All news

Penguins, bears, ocean: Arctic and Antarctic guides share views on dream job they have

On one hand, you may get exhausted emotionally, on the other - you get addicted with strong every-day impressions, with full life. People keep returning, and this cycle is not likely to stop

MOSCOW, February 15. /TASS/. On the Internet, we often come across posts about dream jobs: to watch a lighthouse on an island, to pat pandas, to turn penguins, to watch birds. Some people have found their occupation in being guides for those who travel to the Arctic and Antarctica.

Grigory: a story of one skin and three people

The passion for expeditions and the interest in marine mammals have brought me to the Biology Department at the Moscow State University. I took a post-graduate course and joined a few big projects. One day, I was offered to guide tourists across the Far East - the organizers were looking for somebody, who drives a boat, speaks English and who is educated in biology. By that time, I had studied whales for 19 years, and met all the enlisted requirements.

Normally, my trips are not long, unlike other guides have, - some six weeks. I have kids and I want them to know what their dad looks like. Anyway, this occupation is not easy for my family. Many guides would work in seasons - 4 or almost 5 months in the Arctic and then about the same time in the Antarctica.

Some companies do not care much about psychological well-being of their staff. You are happy to work for 4 months - here you go. Other companies realize the guides are long-term resources and important parts of the product and offer to them short breaks in the middle of a long contract. It is very important to change the environment and to switch from life aboard to something different.

On a boat, you remain in the same space all the time. For me, it was problematic to get used to the permanent noise. If your room is close to the engine - it’s a big problem. Besides, every guide must communicate with passengers from morning till night.

Normally, lecturers and guides are interesting people: with unique experience and knowledge. One could be a master in kayaking, another - has spent a few seasons at an Antarctic station, or used to be a birdwatcher.

Every person is unique: can manage a boat, present a tour and what not. On the other hand, if a person is looking for a job to drop daily obligations at 6p.m. and not to do anything beyond those obligations, then no doubt - this person would not be working as a guide for long.

When onboard, we try to make an atmosphere of one team or family.

Our guests are absolutely different: someone is hunting for impressions, someone had a dream to see a penguin, and someone may be making a collection of global destinations. I know a man, who collected trips to islands. He went ashore on the Wrangel Island, stood there for a couple of minutes, made a few selfies and asked to be taken back to the ship. Another tourist had learned his grandfather used to be a geologists exploring Chukotka to find gold there. The man bought a tour to visit most of the places, where his relative had been.

I have been working as a guide for 12 years. There is no end to get surprised both in the Arctic and Antarctica. We are just visitors there, not caring much about how those territories live in the rest of the year, when we are gone. No trips are similar: wind, light, water color - are always different, unique.

Russian guides are not many and in this we could compete with other countries. What I can say for sure is - being a guide means having command of the profession, which requires training.

The industry is developing, but we see a shortage of qualified specialists. Working here is not just pointing to scenic views or animals, it is a huge responsibility. For the people and for the places you show. This work is for those, who are able not just to deliver a lecture or manage a boat, but those who know how to make sure the colonies of penguins, the polar bears, the whales and the seagulls prefer staying there even in decades to go.

This dream job is special. On one hand, you may get exhausted emotionally, on the other - you get addicted with strong every-day impressions, with full life. People keep returning, and this cycle is not likely to stop. I came to work here, when I had education, experience and family. It will be tough for young people to find a couple, another job, to receive education. With the years’ addiction it is a problem to get adapted to regular lifestyles. This work means the cold climate, and often wet clothes. Sooner or later you will have to quit the job, and thus having a retreat plan is truly important.

Our guests come from different continents and countries. All people are different. A friend of mine (a television anchorwoman) has prompted to me a term - lecturer’s aikido. The main approach is to be flexible, not to break. Use the opponent’s force in your own interests. You may be facing the audience, which dreams to make you lose the balance.

Aikido for guides is: softly, steadily, with a smile make sure the tourists are happy, though, on the other hand, be sure they act the way you want them to act. Any guide knows how, what and where to see the best possible way. This is the skill I continue to gain.

When asked what I prefer - the Arctic or Antarctica, I say - the Arctic is drawn with watercolors, and the Antarctica - with oil. They are incredibly interesting. In the Arctic, you may meet indigenous peoples, many of them can remember how their predecessors lived, they do not forget national traditions.

