Adventure is in the blood of this young expeditioner, whose résumé includes an impressive list of exciting expeditions with the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Red Bull (just to name a few). She was also an integral part of the support crew for Tim Jarvis’ gruelling re-enactment of Shackleton’s life-saving journey, the ‘Shackleton EPIC’.
Venturing to East Antarctica for the first time at the tender age of 16, Skye graduated from Sydney University in 2005 before embarking on her career on the ocean. The same year she started with Aurora Expeditions as a hotel manager in Antarctica. In between her other exciting adventures with her partner on his two expedition support yachts, she has also assisted on expeditions to Scotland and the Arctic, as well as being a part of the expedition team on Aurora Expeditions’ inaugural North East Passage voyage in 2011.
Skye’s love of the ocean and remote places, together with her ability to work on boats in challenging circumstances, has helped her develop a great knowledge of world’s most extreme environments. However, Skye has hung up her sailing shoes (for now) to become a mum, and supports Aurora Expeditions’ team as the company’s Operations Coordinator…
Tell us your role at Aurora Expeditions and a bit about what it involves?
Operations Coordinator – I supply the ship with equipment from Australia, including medical supplies, uniforms, Ship Shop merchandise and various other items that can’t be sourced wherever our ships are operating. I am a point of contact for the expedition team between the ship and the office, fulfilling the various requests they have. Through my 8 years’ experience working as a guide for Aurora, I share my knowledge and many experiences where needed in our head office. I also assist with permitting for certain destinations and some of the logistics for the departures. The list goes on, but I will stop there!
Why did you start working with an expedition cruising company and specialising in the poles?
My father (Howard Whelan, fellow Aurora Expedition Leader and adventurer, and founding editor of Australian Geographic magazine) took me to the Antarctic when I was 16 years old when he was working as an Expedition Leader for Aurora. I was absolutely captivated by the majestic white continent and that sparked my interest in the poles. When I finished my University degree in 2005, I applied for a job as Hotel Manager, working on one of Aurora Expedition’ ships and the rest is history.
Describe an average day’s work for you?
Answering the many emails and requests that have come in overnight from our Operations Manager in Argentina, or the Expedition team on the ship, sourcing various items for the operations on board and answering any other operations questions and requests that our office may have. There is no real typical day in my role, as I wear so many different hats!
What do you consider the best part of working for a small ship company that goes to places like Antarctica and the Arctic?
The best part is the people you work with and the unique destinations you visit. You meet people that you read books about and the experience is so personal, due to the small numbers of people that travel with Aurora.
With shipping and sailing a rather male-dominated industry, what obstacles can there be for women working in remote regions and how have you overcome these in your career?
This is very true! I’ve experienced this time and time again in my career when working on boats. Obstacles are that there is still a prejudice that women can’t work the way men do in the shipping/sailing industry, due to their gender. Luckily most of the time I’ve overcome this obstacle by working my hardest and showing the guys that I can stay out in the cold just as long as them, start a Zodiac engine when they cannot, stand my watch as long as them and the list goes on! Thankfully, I’ve proven I’m an equal quite quickly when working with the guys in the field.
Who has been the biggest influence of your success?
My mother and my father. Both have always been strong, adventurous and inspiring figures in my life. They have supported me in everything I have done and my success is largely contributed to this.
Who are your female icons?
That’s a tricky one. I quite like Michelle Obama. She’s intelligent, eloquent, strong and beautiful.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Is it important that we have one?
To me it simply means celebrating woman and who we are. I am proud to be a Mum, a partner, have a great job and keep up with society’s many pressures, whilst remaining slightly sane! Of course, it’s important to have one and recognise all the awesome women there are in the world!