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5 October 2012 - Working in Antarctica - Are you up to the challenge?


Working in Antarctica – are you up to the challenge?
By: Eve Pearce (Freelance writer)


A father and daughter team from Wales are training for the job of a lifetime – Kathleen Leavy is going to run the world's most southerly post office and shop in Antartica, while her Dad restores historic buildings in the area. They will enjoy a trip that few undertake, thanks to funding from United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) which helps to preserve early scientific bases and stimulate the public's interest in the area. For many people, Antarctica is an adventurous holiday, but they may not have considered spending a length of time there. Did you feel jealous while reading Ms Leavy's story? Then it may be time to think about the jobs you could do in the Antarctic.

Is it for me?

It's a romantic notion, running away to a far off destination and enjoying the isolation, but it requires a lot of commitment. The cost of your transport should be covered by your employer, and it's expensive. They are going to want you to stay several months in order to get their monies worth. Three months seems to be the absolute minimum commitment, with some contracts running for much longer. Can you leave your everyday life for this? You would need flexibility in your housing arrangement and job to go away for such a long time, and you may want to think about how it will affect your relationships at home. You will need to take full physical and psychological testing, and may want to consider the impact that living in close quarters with strangers might have on you. Are you a persistent person? Remember that once you're down there, that's pretty much it. If it doesn't live up to your expectations, then you'll have to stick it out anyway.

Science buffs always needed

For those of you blessed with a scientific mind, there are always plenty of vacancies working for organizations such as British Antarctica Survey (BAS) or for a project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. They also provide information on living and working in the area, such as food, transport and communications. Most of the jobs available are in research, for those with, or studying towards, a Ph.D. in subjects such as geology, glaciology or meteorology. These are highly-skilled positions, usually taken by people who have spent their life fascinated by the area. The other main employer for these kinds of jobs is the US Government, which recruits mainly for jobs at the McMurdo, South Pole, and Palmer Stations.

Support staff

What about those who don't have such specific skills? Well, there are support jobs available, as Ms Leavy has shown, but there are a lot of applicants. If you have a useful skill or qualification, then you'll certainly have an advantage. They need all kinds of people to help run the base, such as cooks, tradespeople, doctors and fire-fighters. The pay is about average, but you'll certainly have an interesting experience and it'll look great on your CV.  Check out Lockheed-Martin.

Art in a cold climate

Perhaps your skills lay more in the artistic field? Well, there are a few opportunities for you too. Both the US and UK run an Artists & Writers Program which could see you whisked to Antarctica to create art that promotes the area. As you can imagine, competition is fierce, but artists from all kinds of medium are encouraged to apply. Perhaps you've always wanted to film a documentary or write a book about the area? Research the past residents and try to think of something unique that will capture the general public's imagination.

The practicalities

If you've managed to land a job in Antarctica, then congratulations! You're certainly in for an exciting experience. What's next? Most of the details such as travel and accommodation will be sorted out by your employer. You will need to check whether things like medical care and insurance are covered, cheap holiday insurance may not be enough to adequately cover you in this area. Remember that in a medical emergency, it'll be extremely difficult to evacuate you from the area. You'll need to go to the nearest medical facility by air ambulance, which is tricky and expensive. That's why it's important that you discuss your needs with your insurance provider and check you are covered before you end up with a huge bill. The BAS has a wealth of information about medical requirements and what to do in an emergency, so make sure you read through it before you leave.

It truly takes a special kind of person to undertake this job, but if you've got the skills then the rewards in life experience and adventure, are really worth it. Do you think you could start your own polar adventure?