This week we would like to introduce you to Benja! Benja first joined EUROPA as an expedition guide in 2016. Get to know more about him below!
What is your name, where are you from and how old are you?
My name is Benjamín Cáceres Murrie, I’m from Punta Arenas, Chile, and I’m 34 years old.
What is your role on board?
I work as a guide on board, which means sharing information to the voyage crew about the Patagonian and Antarctic ecosystems dynamics, their biodiversity, and their threats they face in modern times.
What inspired you to join the crew?
Where everything seemed like it would be a normal morning, I was working at my old professor’s office, Anelio Aguayo (a marine mammal science pioneer in Chile) in the Chilean Antarctic Institute; that morning he received an email from his former student and colleague Jordi Plana, inviting him to join the Europa to continue their research endeavors on the Antarctic Peninsula humpback whale population. Over his 80’s, he declined the offer, but gave me the opportunity to join instead. So the first trip I did I joined as a biologist/volunteer to collect data on the whales, and then I continued sailing as a guide in future summer seasons.
What is it like to live and work on a tall ship like Bark EUROPA?
Life changing. It is a living and working dynamic that it is hard to describe in any other context. It is basically a family (or a bee hive!), where everybody is working together for the same goal: to live through epic moments, day by day. It is a lesson to be humble, simple, and a worthy team member!
What do you do when you are not on the ship?
I dedicate my time in different conservation efforts in the area I grew up in. With a team of artists and biologists I work developing a Natural History Museum, where one of my tasks is to prepare material for the biological collections. I also work for the Rewilding Chile Foundation, to create and manage a new National Park in the southernmost territory of the continent. Parallel to this, with my brothers and friends we work together to sustain a small scale farm for our own food production.
Can you share some of the key cultural traditions or customs that are important in Chile?
Being such a long country with such different landscapes, seascapes, and territories, from the driest dessert in the World in the north, to the amazing fjords and glaciers to the south, means that we have a huge diversity of cultures, related to a specific territory. I guess if I speak from where I have grown, an “asado al palo” is the best known tradition, where you celebrate a birthday, a wedding or new years with a lamb crucified in the fire and cooked for many hours; hopefully with a lot of wine and music along! And in general terms, the week of the 18th of September is a huge celebration that lasts a week, where we celebrate Chile’s birthday making barbecues and traditional dances.
Could you tell us more about the Chilean Channels voyage taking place in 2024?
It is hard to explain in words what this voyage is about, since the natural scenario and unique beauty speaks for its self. Most of the route the Europa will sail through, is untouched and untamed territory where few people have had the chance to explore! Not to be a spoiler, but whoever joins this trip will be able to witness majestic scenery like massive glaciers, old growth evergreen forests, deepand steep fjords, hotspots of marine biodiversity, many big cetacean feeding grounds like humpback, sei, and blue whales, beautiful beaches and shorelines, among others! Furthermore, in almost all the route the Europa will be sailing though Protected Areas, such as several National Parks, Marine Parks, and Marine Protected Areas; where the Chilean Government is effortlessly trying to develop sustainable activities such as artisanal fishery and responsible tourism.
Could you tell us about a unique destination you've visited on board EUROPA and what made it special?
So far I have only done trips to the Antarctic Peninsula. I guess sailing through Cape Horn is always fascinating, since it gives you a historical perspective of how it would have been for intrepid and adventurous sailors back in the day to sail through such rugged and wild far away latitudes.
Can you share a funny or unexpected moment that happened during one of your voyages?
Apologies for my dearest crew member Toby for the upcoming story of the last trip we did together, but we were both in the poop deck watching this amazing group of humpback whales that were very close by in a majestic sunset, and all of a sudden we smell a disgusting smell, and we were both like: “Ughhhh the whale’s breath that is disgusting!!”, and Toby turns around giggling all over and says: That wasn’t the whale, it was my fart!!! ….it was very, very funny, and unexpected.
What's the most memorable moment you've experienced while sailing on Bark EUROPA?
Hard to say really, since every moment in the Bark Europa is memorable. Toby’s fart was definitely memorable, but so many others, like washing the dishes in the galley with crew members, or cleaning the corridor together, climbing the masts or even just witnessing the time passing by in the wheelhouse sharing stories, and this is why I treasure sailing in the Europa so much, because everyone is working towards making the whole trip a memorable moment.
What is the most important lesson you've learned from your experiences on Bark EUROPA?
That you need to be humble and kind to each other, whatever your skills are, always. No matter how much you might know about a specific subject, there is always something to learn and share with your crew members.
How has being a part of Bark EUROPA's crew influenced your perspective on the ocean and the environment?
I can say that I’m a bit spoiled with the Bark Europa. After sailing with her I actually took the decision to never work again in a big cruise ship, since I sincerely think that this is the way to get to places, if you want to be conscious and responsible with the environment and still get to explore new areas. It is the perfect combination of awareness, exploration, adventure, and travel.
Is there anything else you haven't mentioned now and would like to share?
If you are ever doubtful of yourself to embark in an adventure like this I encourage you to do it, because again, it will be a “before and after” in your life!!