The promise of penguins

Heading back to Antarctica for my second voyage in under a year is nothing short of an absolute privilege. This time I won’t be going alone, my partner, Agnes, will be joining me on what will be her first voyage to the Great White Continent.


She is very excited, and I think that’s fantastic. To fan the fires of anticipation I have been emailing her videos, teaching her the different names of penguins and of course we have been out shopping for our base-layers. All very cool stuff, which has set me thinking about how I talk to Swoop clients about to set off on their own adventures.

Talking to my clients before they leave for their Antarctic adventure is my favourite part of the job. They have all received their travel documents, their flights have been double checked by the support team here at Swoop and some, with the help of our Patagonia specialists have tagged on an adventure in Patagonia too. Everyone is ready, organised and raring to go.

So I pick up the phone, and the dial the number. The phone is answered and the conversation begins in one of three ways. One: my client is worried that I am calling, is there a problem? Two: occasionally my client has been so busy working to pay for the voyage that they have thought little about Antarctica since booking their adventure. These two kinds of call are swiftly animated by just one sentence. I say, “You, are going to Antarctica next week, and the penguins are waiting for you”. Now, if that doesn’t stir the worried or indifferent into a spine-tingling state, I don’t know what will. It always works. The third type of conversation is always the same: everyone is already excited, including me.


It’s then my job to answer any last minute questions. They are always much easier to answer on the phone; emails can be long and dull to read. Though no question is silly, some of the questions are nothing short of bizarre, to the point where I feel I may have misunderstood: “Should I wear my hiking boots inside my rubber boots?”, “How many other people will be in a triple cabin with me?”. In case you’re wondering, the answers are ‘no’ and ‘two’.

I’ve recently been helping a family travel to Antarctica to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah, so their son can read from the Torah on the Great White Continent. Another customer is doing something that he hopes will get him into the Guinness Book of Records. Last week I talked with a guy whose grandpa is joining him on his Antarctic voyage, which is part of a larger round-the-world trip. Everyone has a different story and a different reason for heading to the 7th continent.

I get to hear Agnes’ excitement every day. She’s sending me penguin post cards, ideas for new rucksacks and WhatsApp messages full of more cute penguin photos. It’s Antarctica overload in our home at the moment, and that is exactly how it should be. Videos watched, cameras already packed and in a few short weeks I shall be there again, and Agnes will be no doubt bouncing off icebergs.

If you haven’t booked your trip to the polar regions yet, and you’d like John to help you arrange the adventure of a lifetime, get in touch. To see more photos of his first voyage to Antarctica, check out his album below.

John Newby

Swoop Polar Specialist

John first set foot from the UK, aged 20, on a flight to South Africa. He quickly realised he wanted to visit every country in the world. He found his way to Finland, where he became a fisherman and spent 13 years living under the northern lights, just south of the Arctic Circle. After leaving Finland, John forged a career in travel, before returning to his much-loved snowy roots and speciality: the polar regions.