Meet the Team – Hannah

October, 2020 | Meet Our Polar Guides & Staff

The staff that make up the Polar Latitudes expedition and home teams are much more than a team – we are a tight knit family. Most of us voyage together year after year, sharing a deep love for Antarctica. We take immense pleasure in making sure your trip is one you’ll never forget, and are proud of how highly experienced and synced to our guests needs each staff member is.

Here’s a chance to get to know some of the members of our amazing team a little bit better.

Meet Hannah!
Expedition Leader Hannah

Hannah Lawson

Name and Job: Hannah, Expedition Leader, Ornithologist, Marine Mammal Guide, Citizen Science coordinator, and Education coordinator

From: Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, UK

What is your educational background? I gained a first degree in Zoology (with courses in marine biology) and then a masters in Natural History Illustration but I have spent my whole life watching and learning about wildlife in my home environment and worldwide.  

How did you first get interested in Antarctica? Watching David Attenborough films as a child I was fascinated by the wildlife of the poles. I began working on Expedition ships in 1999 and had my first chance to visit Antarctica in 2003, and I have visited almost every year since then. Before my first trip as a guide I read a huge amount and before I arrived, I was fascinated by the history as well as the wildlife. 

What’s your favourite thing about Antarctica? Its wildness, its wildlife, its landscape, its beauty, its unique global governance as a continent dedicated to peace and science. 

What is your favourite Antarctic animal? I can’t really answer this – as I love all of them! the soaring albatross, the snuffle of elephant seals, humorous penguins, the benign smile of a Weddell seal, humpback whales breaching, orca, sheathbills scurrying around penguin colonie, and even the Antarctic flightless midges and mites! 

Tell us about your job at PL: Every day is different, busy and demanding – dealing with challenges of weather, logistics, staff teams, passenger expectations, but the rewards are huge. I start everyday by going up to the bridge of the ship to look and see where we are, what the weather is doing, and if there is any wildlife or spectacular scenery on show. I’ll have a brief chat with the Captain or Chief Officer, and the kayak team about the plans for the morning. If I am EL after doing a wakeup call, it’s then time for a breakfast meeting with the staff team and then getting ready for the first landing of the day. Going ashore in the first zodiac to scout the landing gives a few moments to check out conditions before we welcome passengers ashore. I’ll then brief the guests about the wildlife they can see, places on shore that are restricted and remind them of etiquette, and most importantly the time they should get back to landing so they don’t miss the last zodiac back to the ship! I will try to mingle with the guests onshore to point out wildlife behaviour and will be keeping an eye and ear out that all is well with everyone. After lunch back aboard we will normally have an afternoon excursion and sailing between locations might give a chance to spot some whales, relax or even have a brief nap. Before dinner we try to have a recap and briefing about the following day and talk about things we have seen. My day ends with reading emails, checking the weather forecast, and sending a brief report to the office. Then I get up and do it all again!

What do you do to explore? I do a lot of birdwatching, both at home and further afield. I have a USB microscope, so I’ve been enjoying exploring creatures and details in my garden. I do a lot of reading, I have a huge collection of natural history books, but also books on Antarctic history. I get immersed in exploring as a way to improve my artwork and printmaking. 

What was one thing you learned while in isolation during COVID? That friendships and camaraderie of my work colleagues are very important to me, and that wonderful wildlife can be seen in my garden too!

If you could explore anywhere right now, where would it be? South Georgia

If you could go to Antarctica with anyone, who would it be? My wife, and Sir David Attenborough