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Welcome to BrashTalk #28 The Newsletter of the Polar Tourism Guides Association

In This Issue:

  • From the Chair of the Board
  • Video Recording of the Arctic Pre-Season Summit
  • New Affiliate Members – Amarok Adventures & PolarX
  • New Training and Assessment Provider – Marine Guide Training
  • Administration – Your Guide Assessment Portfolio
  • Scuttlebutt
    • Assessor Training Course in August
    • Polar Guide Specific WAFA Courses
    • Chinese Polar Guides Association (CPGA)
  • Training and Development: Compilation Now Available
  • Guano Happens: Fur Seals Have Sharp Teeth

From the Chair: New Executive Director & Annual Meeting

Big changes at PTGA! Since our founding as a nonprofit in 2017, PTGA has been growing steadily. In response to this continued growth, the Board has restructured PTGA at the executive level. Personally, I am quite excited for what the next evolution of PTGA will bring!

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Sarah Merusi, our new Executive Director. It’s fair to say that Sarah is a bit of a unicorn. She holds a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and has worked at Wharton Leadership Ventures and also for United Nations programs focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality. If that isn’t enough, she’s been expedition guiding for many years and is a certified PTGA Senior Polar Guide and Assessor. Sarah’s work as ED will be focused on the business side of PTGA, leading our small team of staff, working with the board to implement strategic vision, and being the primary contact for all organizational partners. You’ll also see her helping with membership communications. A big welcome to Sarah to the PTGA team!

Installing an ED has provided Graham the opportunity to reinvision his role. We are dissolving the President role and Graham will remain on the Board while continuing to work on strategic projects to keep PTGA driving forward. He will also be continuing his work with our Assessors as the Program Director, doing what he loves most – working directly with guides and overseeing our qualifications framework.

These executive-level changes we are seeing are in large part due to Graham’s tireless work and dedication over the years. He was the founder of PTGA and has served as our President from the beginning. The successes PTGA has experienced are in large part thanks to Graham’s vision and perseverance. It is a tribute to his efforts that we’ve needed to restructure. Thank you, Graham, for everything you have and continue to do to ensure the polar regions are a fun, safe, and rewarding workplace.

I am so appreciative of you, our membership, and our partners who continue to see the value not only in guide development and professionalism, but in fostering a community where we can all share and learn from each other. Coming off of our Annual General Meeting this week, the board has expressed a renewed focus on adding more value to your membership. More to come over the year as we roll out new initiatives.

In the meantime, stay cool out there.


Colby, Board Chair

Arctic Updates

Thanks for a great panel for our Arctic Pre-Season Summit this past April covering:

  • New Svalbard environmental guidelines
  • What’s new in Greenland and Arctic Canada
  • The future of incident reporting
  • The potential for a “new” way of managing our Arctic operations particularly, around wildlife observation and sharing resources for increasing our knowledge of Arctic areas
  • Professionalism and “what is a guide?”

Panelists: AECO’s Troels Jacobson, Adventure Canada’s Jason Edmunds, Svalbard Guide Ida Olsson, Expedition Guide Academy’s Ben Jackson, PTGA’s Graham Charles, Expedition Leaders Mørten Jorgenson & Alex Cowan (Moderator).

If you missed it, you can watch the recording here.

New Affiliate Members

We welcome 2 new Affiliate Members to the PTGA family!

Amarok Adventures 

Amarok Adventures is a travel agency owned and operated by PTGA certified guides, specialized in hiking, backpacking, and immersive adventure trips to the most remote corners of the Arctic & Antarctic regions. Understanding that their clients are not merely seeking a vacation, but rather an opportunity to push the boundaries of exploration and ignite their spirit of adventure, Amarok Adventures is committed to delivering unforgettable experiences. Whether traversing the Icelandic Highlands, remote East Greenland fjords, or during close encounters with wildlife in its natural habitat, their team is dedicated to making every journey truly extraordinary

Amarok Adventures prides itself on offering small group expeditions of maximum 12 people always accompanied by a professional certified guide, they provide unparalleled access  to some of the most challenging and awe-inspiring landscapes for backpacking and hiking enthusiasts in the polar & subpolar regions.

