Onboard Interviews

In these onboard interviews, passengers and crew discuss why they chose to travel and work in the Antarctic region, and how they feel about the environment, climate change, ecotourism, and the future of the planet.

Eloisa Berrier, expedition guide, marine biologist, kayak master.

Patagonia, Argentina

Eloisa Berrier has been leading kayaking expeditions in Greenland and Patagonia for over a decade. Today she alternates seasons in Patagonia, Antarctica, and the Arctic as a sea-kayak guide and naturalist. She is the first female in Latin America to become a Level-4 sea-kayak instructor in the American Canoe Association.

We began by asking Eloisa how her training in biology and dedication to conservation informs her role as a guide in the tourism industry?

Interview date: November 11, 2023

Eduardo Larrañaga, expedition guide, kayak specialist, and naturalist

Paracas, Peru


Write Place: What was your path to becoming a guide in Antarctica?

Eduardo Larrañaga: Since I was child, maybe five-years-old, I wanted to visit Antarctica.  I saw a television documentary about the animals and became crazy about them. I loved whales and dreamed about them swimming around the ice.

WP: So, you studied biology?

EL: Yes, with a special interest in whales and dolphins. My focus was on humpback whales and long-beaked dolphins in northern Peru. Their protection is important to the whole ecosystem. 

WP: Are whales now protected in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica?

EL: Yes. We’re doing much better, considering they killed thousands of whales in this area in the twentieth-century—remember all those old rusting stations we saw on South Georgia? They nearly exterminated species like the blue whale and right whale. In the mid-1980s, the International Whaling Commission banned all commercial whaling, and in 1994 an Antarctic Whale Sanctuary was declared. I don’t know if Japan is still whaling. What is for sure is that when Japan used to do it, not long ago, their reason, “for scientific purposes,” was very doubtful.  

WP: You seem like a committed conservationist.

EL: Yes, I believe conservation is key to our survival on the planet.

WP: Does working as an expedition guide in Antarctica go along with your conservation ethics?

EL: So far, yes.  When people see a place like this, they wake up. That’s also why I use photography. When you capture amazing images and show people, they wake up and want to get involved. 

WP: Maybe photography, documentaries—like the one you saw as a child—are enough to wake up people. Why do we have to burn fuel and travel so far just to see a penguin or a whale in the wild?

EL: Ah, you make a good point, but the best way to know something is to experience it directly, yes? That’s why I also love kayaking. Most people on this expedition will be moved by what they do, what they feel and see in the wild. They will be changed. I think they will care more about whales and penguins, you know. They will react differently when they see the news about the glaciers melting. 

WP: You’re positive about ecotourism?

EL: Yes, but there are problems.

WP: What are the problems?

EL: If too many ships come to the Antarctic Peninsula they will have a negative impact. It must be controlled.  I worry about a load of people coming into the bird and mammal colonies. Then there’s always a chance of a fuel spill. 

WP: What do you predict?

EL: I predict there will be many more people coming. But the melting of ice will also affect all of this tourism. It will make it both easier and harder to get around.  It might make the bird and seal populations vulnerable—too vulnerable for human contact.

WP: So, this kind of travel has its positives and negatives?

EL: For sure. In our case, the positives still outweigh the negatives. For a short period, I traveled extensively, competing in windsurfing competitions. Nowadays, I prefer to travel less and focus on the protection and responsible tourism in Paracas, my hometown.    

November 6, 2023

Beryl Tan, plastic surgeon.

Melbourne, Australia

Write Place: Why are you visiting Antarctica?

Beryl Tan: I travel a lot and Antarctica has been on my bucket list. And I care about the climate, and we hear about Antarctica and the ice melting and how everything is affected—the krill, the whole ecosystem—it’s a puzzle.

WP: What do you think you can do about these problems?

BT: I still consider myself an outsider, but one of the reasons why I wanted to come here is to be a witness, to experience what it’s like. For many people—it doesn’t quite hit you, or you’re like a bystander. But we are part of the puzzle. So coming here, experiencing things for myself, seeing things for myself, talking to people, learning from the guides has actually opened my eyes a lot. All these climate change effects are real. I was texting my friends about what I’ve learned. A lot of people can say oh yes, they are pro-climate—and I’m also surprised that there’s a lot of climate change deniers still out there. So I like what Eloisa [Berrier, expedition guide] says—that once you find out more about it, you can be an ambassador and spread the word.

WP: Do you think tourism can have positive effects on the environment?

BT: Yes, but people criticize tourism when there’s too much of it. I believe in using tourism as a means of spreading the word, as a means of educating people about what’s going on. As long as it’s regulated. It’s only now that I found out about IAATO [International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators] and the Antarctic Treaty. So, it teaches us things. It’s a good thing for most people. I do feel privileged that I could make this trip.

