Q&A: Expedition guide in the Antarctic

From submarine dives to meeting penguins, director of expeditions Jason Flesher leads Scenic Eclipse passengers on once-in-a-lifetime excursions. Kelly Ranson reports

Q. Tell us about your expedition background?

A. I’ve been working in the outdoor industry for nearly 40 years, starting when I was 16 years old as a rock-climbing instructor. My specialism is in high-altitude mountain and cave rescue and prior to joining Scenic I was an expedition guide for 2041 Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of Antarctica.

Q. What’s your most memorable sailing excursion?

A. The captain brought Scenic Eclipse into the Weddell Sea on the second day of its maiden voyage. We found a beautiful patch of ice and got the guests out and there were three Adélie penguins coming up and greeting everybody. Then something even more magnificent happened. Five emperor penguins came up on the ice. At that time of year – mid-December – it’s incredibly rare to see this breed.

Q. And the most challenging?

A.Scenic Eclipse’s voyages beyond the Antarctic Circle can be challenging. Most other operators will just dip their toe in south of the Circle. Well, that’s not good enough for me and Scenic Eclipse. We’re going much farther south. I only know of one other ship that’s going that far south, and that’s an icebreaker ship.

We sail south from Ushuaia straight down to a place called Marguerite Bay – this destination is usually only visited for scientific exploration and there’s no landing site, because no one goes down there. We’ll be the only humans there.

Q. Scenic’s submarine, Scenic Neptune, offers guests a thrilling excursion below Antarctic waters. What can they expect?

A. Clients can expect a moment they will remember for a lifetime. On each submarine dive we can witness such rich diversity of marine life unlike anywhere else in the world – such as the bioluminescent jellyfish, Antarctic krill and a vast array of marine benthic fauna, found on the seabed. It truly is a wonderfully unique experience.

Q. What has been your most memorable dive?

A. Earlier this year I led the first submarine dive in the South Georgia Islands for 40 years – the first since the Falklands War. It was such a historic moment for myself and the guests who experienced the dive. To not only make history, but see the amazing marine life and accompany our very first guests was just remarkable for me.

Q. How do you see the future of expedition cruises?

A. Our voyages set the trend in terms of what we’re able to do and what activities we can offer, such as the helicopter and submarine excursions. We’ll continue to see the rise of luxury and ultra-luxury expedition voyages as more people become aware of the fact they don’t have to compromise on comfort to explore far-flung destinations and can do it in six-star style.

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