A Day In The Life Of… a HX Hurtigruten Expedition Leader

26 April 2024
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A Day In The Life Of, Antarctica, Arctic, HX

We spoke to Expedition Leader for HX Hurtigruten Expeditions, Torstein Gaustad. He has a strong bond with the sea, having grown up on the Norwegian coast. Travelling has always been a source of immense joy, as he loves exploring new destinations, immersing himself in the local culture, and gaining knowledge about the history and environment of each place he visits. In his role, he makes sure the guests get the best experience possible by sharing his knowledge and expertise. It is absolutely his dream job!

Torstein embraces a new day on a HX expedition
Torstein embraces a new day on a HX Hurtigruten expedition

How does a typical day start for you?

With coffee! And a walk out on deck to check the conditions and take a moment to enjoy the view, while thinking of the day’s expeditions. After that, I go to the bridge to talk to the captain and the officers, to get the latest update on timings, conditions, and position and see if the operational plan made yesterday needs adjusting. Then adjustments are made, and if needed, the team and guests are informed in the morning announcement. Then we get ready to explore.

Captain's bridge in Antarctica
Captain’s Bridge in Antarctica

Favourite thing about where you work?  

Learning! We have breathtaking views where we sail. It is amazing to see the majestic landscapes and wildlife, but even better when you learn about them. You start seeing things in a new way, when you also understand what you see. To give this experience to the guests and see and hear from them how they change the way they think about what they see.

Land illuminated in Norway's Arctic Circle
Land illuminated in Norway’s Arctic Circle

What’s the most unusual/memorable moment you’ve experienced guiding visitors?

There are many memorable moments. During a cultural performance by the community of Ulukhaktok, Arctic Canada, the guests joined in the dancing with the local inhabitants, and it was a unique connection made between people in that moment that was very beautiful.

MS Roald Amundsen in the background two cairns built of stones, Ulukhaktok, Canada.
MS Roald Amundsen in the background two cairns built of stones, Ulukhaktok, Canada.

Biggest challenges you face in your role?

Changing conditions in the polar regions always keep us on our toes. Often, we need to adjust plans because of weather, ice, and other unforeseen conditions. It takes the collaboration of the whole ship team to readjust every part of the day and make a new plan. This is also, in my opinion, one of the most exciting parts of working on and being on an expedition—the unexpected.

Expedition boat cruising in Neko Harbour, Antarctica.
Expedition boat cruising in icy Neko Harbour, Antarctica.

What advice would you give travellers coming to explore the polar regions?

Bring enough layers of clothing for all types of weather you can expect. We cannot control the weather and do not let it control your experience. Make the weather part of the experience.

Ask questions! All guests have different interests. We offer a variety of lectures on different topics, e.g. history, ornithology, geology, etc. Make sure to approach our expedition team onboard and ask them, if there is anything you want to know more about. Make sure you take the time to stop and really enjoy what you see. Sometimes it can be best to put the camera down and focus on the sensation of being where you are and reflecting on what you are experiencing.

Rainbow in the Norwegian fjords

Favourite time of year and any tips for when to go there?

The polar regions have many different regions, all of which have their own unique experiences. Every season also has its own uniqueness. Our itineraries throughout the year are planned for the different regions at the time of year when it is best to visit. Within the Antarctic season, you can expect more ice and snow in the beginning, with penguins just arriving to build their nests and whales migrating down. The landings are often more challenging due to deep snow, but also more pristine because of it.

Penguin chicks hatch later in the season and as snow melts, landings become easier, as the smell of penguin guano grows stronger. An overview of what to expect at different times of the season in Antarctica is also found on our website. No matter what time you choose, every part of the season has unique highlights to experience. For the Arctic areas, we have planned our trips to have the best conditions for each destination, e.g. Svalbard, North West Passage, Greenland, and Alaska.

Adelie penguin and chicks
Adult Adelie penguin and chicks

Do you have any stories you would like to share?

On a landing site in Antarctica, I noticed a guest who was standing at one spot, watching one penguin and discretely mimicking its movements. The penguin noticed the guest after they were both 5 metres apart studied each other and seemed to copy each other’s movements for some time.

Penguins like to keep an eye on you!
Penguins like to keep an eye on you!

Ready to start planning your trip on an incredible Antarctica expedition cruise? Simply complete our enquiry form to get in touch, or call our Polar Specialists on 020 3666 1033.

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