For Captain Martin Graser, an office desk job was, he admits, never an option. Out on the open sea, where he has spent the last 27 years, is where the seasoned mariner belongs. At Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, Graser has served as Captain of National Geographic Orion, National Geographic Endurance, and now National Geographic Resolution, voyaging to the polar regions, including his favorite—Antarctica. Here, Captain Graser shares his journey of a life at sea and explains why Antarctica continues to captivate.  Get Inspired By Photos, Videos, Webinars, Stories, And Exclusive Offers. Sign Up

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Martin Graser, Captain of the National Geographic Resolution, shows travelers how the ship's crew charts its course. Photo: David Vargas

What was your introduction to marine life? 

My father built sailboats as a hobby, so I was sailing by the age of three. As a kid I helped him to build three sailboats, which we took out on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea for every family vacation I can remember.

Growing up, did you always dream of a career at sea?

Actually, I almost became an airplane pilot, but instead of going to pilot school, I apprenticed as a ship’s mechanic. First I worked on cargo ships—which I found very boring—then large cruise ships, and for the past 25 years, expedition cruising.

What do you love most about Antarctica?

It is the most beautiful place on Earth. It is a fluid environment, changing all the time. There aren’t seasons, and every voyage varies from the last due to the movement of the ice and the ever-fluctuating weather conditions. As a captain, it’s thrilling because we decide at the last minute—one or two days before the trip—where we’re going.

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Guests aboard a Zodiac spot a leopard seal on pack ice while exploring Dallmann Bay. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins

What sort of wildlife can guests expect to see in Antarctica?  

The wildlife is an exciting part of every trip, in part because you never know exactly what you will see and where, so there’s the ‘thrill of the hunt.’ We’ll look for humpback whales and Weddell seals, but also orcas and the rare leopard seals. On one recent voyage–for the first time in my 24 years in Antarctica–we spotted an entire colony of Emperor penguins, which was great fun to share with the guests.

How does the captain work with the rest of the ship’s crew?

Every expedition is a huge team effort. The captain can’t be on the bridge 24 hours a day, so it’s important to have good officers who can step in to do the job. The crew is very well-trained and held to a high standard. 

A fun part of my job is collaborating with the expedition leaders. Every day we look at the conditions of the weather and ice, plan the itinerary, and decide how to give our guests the most fulfilling and memorable experiences possible.

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Penguins greet the National Geographic Resolution parked in the pack ice in the Weddell Sea. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins

What is special about your current ship, the National Geographic Resolution?  

She’s a beautiful ship, and is one of only three top-tier ice class category ships in the world. She is safe and stable, and is able to navigate polar regions year round. The X-bow creates the smoothest ride possible—in my two decades coming to Antarctica, I’ve never been on a ship as comfortable as National Geographic Resolution.

In all your years voyaging to the polar regions, how have polar expeditions changed?

They’re miles better now for a variety of reasons—we have better ships, better tools, more reliable weather forecasts and charts, and better depth sounding. These improvements have expanded our horizons—we can go further, where others can’t go.

What is the best part of your job?

I love being out in the world, driving ships and exploring the polar regions. Being an expedition captain is an adventure—I help determine the course of an expedition and how to make it an incredible experience. It is exactly where I want to be.