Polar X
PolarX is your single contact for everything cold and extreme. Whether it is film, exploring, science, arts, transport, aviation, logistics or superyachts, we are the world’s logistics leader in the polar regions. Throughout three decades we have been involved in an untold number of polar projects in all regions of the poles. The combined logistical knowledge led to the creation of PolarX with expansion of the services to include Film logistics, exploring, science, arts, transport, aviation, and superyachts.
New Training and Assessment Provider (TAP)

Guides and Aspirant guides in North America now have a PTGA affiliated training provider to go to when looking for training or assessment opportunities. This is fantastic news for people looking to gain skills with a focus on polar tourism and the expedition cruise industries.

Marine Guide Training is the first PTGA-approved Training and Assessment Provider in North America. Located in historic Alert Bay on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Alert Bay is on the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest, rich in wildlife and culture. It has a dynamic and varied training environment well suited to the exacting needs of the Expedition Cruise and Polar Tourism industries.

Nate Small (Senior Polar Guide/Assessor) and Jeannine McCormack (Polar Guide) bring nearly 30 years combined experience in expedition guiding, environmental education, and teaching. Starting in October 2024, they will be offering week-long Expedition Guide training courses with a focus on polar work. As a PTGA-certified Assessor, Nate will also be able to offer assessments for candidates who are ready to start the process of becoming a certified PTGA Polar Guide.

For more information on MGT, visit their website, or email.

To learn more about PTGA Training and Assessment Providers, click here on our website.

What is a Guide Assessment and Learning Portfolio (ALP)?

This is an important document that captures all completed assessments, dates, assessors, certificates gained, and any onlinelearning through the Virtual Learning Environment.

 Where can you find your ALP? 

  1. Log into your PTGA Member profile just as you do to renew your membership.
  2. Click on the Digital Logbook tab
  3. Click on the Files tab
  4. Scroll down until you see a list of files. Here you will find a document that says ALP and will be saved with your name. This is also the place where you will find any digital documents shared with the PTGA such as any Pre-Assessment Contracts or Post-Assessment Reports.

Instead of having to sort through all of these files and download each individually, we keep track of everything for you in your ALP and you can take advantage of this resource for your own personal logbook. If you don’t have one drop us a line.

Wanted: Incident and Near Miss Recounts

Guano Happens is our most read section of Brash Talk – for good reason. As guides and guide community members we all know how important it is to learn from our colleagues about safety management. Learning from past events gives us the tools and pre-knowledge to avoid or mitigate the same or similar situation if/when we find ourselves in it. Open discourse, sharing near misses and reviewing incidents are indicators of a mature and healthy industry culture.

Share a past event here. They are always kept anonymous and we will never identify individuals or companies. There is no blame, only education and awareness using the basic facts.

Assessor Training Course in August 

Thank you to everyone who reached out with interest for our upcoming open Assessor Training Course prior to the IAATO Polar Field Staff Conference this August 30 – 31, 2024.

The course is now full!

If you would like to express interest in attending a future assessor training course please write to us at info@polartourismguides.com.

Polar Guide Specific WAFA Course
(discount for PTGA members!)

For those looking to add to their certifications or needing a medical certification, fellow PTGA members and Senior Polar Guides, Nicole Genoud and Santiago Arias are organizing a Wilderness Advanced First Aid course in El Calafate, Santa Cruz, Argentina specifically designed for guides working in the polar tourism industry. Nicole and Santiago are both certified First Responder instructors. Santiago is also an EMT and a PTGA Assessor. The course will be open to the general public and they are offering a 10% discount on the course fee to PTGA members.

Dates: March 20 – 25, 2025
Location: El Calafate, Argentina
Certification: AIDER
Cost: $500
Cost does not include lodging and meals
Contact Details: Nicole Genoud +5491169794175
Instagram @wfr.calafate

Please contact Nicole by email here for registration and more information.

Chinese Polar Guides Association (CPGA)

Did you know there is a Chinese Polar Guides Association? They promote knowledge and skill development and are working with the PTGA to introduce the PTGA Qualifications Framework into China for new guides.

