Want to Work in Antarctica and Live With Penguins? Apply by Friday
Love penguins and don’t mind being in the middle of nowhere? Have I got a job for you!
The U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) is looking to hire a Port Lockroy Assistant in Antarctica for the upcoming austral summer season -- that’s November to March. Applications are due Friday, Feb. 27.
Port Lockroy is a historic British base that was established in 1944, closed in 1962, then reopened in 1996 as a “living museum.” The base is located on Goudier Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Curious about working in Antarctica? Here’s what you’d do in the position, and what you need to know before you apply.
What Skills Do You Need to Get the Job?
“Can you carry a big heavy box over slippery rocks and slushy snow whilst dodging penguins?” asks the job description. That should give you the first clue that this isn't your normal gig.
Another question asks prospective applicants, “Are you happy not to shower for up to a month, [and] live in close proximity to three people and 2,000 smelly penguins for five months?”
While you might think this would be a good job for someone who’s antisocial, that's not the case. Cruise ships stop by the remote island so its passengers can visit the museum and drop off postcards at its mail station. Working here, you’ll see 18,000 visitors during the austral summer season and give talks to 200 people at a time (without any fancy Powerpoints or visual aids).
In between cruise ship visits, you’ll be busy. More than 70,000 pieces of mail have to be hand-cancelled and processed at the post office each season. And don't forget staffing the museum and working the retail store. Customer service experience is important, and being bilingual is a plus. Not to mention maintenance skills, because who else will fix things that break?
Living in this remote location, you’ll need to be in good physical and mental health. Helicopters can't land on the station, and the nearest doctor is three days away by boat.
Playing well with others is key, as is having a positive attitude. “Can you enthuse to visitors when it is -5 degrees Celsius and blowing a blizzard, as well as cook supper cheerfully after a long cold day and very little sleep?” asks the job description.
It seems that being a people person is, in fact, mandatory. The posting specifically says that applicants should be “prepared to be on call and smiling for all waking hours, seven days a week.”
What About the Penguins?
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about them -- they’d also be part of your job.
More than 2,000 Gentoo penguins live on the island and nest around the building. They are frequently underfoot, and one of your many tasks would be to monitor the colony and count eggs to chart the penguins’ breeding success.
Don't Count on Adventures
Ironically, though, the adventurous souls who apply for this position can't be too adventurous. You must be “happy to be confined to a small island with no prospect of climbing the surrounding peaks.”
So if you envision carrying out a true Antarctic expedition in your off hours, this job is not for you.
How Much Could You Make?
Being on call (and smiling) during all hours at a remote duty station must equal a hefty pay rate, right? Perhaps even hazardous pay from penguin-tripping dangers?
The pay is 1,100 British pounds (about $1,700 U.S.) per month, though UKAHT will pay expenses to the station, including a flight to South America and ship passage to the base. Accommodations are included, but they are far from luxurious, as the facility lacks main power, heat and running water, and has limited means of communication.
The job is open to people of all nationalities, though you do have to able to travel to the United Kingdom for the selection and training process, including five days of training in September.
How Can You Get This Job?
It takes a certain breed of person to consider this their perfect job.
Not deterred by the challenges? Here’s how to help your application to the top of the pile.
These job duties are diverse: running a post office, penguin and wildlife monitoring, working in a museum (including cataloging items, displays and interpretation), retail work in the shop, merchandise control, maintenance, communications, supply inventory and control, and following all operating procedures.
To have an edge in your application, highlight previous experience in as many of those fields as possible. If you've run a retail shop, worked in a post office, done maintenance or museum work, or have experience in wildlife monitoring, those are great things to mention. They are looking for versatile workers, so the more duties you have experience with, the more appealing you’ll look.
You should also be able to learn quickly, take initiative and be careful not to break things -- it's imperative to “treat things with respect when they are irreplaceable until the following season.” The Trust wants someone who will be doing “your best day in and out for [five] months.”
Be Someone You'd Want to be Stuck on an Island With
Have a sense of humor. This quirky, funny job announcement is clearly meant to attract people who enjoy a good laugh.
Being stuck on a tiny, remote island with three other people is bound to require a positive spirit and uplifting manner. Be someone who people would want to be stuck on an island with, sociable with good humor and emotionally self-sufficient.
Be a Tough Cookie
If you have experience working in isolated and hostile locations, definitely mention it. Military work is a huge plus, and remote fieldwork or travel in difficult conditions are also good things to highlight.
The Trust wants someone who can handle adversity with a smile and won't get upset if they slip in penguin droppings. If you’ve spent some time in the Peace Corps working a remote village or months bicycling through Siberia, let them know.
Talking about your booze cruise to the Bahamas or gap year surfing in Australia won't quite cut it, but if you've faced adversity in foreign lands, be sure to include that in your application.
Be Healthy and Fit
Good applicants will be physically, mentally and emotionally fit, especially since the nearest doctor is three days away. With three other people and 2,000 penguins around when the ships aren't in, they want someone who can be mentally resourceful. Without much communication, the staff must be self-directed and capable of entertaining themselves.
It sounds like the job is so all-encompassing that there won't be much free time available. But if you need a movie theater, fine dining and pedicures to be happy, this is not the job for you.
Applications are due Friday, Feb. 27, so if you'd like a shot at slipping on rocks while laden down with heavy boxes and trying not to squish a penguin, send in your application! Submit an application, cover letter and CV as instructions as instructed in the job posting.
With all the publicity this announcement has received, competition will likely be fierce. If you’re not selected for this opportunity but still long for remote penguin-populated locales, you can always apply for the United States Antarctic Program. Or, if you’re keen to explore, check out these other seasonal jobs (though these options mostly lack penguins).
Your Turn: Will you apply to work in Antarctica?
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.