Brent Nixon, the esteemed naturalist and guest speaker, will be sailing on select Celebrity Solstice cruises to Alaska this summer, giving specialized talks to guests about whales packed with information about each species’ social structure, feeding habits and preferred environment.
A former military instructor who’s taught classes on wilderness and high-altitude survival for more than 30 years, Nixon is also an expert about a number of species including bears, kangaroos, crocodiles and sea otters, and has given over 1,500 nature presentations throughout the course of his career.
Now based in the Cashmere/Leavenworth valley of Washington State, Nixon spends roughly 40% of his year guest speaking for Celebrity Cruises, public schools and community groups all over the country and the world.
We recently caught up with Brent to talk about his experiences and partnership with Celebrity cruises.
How did you begin giving nature talks?
I use to be a green beret instructor for the military and taught survival in jungle, desert and high-altitude cold weather environments. Eventually, I moved to Juneau, Alaska and started working for the Tongass National Forest, where I greeted cruise ships when they visited Juneau. I was appalled at the number of lies the crew members were telling about the animals of Alaska and decided to send letters to the various cruise companies suggesting ways to fix this. I have been working with cruise companies since 1982 trying to get the story right!
What subject are people most interested in hearing about?
There are a variety of interests—it really differs according to the crowd. In Alaska, one of my most popular shows is about brown and black bears because so many people are hoping to see a bear in the wild. My humpback whale show is also very popular because we are able to see whales from the cruise ships throughout coastal Alaska and British Columbia. In the Southern Hemisphere, my penguin show is extremely popular. If there was one show that defines me, it would be my orca, or killer whale, show.
Has the controversial documentary “Blackfish,” which is about SeaWorld keeping orcas in captivity, increased interest in your whale talks?
Oh yes, the number of requests has gone through the roof. Now, I have requests to do over 400 shows a year just on that topic. Normally, I would do 50 or 60 shows a year about orcas, but “Blackfish” has definitely increased the demand for information about orcas. And that’s just fine by me, because I’ve been fascinated by orcas since I was 12. I love how outrageously smart and culturally astute they are.
Are there any animals you don’t give talks about?
Jacques Cousteau once told me, ‘Never talk about sharks, because then the people will never ask you about anything else.” The other subject I avoid is dinosaurs. No sharks or dinosaurs—but I’ll talk about whales all day!