A day in the life: Steffan Danino, Glaciologist

A day in the life: Steffan Danino, Glaciologist

Steffan Danino talks to Harry Kemble about deep conversations with guests, and why Greenland remains such a special place to him.

I start the day with…
Let’s say we are on a trip to Antarctica. The expedition staff will be up about half an hour before the guests. We get kitted up, then have breakfast, and are usually out about half an hour to 45 minutes before the guests’ morning excursion, which we lead. We leave at around half seven in the morning and are back on board by midday.

My daily duties involve…
The expedition staff run all the excursions. We are first out and last back on and bring a lot of safety gear ashore, just in case we get stranded. We are walking around with the guests, interpreting the environment and enforcing the rules for environmental protection set down by the International Association Of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). The obvious rules are not leaving litter or taking anything from the shore, such as pebbles, shells or bones.

What sort of excursions do you run?
We usually run two types of excursions in Antarctica – landings, where we go ashore, along with Zodiac cruises to look at wildlife, icebergs and glaciers. On Zodiac cruises, which we run every day, we don’t actually go ashore. We prefer to run more landings if we can, because people do want to go ashore. We look at seal and penguin colonies, or sometimes just a particularly beautiful site. Antarctica is heavily regulated so you are only allowed to go to certain places – IAATO has set out a list of sites. There are also rules about how many guests you can take ashore and how long a ship can stop for each day. With most places, only 200 guests from any one ship are permitted to go ashore. That’s why Silver Cloud is limited to 200 guests in polar regions.

I’ve been in my job since…
November 2016. I started with Silversea in Chile, sailing down the coast to Antarctica. It has been a busy year – in the past four months I have not been home to Wales for longer than 10 days. I am often away for extended periods of time, but it also means that I have quite long holidays in between.

My favourite destination is…
Greenland, although Antarctica is spectacular too. I used to live in north-west Greenland, so it’s a very special place for me. The area has a mix of spectacular nature and wildlife. It becomes very personal.

The most rewarding part of my job is…
Having conversations with guests who are really interested in my areas of expertise, which in this case is geology and glaciology. I like to have a long conversation, so we can get into the nitty-gritty of the subject.

The most common thing I’m asked is…
Where does this come from? Where does this rock come from? How did it get here? It’s my job to know the answer. Sometimes I won’t, but that’s not an issue – I just go to my books and look it up.

The worst thing that has happened at work is…
Last summer I recommended a shortish hike in Ilulissat, Greenland, which I’d found easy. I’d done it hundreds of times, but of course if you are leading a group of 30 people it won’t be quite so straightforward. The worst thing about it was that I advised someone else – I was not the person going on the hike. It took a lot longer than it was supposed to, and there was a lot of bum-sliding on the route.

To relax I like to…
It is very full-on when you’re on an expedition cruise, so I just kick back in my cabin, watch some TV or read a book.

The one thing I would take to a desert island is…
My Kindle.

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