7 Questions for the Captain

by Oceanwide Expeditions Blog

It takes a village to run a polar cruise: The guides boat us safely from ship to shore and lead us on the gamut of glacial hikes, the service staff makes sure our rooms are cleaned and dinners served hot in the heart of Earth’s least hospitable locations. But without one key role in all this fine-tuned circuitry, we wouldn’t be going anywhere – at least anywhere good.
Antarctic Peninsula

7 Questions for the Captain

It takes a village to run a polar cruise: The guides boat us from ship to shore and lead us on the gamut of glacial hikes, the service staff makes sure our rooms are tidy and dinners served hot in the heart of Earth’s least hospitable locations. But without one key role in all this fine-tuned circuitry, we wouldn’t be going anywhere – at least anywhere good.

The Mysterious Maritime Pilot

We're referring of course to the captain, the central navigator of polar exploration since the earliest days of Arctic and Antarctic discovery. Situated at the control center in the bridge – the veritable cerebrum of the vessel – the captain keeps us clear of treacherous icebergs and calamitous coastlines, all while steering the ship as close as possible to the wondrous host of wildlife we traveled so far to see. But though captains are indispensable figures of seafairing life, they tend to be seldom-seen (and sometimes inapproachable) presences for the passengers on board. To dispel some of this mystery, we caught up to Captain Alexey Nazarov and asked a few illuminating questions.

First things first: How did you get started in this line of work?

I grew up by the coast, in Arkhangelsk, Russia – the “Pomors Capital” it is called, after the Pomor people of the White Sea – and I always dreamed of being a sailor. After finishing high school at the age of 15, I left home and started my naval career in the oldest maritime college in the country. I graduated in 1997 at 19 years old, and three months later became third officer on the research vessel Yakov Smirnitsky. I made my first Arctic voyage for the Russian Hydrographic Department on that vessel, and I have worked in the Arctic and Antarctic ever since: eight years sailing nuclear icebreakers in heavy ice conditions, and almost 17 years with Oceanwide Expeditions. Oceanwide promoted me captain of m/v Plancius in 2012.

Take me through your first few hours on board. What do you do?

My first hours on the ship are always the same: The previous captain signs off, handing the duties of the vessel over to me. After the “handover” procure – this involves learning the condition of the ship inside and out, ensuring that all the safety equipment is in working order, making the necessary log entries, a lot of things – I report to Oceanwide that I have assumed the captain’s duties and have taken over responsibility for the vessel.

What is one particularly memorable moment you’ve had in the polar regions?

Difficult question. I’ve had a lot of memorable moments out here. I’d say the time we spotted more than 80 bowhead whales along the Greenland ice edge was a pretty memorable moment.

What are some common misconceptions people have about the polar regions?

They think it’s always freezing, it’s totally uninhabited, there’s nothing but ice and snow and rock. Many people also imagine that global warming has made it easier to travel here. But since much of the travel takes place over “ice roads,” these routes have naturally disappeared over time, making overland travel far more difficult. The northern lights also aren’t constant, and penguins are only seen in the polar regions south of the equator. One other thing I’ve noticed is that some people who’ve never been to either the Arctic or Antarctic think these areas are going to be boring. That’s absolutely untrue, and I’ve heard a lot of great passenger comments that refute that assumption. Even for me, after so many years in the Arctic and Antarctic, every day is unforgettable.

Do you still take pictures?

I’m no professional photographer, but yes. Usually I only show them to my family and friends – and then only if I think they’ll be interested – but sometimes I put my photos on Facebook. Maybe when I’m older, I’ll find the time to collect everything and put it all into the right folders.

What’s one luxury you miss during your time at sea?

That’s easy: My family and my car. During my time off, I like to visit different countries with my wife and teenage son.

Finally, what’s the last thing you do before you step off the ship?

I thank the crew for doing a great job during my contract, and I wish the oncoming captain and crew a safe and happy sailing. But always when I leave the ship, when I’m on the gangway and just about to step onto dry land, I put my hand against the vessel and in my mind say, “Thank you, Plancius.” This is my tradition.

Love this article? Share your appreciation:

Related cruises

Chevron
Scoresby Sund - Aurora Borealis
Up to 800 USD discount

Scoresby Sund - Aurora Borealis

incl. free LEICA photo workshop

PLA17-17. The East Greenland – Scoresby Sund cruise crosses the Arctic Circle into the home waters of multiple species of whale. The expedition will spot huge icebergs as it journeys into the largest and deepest fjord system in the world. Along the way the Northern Lights is guiding our way.

Cruise date:

18 Sep - 25 Sep, 2017

Price:

on request

Chevron
Scoresby Sund - Aurora Borealis
Up to 950 USD discount

Scoresby Sund - Aurora Borealis

Witness the Northern Lights at Scoresby Sund

PLA16-17. The East Greenland – Scoresby Sund cruise crosses the Arctic Circle into the home waters of multiple species of whale. The expedition will spot huge icebergs as it journeys into the largest and deepest fjord system in the world. Along the way the Northern Lights is guiding our way.

Cruise date:

11 Sep - 18 Sep, 2017

Price:

4700 USD 3750 USD 950 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius
Up to 1950 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

OTL21-17. The 12-day Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp Ortelius cruise offers you a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy the Antarctic Region. This expedition allows you to hike, snowshoe, kayak, go mountaineering, and even camp out under the Southern Polar skies.

Cruise date:

4 Nov - 15 Nov, 2017

Price:

9650 USD 7700 USD 1950 USD discount

Weddell Sea - In search of the Emperor Penguin incl. helicopters
Up to 2300 USD discount

Weddell Sea - In search of the Emperor Penguin incl. helicopters

Searching for the Elusive Emperor Penguins

OTL22A-17. A true expedition, our Weddell Sea cruise sets out to explore the range of the Emperor Penguins near Snow Hill Island. We will visit the area via helicopter and see a variety of other birds and penguins including Adélies and Gentoos.

Cruise date:

15 Nov - 25 Nov, 2017

Price:

11550 USD 9250 USD 2300 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula with South Shetland Islands
Up to 1600 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula with South Shetland Islands

Classic Antarctica including Deception Island

OTL24-17. This 11-day Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise delivers you into a landscape of dark rugged rock, pure white snow, and a fantastic variety of wildlife. Come say hello to whales, seals, and thousands of penguins.

Cruise date:

6 Dec - 16 Dec, 2017

Price:

on request