Four women have been selected to run the post office in Antarctica and count penguins


Four women have been selected for an unusual job in Antarctica – running the world’s most southerly post office and gift shop — and counting penguins.

Port Lockroy, the post office which also serves as a museum, has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In preparation of re-opening Port Lockroy, the U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust posted four job positions: a base leader, postmaster, shop manager and wildlife monitor, the trust said in a press release.

They received 4,000 applications, but four women were chosen to travel 9,000 miles to do the job: Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone. Vicky Inglis, who had previously worked there, will return for 10 weeks as the team’s leader to help get them settled.

The team will work for five months at Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula, abandoning all “home comforts,” the trust said.

Penguins around old British base of Port Lockroy
Penguins around the old British base of Port Lockroy, Goudier Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica. 

DeAgostini/Getty Images


They won’t have running water or a flushing toilet, and will deal with sub-zero temperatures. They will live in almost entire daylight, as the continent has about six months of daylight during its summer months – October to February – and six months of darkness in their winter months, March to September. 

The four will share their space with a colony of gentoo penguins, which they will be in charge of counting as part of the trusts’ effort to monitor and protect the birds. The trust’s role is to preserve British Antarctic Heritage and monitor the impact of wildlife. The trust cares for the island’s buildings and property, records the amount of ships and visitors and of course, runs the most southerly post office and gift shop.

The women will begin training this month, including lessons from a “penguinologist,” and will also get remote first aid training, UKAHT said. They will embark on their mission in early November and will stay in Antarctica until March 2023.

antarctic-women.jpg
Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone. Vicky Inglis, who worked there before, will return for 10 weeks as the team’s leader to help get them settled.

UKAHT


Clare Ballantyne has been named postmaster. She will be in charge of dealing with approximately 80,000 postcards mailed from Port Lockroy each year. She recently earned a master’s degree in earth sciences and worked as a cleaner and sales assistant while at Oxford University. 

“I’m most looking forward to stepping onto Goudier Island and taking in the cacophony and pungent smell of the penguins, the backdrop of the glaciers and Fief mountains – and being able to call it home for the next few months,” she said.

Mairi Hilton is wildlife monitor. She will be in charge of counting the penguin population and keeping an eye on new hatchlings and nests. Hilton recently earned a Ph.D. in conservation biology in Australia. She has been on wildlife research expeditions in the Peruvian Amazon and Trinidad and Tobago. 

Natalie Corbett will be shop manager. She will look after the gift shop located at the end of the world, which can receive up to 18,000 visitors during the season. She has a background in retail and started her own business, creating handcrafted pet accessories inspired by her three rescue dogs.

Corbett got married in June, but will have to leave her husband behind. She said she is treating this like a “solo honeymoon.” 

Lucy Bruzzone is the base leader. She will manage the team, coordinate all ship visits and work with expedition leaders. She previously completed a three-month Arctic expedition in Svalbard – the area between Norway and the North Pole.



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