Oscar Westman was always at sea. As one of the founders of Vega, he comes from a seafaring family. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were sailors, and he’s been sailing for as long as he can remember. With history, nature and teaching as his other passions, Oscar will tell you everything you always wanted to know about the Arctic!
After starting out as a commercial sailor, Oscar worked on a big, private yacht in Norway for several years. “We sailed to places like the Seychelles, Maldives, and Burma. One day I was walking around the docks in Gothenburg and stumbled upon a fascinating ship. I asked the crew where they were going. The boat was called The Origo and they were heading for Svalbard. We talked, and I was hired as a deckhand for the season. I fell completely in love with Svalbard, the pack ice, the wildlife and the landscapes … I learned a lot from the guides, and started studying the history of the archipelago. It absolutely fascinates me.”
Sailor, deckhand, guide
“I had a lot of experience navigating small vessels, so then I did this for the M/S Explorer in Antarctica. In 2006, I became a zodiac operating specialist, handling the zodiacs on the boat. One day in Svalbard when we landed with the zodiac, one of the guides said: “This is where Prince Albert I of Monaco came with his ship in 1906.” I corrected him that it was actually 1907, and he replied: “Well, If you know so much about it, why don’t you guide?” I did, and afterwards he offered me a job as a guide.”
As a deckhand, Oscar had already met Vera on several trips and they got along really well. “We realised we had the same personal approach to expeditions. We wanted to keep a finger on the pulse of our guests, manage their expectations. We put quality over quantity and prefer trips with a small group, so you can share more knowledge and have more contact with everyone.”
Finally, in 2010, they were offered to charter their own vessel. “This was our opportunity to realise our dream. “We would charter longer trips with smaller groups, bring more experienced guides, work with each traveller on a personal level, share more knowledge, and let people really feel the magic of nature by taking the time to let unexpected things happen. One of the most memorable moments of my life was the day Vera and I sailed out as Vega for the first time. Finally, we could take full responsibility and dedicate ourselves to creating a quality experience for people who really love the Arctic and its nature. I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment. It’s a project we believe in 100%. “
“Working in yachting was great, we travelled to remote and beautiful places. But the trips were not experience-oriented. The passengers were never focussed on appreciating the beauty of their surroundings.
Expeditions are so different that way. We really centre on capturing the beauty of the place. The serenity, the vastness, the wildlife. It’s a craft we work on perfecting, like any other craft. This is our challenge. To share more, find the wildlife, know how to navigate to the most beautiful regions, to connect. That’s what makes this experience so intens.
As a guide, you have a big responsibility. Our travellers plan this trip long in advance. They spend a lot of money and wait a long time to finally experience such an adventure. So we work really hard to offer the most authentic experience possible. For many, being in such a beautiful wilderness is a once-in-a-lifetime, transformative, and sometimes even spiritual experience. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing people feel content, because they have experienced what they came for.”
Country of origin
Sailing – I have been sailing small boats my whole life
Teaching – deepening the knowledge about the area we are exploring, be it nature, the sea, the climate, culture, or history
Even after more than 100 expeditions in Svalbard, this place keeps challenging me. It always tests our ability to find the wildlife and navigate to the most beautiful places despite the weather, the climate, the ice …
On my bucket list
Sail around the world with a few friends
Sail to Polynesia and back