Once, when I was in Greenland, I met a man, who spoke only Danish. We spoke by gestures. He had lived there for 48 years. He waved hands to invite me into the house. The children had grown up and left for the mainland. When I was about to leave he gave me a sealskin, and I gave him a hat.

Another member of that group was a woman, an Inuit (a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples), who told us about her ethnic group. I showed the sealskin to her and she showed how to cut and sew mittens for men. A special stitch makes them waterproof. Thus, it was a story of one skin and three people. This is what the Arctic is for me. Not only the landscape and animals, but the people.

Tatiana: office work is more complicated

My education is a teacher of English and French. When still a student, I took a course of guiding. Took groups to Baikal. Later on, I wanted to work in New Zealand. Sent out a CV. I was invited to be an assistant leader on board a vessel. This is how my life has changed.

As for my past responsibilities - we sailed across the Pacific Ocean from the Kuril Islands to Chukotka, the Wrangel Island. The entire Russian Far East, including Kamchatka, the Komandor and Shantar Islands, the Sakhalin and other places, which back then I visited for the first time. I translated everything - from onboard lectures to talks with national parks or border guards. Plus certain paperwork.

My next job was a guide on the Spitsbergen. By that time, I was licensed to carry a gun and to drive a boat. Thus, my additional responsibility was the tourists’ safety ashore. Later on, I worked with a Russian company, a part of Arcticugol (coal mining company). Their head office is in Moscow, and mines are on the Spitsbergen. I lived in Barentsburg and in the closed Piramida settlement, and guided tours. My responsibility was also to work at the port.

I had experience working with the Norwegians on small vessels, with crews of 4-5 people. Interestingly, their guides are responsible rather for safety onboard. In case of a force majeure event, a guide, like a crew member, was to carry out certain rescue measures. There, I also read lectures.

All my contracts were about three months, the longest trip was from May to October, with a break for two months, and then back to work for another 90 days. The business day is about 16 hours, or even longer. Early to rise, and very late to bed.

The only thing I can call complicated is - when staying onboard for too long, without days off, anyone would get tired of permanent ongoing communication. For example, a trip to the Wrangel Island is two weeks long, then we return, take a new group onboard, and leave for another trip.

Any hardships in this work are nothing in comparison with the opportunity to travel and meet interesting people. Work in an office seems more complicated to me. My dream job is to study marine mammals. I am absolutely in love with whales. Right now I lack the freedom, the excitement from traveling, which, probably, is from what all travelers suffer. Airports, ships - are my passion. When at the university, I heard a saying: a ship is safe in a harbor, but this is not why she was built.

The amazing beauty of the high latitudes cannot leave unmoved - the landscapes, the animals, the birds. I am like a viewer, who sees new shades in an old performance.

Vladimir: this is my dream job

Since 1994 I was a boatswain, and later joined a tourist company. More than 15 recent seasons I have spent in the Antarctica, and 10 seasons - in the Arctic. I am a logistics manager.

A few years ago, a group of tourists got stuck on the Wrangel Island. The fog was too thick for a helicopter to find the vessel. This is why we always keep in stock packed meals and some covers to hide from the wind. All tourists must wear waterproof outfits.

My company does not allow me to work throughout a season, every contract is for 1-2 months. Though I could be working non-stop. I am not home-sick. Some guides after working in the Antarctica find jobs in Iceland, Spitsbergen, Greenland.

Every place has its own beauty. I am fond of photography, and the Antarctica is more interesting to me. Very dear to me are emperor penguins. Tours to them are rare, as getting there can be by helicopters only. Once, we took a flight of 7 miles, and then had to walk another 2 miles not to frighten off the birds. It was minus 19, and in the wind the frost felt even harsher. The Sun is so strong, that hiding faces and wearing sun glasses is a must. Some people choose to go there simply to make good pictures.

On the North Pole and in the Antarctica making a proposal is an often ritual. Even marriages. One day, a tourist asked us to allow him and his girlfriend to go ashore on the ice, and there he proposed to her. I know that now they are married with two kids.

Every trip is unique. I’ve never thought of quitting for something different ashore. I plan to continue this work for at least ten years. Every day is different: interesting people, the nature - what else to dream of! I often hear people saying I have a dream job. That’s right! I enjoy what I am doing. Some people need a break from the sea, the ship and people. Not me.