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It has been a busy Antarctic season for the PTGA, our affiliates and our systems. Our first ever formal assessments have been run (see interview with Seb Coultard) and a lot of trialing has turned up some good issues we never could have predicted with all the online meetings in the world. This is exactly what we predicted, and what we wanted. PTGA systems will need to be, and always will be, constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the industry.

Board (of the things)

Our Board have been largely AWOL with polar tourism work. Sophie Ballagh has been with Polar Latitudes through the start of the season and has just finished a quick mid-season break in Sri Lanka as is back on the Peninsula. Phil Wickens has been with Quark Expeditions through the early season while his knee rehabilitated post-surgery and now he is back in Ushuaia preparing to lead an expedition to sea kayak from Enterprise Is to Vernadsky Station with private clients. Mariano Curiel is all over the place in his role with Antarctica XXI and has been south but is now between his home and family and the office in Punta Arenas. Katie Crafts is currently on National Geographic and having a great time with the team on there. Graham Charles was on the Silver Cloud co-leading the Silversea Academy program and running some PTGA assessments for Silverseas prior to flitting back to New Zealand to teach leadership to Wharton Business School students before returning to Bozeman to fire up the PTGA office for what looks like a busy year for the PTGA.

Recognition of Current Competency Applications

Thanks for the growing supply of applications. In order to provide our membership with a thorough and transparent endorsement process we make sure every application is reviewed by at least two people coached in the process. The only issue with having your experience vetted by industry pro’s is that they are all out working as polar tourism guides! Apologies for any delays. As soon as we get some people off the Antarctic Peninsula and back into a good wifi connection we will complete all outstanding applications. Thanks for your understanding.

For those Polar Pro’s out there remember the RCC scheme will only run until October 31, 2018. Get in while you can.

First PTGA assessment

Congratulations Seb Coulthard on becoming a PT Guide via a mixed application of some RCC material and being the first person (just ahead of Theres Arulf) to go through a full assessment for a PTQ. We caught up with Seb prior to joining Polar Latitudes last week.

Why did you join the PTGA in the first place?
Quite honestly, I felt the official recognition of being a Polar Tourism Guide would be an excellent step forward for my professional record and future career development.

Can you describe the assessment process you went through?
The assessment process is very straight forward. Fortunately, I was able to have my previous experience and competency checked and accredited. This process helped me (and my PTGA assessors) to work out precisely where my experience lay and where there was room for improvement (in my case, performing some advanced Zodiac handling in rough weather conditions). Once the bench mark was set, I began practicing certain manoeuvres in my boat when time allowed, shared the experience with other staff and the company (Polar Latitudes) supported me all the way! The assessment itself is more of a discussion rather than an assessment, you demonstrate your ability or depth of knowledge in the field by practical demonstration and run through a series of scenarios. If anything, the process helps both the assessor and the ‘assessed’ to learn from each other. It’s brilliant, and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing time in Antarctica with a fellow professional with many years’ experience.

Were you daunted by the concept of being ‘tested’ for competency in that skill-set?
No, not really. As a professional who has worked in a variety of previous roles ranging from military service to aircraft engineering, I accept that I have to be assessed from time-to-time. Being assessed, certified and maintaining records of experience are just part & parcel of modern day employment when fulfilling certain safety critical roles. Having our abilities assessed makes us better at communicating with others keeps us on our toes, brings us up to date with better and safer ways of doing things and helps us understand the potential human factors that could lead to a hazardous incident.

Do you see any benefits from going through the process versus just getting competency recognized via other means?
There is a lot of benefit, absolutely! There are so many different international qualifications, syllabuses and training programs for the various roles we fill in polar tourism. For employers it must be a veritable maze but the PTGA are in the process of unraveling that maze and developing a core matrix of competencies that guides ought to demonstrate.

What advice would you have for people considering membership with the PTGA and wanting to be assessed?
Don’t be daunted. As polar tourism guides we have a duty of care to ourselves, our families, our guests, our team, our employers, our regulating bodies, the wildlife and the splendid unspoiled wilderness which is our workplace to be safe. If you wish to turn that workplace into a safe playground where you can have the adventure of a lifetime, you have to go through the motion of demonstrating suitable skills and experience. If you are a mountaineer or a sailor, keep a log of your journeys. If you’re a scientist, keep notes of your presentation work and papers written. If you’re an adventure guide, keep your risk assessments, take photos and film of your epic adventures as evidence of your skills. Don’t be afraid to invest a bit of money in yourself, attend that crevasse rescue course, take that advanced powerboat exam. You may be starting out on a journey to explore a new career as a polar tourism guide, you may be taking up a second career after working in an office with no windows for years, whatever it may be, you need to demonstrate your skills and the best scheme to get you on that ship to the Arctic or the Antarctic, is the PTGA matrix. By joining PTGA you will reap the rewards of being officially recognized as a polar tourism guide by an association that has your best interest and those of the people you serve, close to heart.

PTGA Log Template

We are finalizing a Log template that people have been asking for. You will be able to download it from the website. This will (hopefully) make logging information easy for you, and easy for us, when it is time to revalidate your qualifications in a few years time as everything will be formatted the same and make it easy to scan many revaldiation applications quickly. Keep an eye out for it.


The PTGA strongly supports all the work IAATO does and their mission. To back up this philosophical support and move forward with any collaborative efforts we have applied for Associate Membership. This application will be reviewed and voted on prior to the IAATO Meeting in Newport in early May.



PBE Qualification

Our draft syllabus for a Polar Bear Environment qualification for polar tourism guides, Expedition Leaders and field staff working in the north is out for industry consultation. We have asked a number of experts in this area to look at what we have and give us feedback. We are hoping to trial it in the Arctic 2018.



Assessor Training

We are looking for some dates and venues to run some ‘in-house’ assessor training courses in 2018 for our Accredited Provider companies who have identified staff who meet the requirements. If you, or your company, know this is a high priority please drop us a line and lets talk.

That’s all for this issue. If you have any questions, issues or any other reason please drop us a line. Enjoy the last of the Antarctic season, watch out for crevasses and cracks now the snow is nearly gone, have fun and manage well.