WP: What about this trip has most excited you?

BT: The animals. I love the animals. And the kayaking. I’ve kayaked many times but this is different. Maybe you guys felt it. We are not just in a big ship passing by, we are down in kayaks, closer to the water, closer to the ice, closer to Antarctica. Touching the ice, hearing the ice.

WP: That’s beautiful.

BT: Tonight I heard one of the guides talk about the ‘beautiful nothing” of Antarctica.

WP: Yes, we also talked about that feeling.

(A few seconds of silence)

WP: Would you recommend this trip to other people?

BT: Yes, definitely.  I already have

WP: Are you worried that too many people might come and spoil the place?

BT: That’s a possibility. As I said, it’s good to have IAATO and the Antarctica Treaty to set the rules. Not everyone listens, but you need some rules and regulations. You can’t just let people off the ship. In a way, I’m a cynic—part of my job—so I believe most people need guidance. The guides on this boat are great. They help tourism, but they have their own passion. Eloisa is a perfect example.  She’s passionate about what she knows, biology. A lot of us have been influenced by her.

November 10, 2023

Rebecca Lindeman, civil engineer specializing in disaster relief, and her husband, Larry Lindeman, an electrical engineer working in renewable energy.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Rebecca and Larry

Write Place: Why are you visiting Antarctica?

Larry Lindeman: We loved the Arctic and wanted to explore the other end of the planet. We want to see these beautiful places before it’s too late. And it always feels good to be away from people, doesn’t it?

Rebecca Lindeman: Yeah, once we headed out to sea there was an immediate sense of being away from civilization, more isolated, and part of something larger. We do a lot of hiking, backpacking and camping in remote areas. We like to get away and rough it.

WP: Considering your love for intense outdoor experiences, how does it feel to be aboard the Sea Spirit?

LL: Any time you’re on a ship you’re confined with other people. You’re not in the wilderness when you’re on a ship. We don’t like crowds.

RL: And I would’ve enjoyed a more active role in setting up the operations—you know, heading out to the landing sites and running guide lines and flags. More hands-on experience.

WP: How about when we’re off the ship and aboard the Zodiacs or on the land and ice?

RL: Sure, it’s great to be out on the water—and the landings are terrific. The wildlife is stunning. But I had a moment smelling the fuel fumes on the zodiac and thought, we’re also part of the problem, environmentally

LL: The place is beautiful and teeming with life. I just wish there were another way to explore it.

WP: Yes, the distance makes it difficult. We burned a lot of diesel to make this trip.

LL: We did.

WP: But here you are?

RL: Yes (laughing). I know I sound critical. But there’s a lot to enjoy.  We walk around the deck every morning, spotting dolphins and whales; and the albatrosses and petrels following the ship—so cool.  The experiences off the ship are the best, of course. The penguins and elephant seals on South Georgia were terrific. Now all the ice. It’s a special place.

LL: The wildlife is incredible. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed taking lots of photos. But I can’t help feeling like a tourist. And we can’t deny the impact we’re having.

WP: Do you think ecotourism trips like this are bad for the environment?

LL: There are a lot of problems with these kinds of trips. Unlike a safari in Africa where you see that the money goes directly to a community, building infrastructure, hospitals, schools; or to a rhino or lion protection program, some direct action—where does the money generated from this cruise go?

RL: To the cruise company.

WP: Yeah, it’s tricky, because beyond the research stations, there are no human communities on Antarctica.

LL: Right, and that makes it more difficult to make a positive impact.

RL: And the scientists are typically funded by governments.

LL: It would be great if there were more programs in place that would directly benefit from the profits of this trip.

WP: What kind of program were you thinking about?

LL: The subject of wind power came up in that talk about millionaire glamping at Wolf’s Fang in Queen Maud’s Land. The speaker played down the potential for wind power in Antarctica because the speeds often exceed what conventional turbines can take, but vertical-axis turbines can handle much stronger velocities. Imagine if a nonprofit organization were experimenting with this technology.  What if a portion of this ship’s profits went into that?

RL: That’s a great idea.

WP: Agreed!  But what about raising consciousness? People on this trip will experience and learn about the ocean, ice and animals, the issues with climate change. Even our discussion about Antarctic wind power may not have occurred had we stayed home. That all raises awareness, right? Isn’t that enough?

LL: People like to use that phrase, “raising consciousness,” but I’d like to see more action.

RL: We do need more action. But it’s true that experience is powerful and long-lasting. Even with all the complications we’re talking about, experience affects us. You can’t deny that.

November 8, 2023


Nancy Elwood, nurse anesthetist, wildlife photographer.

Orlando, Florida

Write Place: Why are you visiting Antarctica?

