5 hours and we will head back to the ship at around 12pm where we have lunch and get the chance to have a micro nap (less than half an hour). We are back out on the boats again at 2pm for our second landing at a different site and will normally finish this one at about 5pm. By the time we have lifted the boats it is usually closer to 5:45. We have a chance to have a shower and prepare our recaps for the day. These are short snippets that we have to present on something that happened during the day, for example I may talk about a particular flight pattern of the albatross which allows them to fly without flapping, or the behaviour or breeding biology of a bird we have seen. Our recap starts at 6:45pm for 45minutes and we then have a quick meeting and head off to eat dinner with the passengers (we are expected to socialise with the guests). I don’t normally get out of the dining room much before 9:30pm and then our time is our own to try and check emails (when we have satellite internet), download and process photographs from the day. We seldom get to bed before 11pm. On sea days or half sea days we have to give 1hour lectures on our area of expertise and we are expected to have a very high level of knowledge of this area, hence most of us have the minimum of a Masters degree. Working on ships is tough because you never have a day off, we have a few hours on turnaround day, when we disembark one group of passengers and embark the next group. This is the time we go shopping and call home. I normally work 2 month contracts, sometimes longer, but then one gets very tired.
Can you think of a better job to have? If you love the outdoors (and being with people), being a guide is a fantastic job!