Q&A: Susan Adie – Polar Conservationist & Expedition Leader
Susan Adie has led over 200 expedition trips to the far corners of the earth, and has a lasting legacy in Antarctica – Adie’s Cove, on the continent’s western coast, was named in recognition of her continuing work as a polar conservationist
We asked Susan about her passion for Antarctica, and the work she does to protect this fragile wilderness.
When did you first set foot in the Great White Continent?
1992 in Paradise Cove. I was beyond belief stunned, shocked, breathless, speechless… I thought I was in a dream state. Nothing had prepared me for what I was to see and feel.
And what were your first impressions?
Vastness, otherworldly, honestly speechless. Words cannot do it justice – photographs barely do it justice – film begins to set the stage… You are inside a bubble of intense beauty – overwhelming and achingly beautiful…. I am still speechless 27 years later!
What is it about Antarctica that still draws you back time after time?
The answer honestly is the same as above… It is like nowhere else on Earth.
And can you tell us how Adie’s Cove came to be named after you?
I am still trying to understand! I have been working in Antarctica since 1992 and I am rather vocal when it comes to wilderness and wildlife protection, and the need for humans to be educated and regulated to protect nature. I have worked with our industry group IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) since 1996 to help create protections to the Antarctic environment.
Tell us about your family connection to Antarctica?
My great grandfather was an Expedition Leader for the first whaling expedition into Antarctica. They settled in King George Island for the season and killed hundreds of whales… I heard stories as a child but did not really put it all together until I became an adult and understood the devastation and also my passion for wildlife.
What do you love most about your role as Expedition Leader on board the G Expedition?
Sharing that love with others. Watching them be struck dumb and speechless – tears in their eyes – overwhelmed with love, with wonder, with excitement. It is an amazing gift to be able to give others!
How do you balance your passion for sustainable travel with working in polar tourism?
That gets tougher over time. So I continue to work in as many ways as I possibly can to reduce our impact. Educate our guests to become vocally involved ambassadors to protect Antarctica. Educate our guests to eliminate one-use plastic from their lives and remove it from the environment when they see it. Educate our guests to plant trees and look at other ways they can mitigate climate change.
EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION that leads to ACTION ACTION ACTION!
So we take action on the G Expedition to help our guests see how easy action can be. If I was to walk away from this and not do this job I would not have this opportunity and these guests may not get the education that I feel is so, so vital. Building the experience of our product onboard and off the ship, based on conservation education, is my goal and ONE way I try to give back for the impact that all humans have. I feel that my responsibility is to educate and help everyone see that their lifestyle’s impact can be changed!
What’s been your most memorable experience in Antarctica?
There are too many to highlight just one – leaving Dallman Bay on a perfect windless midnight sun; having whales play under the ship and around us for 4 hours one day in Crystal Sound, one of the most magical places on earth; watching 5,000 Adélie penguins leave their nests at 4am on Paulet Island – the island looked alive with their swaying bodies; humpback whales breaching… one of them 40 times in a row just 300 meters from our ship!
That is just a few …. There are many more!
And when you’re not in Antarctica, where is top of your travel wish-list?
Every place in nature is special – every place… I want to see sea turtles hatch from their sand beach nests; I want to see sandhill cranes dance in the prairies of the Americas; I want to watch a leopard climb a tree; I want to watch a whale shark give birth; and, I just have to sit with elephants again, at least just one more time in my life.
But really I just need to be in nature. Anywhere I am in nature is perfect because nature is perfect. It is all beautiful and the gift it gives me frees me to be me.
Nature is my Religion.
The Earth is my Church.
It is all around me.