Saturday 13 August 2016

The people you meet expedition cruising Neil Nightingale and Karen Bass


by editor, Roderick Eime, aboard Akademik Ioffe

Their names might not be immediately familiar, but their work most certainly is. I met Neil and Karen aboard Akademik Ioffe where they had been invited to give talks about their decades of work with the BBC Natural History Unit including seminal series featuring Sir David Attenborough.

While Head of The BBC’s Natural History Unit Neil oversaw numerous successful TV series including Life, Planet Earth, Big Cat Live, Frozen Planet, Deadly 60 and Springwatch. He also directed the recent theatrical films, Walking With Dinosaurs and Wild Africa.

Karen is a television director and producer with a passion for travel and natural history who, during 30 years with both the BBC Natural History Unit and National Geographic, made wildlife films in almost every corner of the Earth.

In my 20 years travelling aboard expedition ships and also many terrestrial journeys, their lively and engaging talks were among the most entertaining and enriching I have ever encountered. Especially when supported by clips from their mesmerising adventures capturing their award-winning footage. The added bonus of being able to chat over dinner or at the bar threw an even more personal light on their amazing travels and experiences.

“For us, getting the camera in the right place at the right time is where the rewards are,” says Karen,”and I can see the parallels in expedition cruising where the skill and experience of the expedition leader and the captain are critical in getting passengers positioned for these encounters. Even when, despite their best efforts and just like with our filming, not everything goes to plan, they are still able to produce unexpected surprises. For instance, who could plan for that breaching whale or the polar bear and three little cubs swimming past the bow of the ship?”

Then there is the time they spent weeks in the frozen Arctic waiting for the arrival of migrating narwhals or filming mating frogs in an African pond under the ominous scrutiny of Nile crocodiles. It all makes for captivating conversations.

“Put simply, expedition cruises are the only way for the regular person to experience these remote wildlife spectacles like a polar bear on ice or a rare bowhead whale,” says Neil.

Neil and Karen are planning more appearances aboard expedition cruise ships over the coming seasons, so stay in touch with your favourite expedition cruise company or consultant for updates.

See Karen's TED2012 talk "Unseen Footage"

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