Eva Prendergast is a polar scientist, photographer, naturalist and marine mammal specialist – and she’s bringing all of her expertise to Antarctica as one of Intrepid’s on-board experts for our 2023 season. Here’s what she’s most looking forward to on her upcoming expeditions.
Eva Prendergast has always loved the ocean. While her childhood friends were fawning over celebrities and musicians, Eva was obsessed with a bottlenose dolphin in Ireland called Fungie. She spent all her spare time reading books about the ocean and trying to figure out how she could turn her passion into a career.
“My school was encouraging us to be a doctor, be a lawyer, be something that society tells you to be; studying whales was definitely not one of those things,” Eva (originally from the UK) says from her new home in Reykjavik, Iceland. “I wanted to learn about Antarctica and the Arctic and about how to help preserve them. It took a while for me to find a path and realise this could be a career.”
Eva completed her Masters in Polar Science and started working at some of the most prestigious universities and museums in the world. According to her, “Everything came together – my love of the ocean, polar regions and whales.”
These days she’s a polar scientist by trade, but she has also taken on a variety of roles in the expedition industry: photographer, general naturalist, marine mammal specialist, citizen science coordinator, head of science, and assistant expedition leader. And now she’s getting ready to set sail again with Intrepid.
“I’m so excited to work with Intrepid in Antarctica on the Ocean Endeavour in 2023,” she says. “I’ll be on board for the majority of the season – four months.” Spending a quarter of a year at sea is not for everyone, and Eva admits the line between work and life can get a little blurred (“it’s not like you clock off each day”), but the rewards are worth it. “This isn’t a job for me,” she says. “It’s what I love to do.”
Along with whales, the ocean and the planet’s polar regions, Eva’s other passion is science communications, and she’s looking forward to incorporating that into her Intrepid expeditions. “Science communications involves sharing science with a larger audience beyond academia,” she says. “It allows the general public to learn about what’s often pretty complex subject matters, but in a very digestible way.”
And while Eva has had the privilege of visiting Antarctica a few times, she recognises the significance of the trip for her fellow travellers. “For most people, going to Antarctica is at the top of their bucket list; they’ve been saving for years to go there,” she says. “That energy when you’re with them is unparalleled, so you want to make that experience as memorable as possible.”
As a wildlife lover, one of Eva’s favourite things about her job is whale spotting with passengers. “Whether it’s spotting a whale in the wild for the first time or a new species they haven’t seen, sharing that in such a pristine environment as Antarctica never gets old,” Eva says. And though it sounds obvious, Eva finds guests are often shocked at how – well – big whales are. “Hearing the audible gasps from guests when they realise the sheer scale of them is really something else.”
Antarctica is a difficult place to travel to responsibly, so Eva recommends doing your research before booking a trip. “It has so much to do with the tour operator you go with, and that they’re aware of the local rules, regulations, and laws,” she says. “Intrepid’s Ocean Endeavour ship is under the IAATO – the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators – so it adheres to all those guidelines of travelling in a respectful and responsible way.”
If you’ve been umming and ahhing about whether or not to travel to Antarctica, Eva has one piece of advice: go. “It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and is something that you’ll never regret doing,” she says. “If you keep waking up thinking ‘I really want to do this’, pull the trigger and go.”