Meet expedition leader Rinie van Meurs – Polar Bear Expert and Photographer
We’d like to introduce you to Rinie van Meurs, polar expert, photographer and expedition leader. Rinie has been an expedition leader at Waterproof Expeditions for many years. Besides voyages in the Arctic he also guides our Winter Whales of Norway Expeditions in Northern Norway. We are happy to share that he will be the expedition leader on several of our expedition cruises to Svalbard and Greenland in 2024.
In this interview we ask him about his passion for the Arctic and his way of guiding voyages to this remote region:
How did you start your carreer in the Arctic?
I started in 1989 as a kitchen help on board a small ship. For about 5 months I worked on board for nearly nothing, but it gave me a chance to explore the Arctic. And I kept coming back, for more than 30 years now! Svalbard has started to feel like my backyard.
What keeps bringing you back to the Arctic?
The vast wilderness and the animals are the main reasons why I keep coming back to the Arctic. Each voyage is a new search for wildlife, and this ‘chase’ is what makes it so much fun. It’s the adrenaline rush you get when seeing wildlife from up close, undisturbed and in their natural environment.
What kind of expedition ships do you prefer?
The smaller the better! On a small ship you’re in close contact with the sea, the packice, the animals and the passengers. It offers a more personal and intimate experience.
What can guests expect when they join you for a trip?
I try to show them as much of the Arctic wildlife as possible, and especially polar bears! Over the past 30 years I have seen polar bears during every single one of my trips. But besides spotting wildlife, I also focus on educating my guests, it’s a vital part of any expedition.
Do you have a particular approach when guiding?
I look at the weather forecast, the ice charts, the locations of other ships and take into account my experiences from previous trips to make a plan. Some things have a high priority on almost every voyage, like seeing polar bears and other wildlife. So I start my search for these straight away in order to get as many great sightings as possible. I would describe my way of guifding as opportunistic and true expedition style.
Do you try to reach locations away from other ship?
Absolutely! Even though we are never really alone in the Arctic, I always try to show guests the true wilderness. That feeling of being surrounded by nature is incredible. My favorite place is the northeast of Svalbard, into the pack ice, as far away from other ships as possible.
Do you pay special attention to photography during trips in the Arctic?
It’s my goal to provide photographers with as many spectacular encounters as possible, without disturbing the wildlife. I myself have been an avid photographer for 40 years, so I know what people want. For example, I take the light into account and inform them in advance what (not) to do during a ‘close’ encounter with a Polar Bear in the pack ice to maintain the encounter for as long as possible.
What was your best experience so far?
A two hour long encounter with a mother polar bear and her two cubs. We were in the zodiac at the edge of the sea ice, quietly observing and photographing them. They were showing the most wonderful natural behavior, completely undisturbed.
What makes Polarfront ideal for photography expedition cruises in the Arctic?
Polarfront has a lot of deck space, both on the front and aft. So everyone can have a good spot to take pictures. The ship is also very stable, which is very important when shooting images.
What are you hoping for during our voyages in 2024?
I hope the sea ice will be in a good location, not to far away from the islands. But you never know what you will find when you get there, the ice and weather are different each time. That’s part of expedition cruising.
Do you have any tips for those who consider joining an expedition cruise to the Arctic?
Just do it! Leave your phone at home and enjoy one of the last untouched regions of the world. You won’t regret it!
Waterproof Expedition Cruises in the Arctic with Rinie van Meurs
Svalbard May-June 2024
• Svalbard 25 May – 03 Jun 2024 (10 days)
• Svalbard 03 Jun – 13 Jun 2024 (11 days)
• Svalbard 22 Jun – 01 Jul 2024 (10 days)
Greenland August 2024
• Scoresbysund 11 Aug – 20 Aug 2024 (10 days)
Winter Whales of Norway
Snorkeling with orcas in Northern Norway, guided by Rinie van Meurs
• Northern Norway Oct/Nov/Dec 2023 & 2024
The Future Polar Bear, the Impact of the Vanishing Sea Ice on an Arctic Ecosystem.
Together with Louis Beyens, Rinie wrote a book about the impacts of the declining Arctic sea ice. Rinie: “The media often creates the image among the public that we (only) lose the Polar Bear if the sea ice keeps shrinking as predicted; we explain that there is much more at stake.” The book is a ‘hybrid’ of Arctic science, geography, biology, and climate change. It features many photos, maps, and illustrations of many different sea-ice animals, from plankton to Polar Bears, to create an attractive visual experience for the reader.