Founded in 2018 the CPGA is building the Chinese polar guide community and have over 100 Chinese speaking guides working on vessels in the polar regions and over 5000 subscribers to their social media. Chinese guides and translators are a critical link between polar operators, agencies and the guests on board vessels. They have close relationships with the Chinese polar science community, official entities and NGO’s. Their mission is to:

  • Role-model, encourage and support environmentally sustainable practices in polar tourism.
  • Educate and serve Chinese Polar adventures, tourists and agencies in high standard of professionalism.
As of today, the CPGA has more than 100 Chinese speaking polar guides working on a variety of expedition ships. They have a local social media account with more than 5k in subscribers and they just organized the 3rd CPGA submit in Shanghai with 25 polar guides attendees. Please reach out to Founder: Haining Wang to learn more here.

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We now have a compilation of all of Rusty S Hackle’s wise advice for guide Training and Development. This handy collection is available in one PDF your reference on board or while preparing for a season on expedition ships. Clickherefor the link to the 2024 collection on our website.

Guano Happens – Fur seals have sharp teeth

This edition’s Guano is an older (pre-HPAI ground regulations), well known event and a guide directly involved asked to share a detailed narrative of what went on through the course of the incident and resolution phase as a learning lesson for all.

Event Narrative

 Our vessel had anchored in The Bay of Isles, Sth Georgia. The Expedition Team prepared for the first landing of the trip at Salisbury Plain.  It was late November and conditions were reasonable with minimal swell and very light winds. It was the start of the fur seal breeding season. This was a photography charter and guests had been advised various ways to get better images. One of these was to ‘get low’ and see the world from ground level.

I arrived at the landing site as one of the last staff ashore after anchoring my zodiac along with the AEL and another senior staff member.  One Zodiac had been secured on the beach as requested by the EL who had just finished briefing the last guests at the landing site. The EL had selected a landing site towards the western end of the main beach. As three of us were preparing ourselves for the long walk to the colony our radios came to life. It was the Expedition Doctor calling for assistance.  The next call included the words ‘arterial bleed’.  The three of us (all WFR certified) picked up the AED, first aid kit, shore survival bag and the ALS kit and hurried to the scene.

A guest had been lying on the ground to photograph a King Penguin when a nearby male fur seal had attacked and bitten him multiples times. The final bite was the ‘rag-doll-style’ thrash of the head that we see when male Fur Seals fight. 

Luckily, the Expedition Doctor had been standing not far away and had turned to the screams of the guest as the Fur Seal attacked defending his territory and so was luckily and immediately on the scene.

When I arrived I saw the guest on the ground, his arm was badly wounded with blood gushing from his upper arm. More hands were needed to stem the blood flow from the torn brachial artery and assist the Doctor. 

One of the other WFR’s relieved the Doctor (as a human tourniquet) and I was instructed by the Doctor to inspect and deal with the leg wound that I did not even know existed at this point. I cut through multiple layers of clothing to reveal a deep laceration, but with minimal blood loss. I applied pressure with bandages. With this wound controlled I was able to provide another set of eyes as an overview and began directing personnel to aid the Doctor.  He required various assistance and was needed off-the-patient at times to communicate with the AEL as to what resources and assistance he would require in the near future.  The AEL had remained hands-off and had effectively taken on scene-command and communications with the EL.  Another staff member assisted with unpacking the first aid kit and shore-kit to find various items the Doctor and team required.

Another team member didn’t do well with blood, acknowledged this to the team and removed themselves from the patient to keep guests away from the scene.

Another guest, who was a nurse, assisted to tape up the bandages and the clothing at the leg wound to prepare to transport the patient.   Meanwhile, the Doctor and the other WFR had managed to apply a proper tourniquet to the patient’s upper arm, stemming the blood flow but causing the patient increasing amounts of pain. The race was on to administer fluids to stabilize the patient for transport back to the ship.

The EL remained at the landing site and with their back-up radio was communicating to the AEL about what was required and the management of the scene.  The EL had instructed all staff to have all guests return to the landing site for an immediate return to the ship.  The captain had been contacted and was preparing the ship for an immediate return to the Falkland Islands and to ready the Ship’s Doctor and clinic.

