A Day in the Life of an Expedition Leader


A Day in the Life

Your Expedition Leader will wake you up in the morning, coordinate navigation details with the bridge and meal times with the hotel manager, plan shore activities with the Expedition Team…In brief, you will see the EL run up and down the ship, drive zodiacs, welcome you ashore, inform you about shore activities during the evening briefings…Sometimes believed to have a twin on board, they are lucky to have an assistant EL and great expedition staff to help run the operations!

The alarm goes off half an hour before wake up time…

Enough time for me to have a quick chat with the officer on watch and collect information about our location and weather to prepare for the popular wake up call. A sip of coffee and off goes the “Ding- Dong, Good Morning, Good  Morning…”

A run through the emails allows me to check if the rest of the fleet has updated their itinerary, or for me to send a quick mail to do so. To respect wilderness etiquette, all EL’s across the fleet communicate their intentions via email. It is best for our visits but also for the wildlife to get a rest from human presence. A quick check and update of the board is important to let the rest of the staff know if there are any changes for the morning.

Breakfast follows, often rapidly swallowed to allow for more time on the bridge and to see the arrival at our morning destination. This is important as ice and snow conditions and wildlife sightings can modify the entire plan. It’s not unusual to find a large berg on our anchorage position, spot whales,..it’s the very nature our the trip: expect the unexpected!

Expect the Unexpected

Depending on the location, there are many options as to what can be done. We may take you ashore, lead you on a hike, set a perimeter for you to wander and discover at your leisure, sit and watch penguins, take you for a Zodiac ride to get to know the coast and see more wildlife…The options are endless and highly dependent on the location and the weather- or if we are in the Arctic, we will need to ensure polar bear’s safety by sending staff scouting ahead of time. At all times, we try to minimise our impact on the place we visit!

If we are around penguins, we will encourage visitors to be quiet, walk slowly and actually sit and observe. No lecture or book can replace first-hand observation in the wild so make the most of it!!! If you are looking, you will see so much…so don’t always rely on your guides, but learn to look!

While we are ashore, the galley team is busy preparing our meals. Most vessels have a buffet for lunch that allows you to compose your own salads with a variety of fresh vegetables, a mix of hot dishes, soups, a choice of cheese, deserts and fruits…the quality of the food as well as the cold will be your best excuses to indulge – just don’t blame the cooks for being too good at their job! A month on board means I need to find my way to the gym regularly to stay fit!

We will try to schedule the afternoon outing so that those who need it can disappear for a quick nap…whales don’t always follow our plans though so be ready to be woken up! At times, the ship is the best platform for viewing wildlife so the Captain and I may choose not to lower the zodiacs and stay out on deck. If we are lucky enough to view Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding, the height of the ship will give you a much better perspective than on a zodiac.

We conclude the day with a Recap&Briefing, usually in the reverse order! I will let you know what our best possible options are for the following day, weather and ice dependent of course! It’s a good opportunity to ask questions about the operations or anything that you wonder about.  The expedition staff is on hand to answer all your queries and will also have snippets of information about the wildlife, history and geology of the places we have visited.

The Bridge

Dinner will be served and we may have a few events in the evening such as live music in the bar, a quiz or documentary in the lounge…but you will me behind the computer, filling out reports, preparing the following days and at times, even the next trip. Before I disappear in my cabin for some much needed rest, I’ll pass the bridge. It is a peaceful place, full of information and with the best view which you are more than welcome to come and enjoy unless we are facing difficult navigation conditions and the officers close the bridge to visitors.

Although most of the time we are operating in 24hrs daylight as we are so close to the poles, no amount of light can replace a good night sleep! However, if an iceberg gets in our way, a bear comes and greets the ship or northern lights start dancing in the sky, the Bridge will ring me and you will soon hear the ‘Ding-Dong,…’

Come and explore with us! Join an expedition to the Polar Regions!

– Sarah Auffret

Sarah lived at Port Lockroy base in Antarctica for 2 seasons before joining G adventures onboard the MS Expedition as an Expedition Leader. 

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