Nancy Elwood: It’s my third time. I like to explore isolated places where few others have gone—the road less traveled. I feel a connection with this place. I’m a birder and a wildlife photographer and this allows me to see some extraordinary species—like penguins and albatrosses—in the wild. 

WP: Are you pleased with this trip so far?

NE: I was disappointed that we couldn’t land on more places in South Georgia Island. There were the bird flu concerns, but I think we could have done more. They shield us, don’t they?

WP: Even with the biosecurity measures, maybe there was a chance we could carry the virus to another site.

NE: I think it was more about not wanting us to see a lot of dead birds.

WP: Do you think nature cruises lack authenticity?

NE: I guess they’re doing the best they can with a diverse group of people and different expectations.

WP: As a wildlife photographer, someone who loves nature, do you have any mixed feelings about traveling so far and using fossil fuels?

NE: No, I feel fine about making this trip. Travel is a big part of my life. When I was in college in Florida, I learned to fly and flew my own airplane to the Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and up to Alaska. It was so empowering.  I’ve been to Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, Australia and New Zealand. I don’t feel bad about these trips or my individual carbon footprint when they are still building coal-fired plants in China. And how much better is electric? Lithium batteries made with slave labor. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a whole lot we can do. 

WP: About climate change?

NE: I’m always ready to listen to the science, though I wish it were pure science and not full of political agendas. But I don’t think we’re going to stop the ice from melting. 

WP: Is there anything we can do?

EP: Get excited and learn about nature, protect species and their habitat. I have 5,000 followers on YouTube and my approach to nature and conservation is common-sense. I want to dispel with all the politics. (Nancy rolls up her sleeves and shows her arm-length tattoos of a bald eagle and a great gray owl). Nature inspires me and inspires other people to live better lives. 

November 6, 2023


Alan Rehmar, retired eye surgeon, and his wife, Karen Connors, a retired hospital administrator.

Columbus, Ohio.

Alan and KarenWrite Place: Why are you visiting Antarctica?

Alan Rehmar: It’s the most pristine, unspoiled place on the planet. 

Karen Connors: So full of animal life. Humans haven’t ruined it yet. It’s far enough away from everything.  

WP: Yes, it’s a long way from any cities, a long way from Columbus, Ohio.

KC: It sure is (laughing). But we wanted to experience all this, so we flew 5,000 miles down to Chile and the Falklands, a long way, then got on this boat. I sometimes have to close my eyes to the negative impact of such travel. 

AR: Yes, I guess we’re part of the problem—with carbon emissions, anyway. But a lot of the people on this cruise will have a deeper appreciation of South Georgia Island and Antarctica— places so few people ever see. I would urge people to come down and see this incredible place—just don’t mess it up.

WP: Do you think we’ve messed anything up on this expedition?

KC: I suppose any human contact will have some impact, but the Poseidon team has been very careful. With all the biosecurity we went through, and the rules of conduct for our time on shore. It’s pretty strict.

AR: Yeah, they’re very professional. I think we’ve had minimal negative impact.

WP: Do you think ecotourism is a positive activity?

AR: Well, you’d hope so (laughing).  I’m sure it depends on the company. If it’s done properly, like this trip, yes. The more you observe nature, the more you connect, which can lead to genuine positive action. 

WP: Has close contact with nature resulted in positive action for you?

AR: It has. We travel to Alaska every year. We love to fish and hike and bird watch—bear watch. This got us into river conservation, so I joined the Susitna River Coalition and we contribute to their cause.

KC: Yeah, and people who experience Antarctica will be similarly affected. They’ll be more likely to make decisions and vote in ways that can help fight climate change.

WP: So, you’re referring back to our carbon emissions?

KC: Yes, there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that humans are the cause of these rapid changes. It’s the rate of change that’s so alarming.

AR: The science is sound. But it’s very hard for individuals to make a difference. This must be solved on a higher level—a governmental level, on a global scale.

KC: I’m in favor of a carbon tax. And I’m in favor of doing what informed scientists and, we’d hope, informed government leaders tell us to do. Americans are afraid of giving up their freedoms, but we need to give up something to make a difference. Remember during the COVID pandemic, the world stopped for a while and we saw how some waters cleared up, air pollution declined, some animal species bounced back.  

AR: Humans make a mess of things, but we’re also good at fixing things. I believe in the human potential to solve this problem. 

WP: You two travel a lot. We’ve discussed some important issues, but what is it about this particular trip, the places we’ve seen, that’s different?

AR: The enormous expanse of it all. The vast ocean, those huge penguin and cormorant colonies, the ice. It’s mind-blowing. 

KC: It is stunning—like nothing else we’ve seen. 

WP: Will you continue to travel? 

KC: Oh, yes. 

AR: You could stay home, and I guess you’d have the least negative impact on the planet, but that’s unacceptable to us. We want to explore the world.

November 7, 2023