We’re pretty choosy about who we ask to be guides, or leaders, on Chalice cruises. They may vary in age and experience, but they are there for one purpose – you! Although they are classed as crew, they are another travelling companion and can be the extra eyes and ears that you will appreciate when there can be so much going on around you. There are no ‘scheduled activities’ as such, and every cruise is run at a pace that we feel suits the particular guests on board at the time – so there are no walks that you HAVE to go on, no talks or presentations that you HAVE to attend. It’s all about relaxing and being able to absorb the amazing things that you can see and hear. On some shorter cruises, then your skipper, Chris, may also act as your guide.

Chris Gomersall (St Kilda, 22nd June – 1st July 2005) is no stranger to Chalice, first sailing with us to St Kilda in 2002 where he spent a very dark, wet night on the top of a cliff in an attempt to photograph Leach’s petrel. Since then Chris has returned as a guide on five more cruises. After fourteen years as staff photographer with the RSPB, Chris embarked on a freelance career and specialises in birds, nature, wildlife and the environment. A regular contributor to ‘Birds’ magazine, his first major publication, Photographing Wild Birds, was published in 2001. Chris’s work is regularly recognised in international competitions and in 2002 he was acclaimed as a runner up in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards. With an educational background in zoology and plant biology, and experience in nature reserve wardening and field research, Chris endeavours to make photographs that will be effective in advancing the cause of nature conservation. His style is very much concerned with photographing wildlife subjects at home in their natural habitat, with an emphasis on ambient light and sensitive composition. You can find out more about Chris at www.chrisgomersall.co.uk

Bruce Pearson (St Kilda 20th-29th July 2005) has worked as an artist for almost 30 years. He has travelled widely in search of subjects from the Arctic and Antarctica, to Africa, much of Europe, and the Americas. However, much of his time is spent in the UK – either working locally out in the field, or else in Scotland, particularly the Western Isles. Bruce has completed illustration work for a variety of books – Gem Guides for HarperCollins, Bird Behaviour Guides for Hamlyn, colour plates for Rare Mammals of the World, and many other smaller bits and pieces for various journals and magazines. He then went on to write his first book, An Artist on Migration – a personal interpretation of the annual journeys millions of birds make flowing with the seasons between Europe and Africa. A BBC film was made about part of his journey following the birds through West Africa. There then followed the six-part Channel 4 ‘Birdscape’ series, which he wrote and presented himself. You can find out more about Bruce and his work atwww.brucepearson.info

John Anderson is no stranger to the sea, having circumnavigated the world with his wife in their 27’ yacht Kyon. They now live just north of Oban and spend as much time as they can sailing around the Western Isles. An accomplished sailor, photographer and regular contributor to national sailing publications, we’re really pleased that he’s managed to find time to join us this season. Although he will probably deny it, John’s knowledge of the sea, the Hebrides and it’s wildlife is best described as ‘vast’. He is the ideal companion for a cruise through an area that has been officially billed as ‘The Last Natural Wilderness in Europe’.

Mark Cocker (St Kilda 18th-27th May 2005) is a professional author and naturalist, whose lifelong passion for birds and mammals has seen him travelling on five continents. Mark recently won a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship to study the cultural importance of birds in West Africa. When not birding he is a full-time writer, with a wildlife column for the ‘Guardian Weekly’. His books include ‘Birders’ and the acclaimed ‘Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold’. He is currently working with Richard Mabey on ‘Birds Britannica’, with photography by Chris Gomersall. Mark’s experiences, knowledge and wit make him an excellent travelling companion.

Phil Johnson works as a wildlife guide and environmental consultant for the oil industry. He has a broad knowledge of the environment and conservation issues but his first passion is for wildlife, and specifically, bottlenose dolphins. After his studies at Stirling University, which also included a spell at Canada’s University of Guelph, he moved into conservation work with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) on the Isle of Mull where he spent three years coordinating a conservation project focused on the bottlenose dolphins of West Scotland. You can find out more about Phil and his work at www.marineteam.com

Hugh Barton travels to Northwest Scotland and the Western Isles at every opportunity, to take in the scenery and wildlife. A keen walker and naturalist, Hugh has a passion for the Hebridean islands, and has explored and become familiar with many of them. A keen photographer, Hugh is often found taking pictures from unusual locations resulting in images that have been successful in photographic competitions and exhibitions. Hugh has been a member and leader on a number of National Trust for Scotland work parties to St Kilda He is also a Board Member of the St Kilda Club. It is Hugh’s ambition to land and explore as many of the smaller islands as possible – perhaps following in the footsteps of Hamish Haswell-Smith the author of ‘The Scottish Islands – a Comprehensive Guide to Every Scottish Island’, a project that will take Hugh many years to complete.