We managed to get the patient to a somewhat stable state, into a sleeping bag and loaded on a stretcher. A Zodiac had been positioned stern-on to the beach with a catching team holding it (the wind had increased somewhat, and surf was now in play on the beach).  The stretcher/patient was loaded into the zodiac with the patient’s head to the bow and a staff member positioned to shield the head of the patient and to provide direct patient care. Approximately 1.5hours had elapsed from when the guest was attacked to loading into the zodiac. Things could have been much worse if the weather had been worse or deteriorated in this time.

The Expedition Doctor remembered a conversation he’d had onboard with a guest who had a background in cardio-vascular surgery.  The call was made to try and find this guest and bring them back as a matter of urgency.  In the process of this, another guest appeared on-scene who was an Anesthetist in the armed forces and who later, with the surgeon, proved vital in the ensuing medical support onboard the vessel.

Post-script: This incident had a happy ending with the patient’s life being saved and his arm recovering with no lasting side effects.  The patient was air lifted from the expedition vessel in the Scotia Sea and returned to the Falkland Islands and onwards for surgical treatment.

Causal factors

The main and obvious causal factor here is the fact that the guest had been lying on the ground, distracted by their camera, in a known fur seal area during breeding season.

Lying down on the ground in areas where fur seals exist onshore decreases one’s mobility and ability to react to a potential charge/attack.  Even more so when a person is looking through a camera.

  • Avoid this behaviour or implement procedures/policies for increased alertness to pending fur seal attacks.
  • If photography classes advise lying-down there should be a spotter or some other protection strategy in any situation where wildlife or other environmental hazards are a threat to an incumbent and distracted person.
  • Ensure ALL staff are acutely aware of the risks fur seals pose. Share this story – it could be you having to respond.

Other Learning

There is plenty to learn from the 1st aid and evacuation response and the roles taken by the expedition team. Clearly the prior training and certification of the response team added efficiency and clarity of methods and language to the response.

Shore Kit

The shore kit had been examined just prior to the trip as a new member of staff had come onboard and had an attitude to learn and was directed to explore and understand the contents of the shore kit.  During this examination, it was found that a bottle of emergency water had leaked and the entire contents of the kit, including the sleeping bag were soaked.

  • Ensure that shore kits/zodiac stranding kits are inspected regularly.  If possible, try to isolate emergency water provisions.

First Aid Kit

This same proactive staff member had also been through the main first aid kit with the Expedition Doctor just a few days earlier as part of their own familiarisation with the operation.  It was this same team member who turned up on the scene and was able to quickly and efficiently supply the Doctor with the items needed.

  • All staff, regardless of first aid level, should be familiar with the shore medical kits.
  • Well organised first aid kits that are readily available and accessible are invaluable during time-critical incidents.


Tourniquets are life-saving devices, and first aid kits should contain one.

  • As professionals, guides should be encouraged to carry tourniquets in their kit, be trained in their use and ensure they are readily available.
  • Tourniquets need to be applied rapidly in the case of a major arterial bleed.

2nd Radio for Leadership Roles

The EL had a back-up radio. This proved incredibly valuable. It allowed the main working channel to be kept free from the comms from the incident and allowed the EL to efficiently manage the overall operation.

  • EL/anyone in charge of a landing should have access to multiple radios.

Role application

Having people delegated to specific roles i.e. communications, scene-command, lead first aider, note-taker etc is vitally important to ensure the efficiency and efficacy of any response.

  • Make sure discussions are had within the Expedition Team to ensure everyone understands the company/team protocols.  Even the most inexperienced first aider may find themselves in any role in an emergency situation.
  • Make use of any staff on the vessel / bridge team to assist as necessary during critical events . For instance, during this incident the Hotel Manager was onboard the vessel and made their way to the bridge.  With a set of binoculars, they were able to act as another set of eyes for the EL. They were also able to liaise with key personnel onboard the vessel.

PTGA Members

Congratulations to our New Status Guides and Assessors:

Polar Guide (Aspirant): Eddie Hauzer, Nicolás Chiarelli, Andy Webb, Carl Macabasco, Rachael Iveson-Brown, Carlos Mauer

Polar Guides: Chris Scerri, Jason Ransom, Bevin Condon, Trent Van der Bijl, Jessie Johnson, Marcos Sperr

Senior Polar Guides: Dani Abras, Tyler Stern

Provisional Assessors: Heidi Krajewsky, Paolo Bellezze

Be your best guide. See you next time.