Rare job opportunity: Spend five months in Antarctica counting penguins and managing mail

Gentoo penguin
Group of gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) at the Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Photo: Shutterstock/ANDRE DIB

London: The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) recently announced an intriguing opportunity – positions for counting penguins and sorting mail in Antarctica. The Trust seeks to fill five vacancies at its post office on the icy continent. While some selected individuals will conduct a census of the penguin population, others will be tasked with mail sorting.

The appointments at the office, situated at Port Lockroy in Antarctica, span five months, from November 2024 to March 2025. The vacant posts include one Base Leader, one Shop Manager, and three General Assistants. Notably, three positions are reserved exclusively for UK residents.

Gentoo penguins at the Port Lockroy Antarctic Base
Gentoo penguins at the Port Lockroy Antarctic Base. Photo: Shutterstock/Anton Rodionov

According to the Trust's website, Port Lockroy, nestled on Goudier Island, ranks among the most visited sites in Antarctica, drawing approximately 18,000 cruise ship visitors annually. Its historical significance dates back to the early 20th century when it served as a secure harbour for whaling fleets. Subsequently, Port Lockroy became the site of a continuously inhabited British base, maintaining a year-round British presence in the region.

Base 'A' was established in February 1944 and operated until its closure in 1962. Rather than being dismantled, the abandoned base was preserved for its historical value and designated as Historic Site and Monument No. 61 under the Antarctic Treaty.

In 1996, Port Lockroy was reimagined as a 'living museum,' welcoming visitors during the Antarctic summer months. The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust assumed control of operations at Port Lockroy in 2006.

Working conditions:

Successful applicants will be responsible for welcoming the approximately 18,000 visitors and processing up to 80,000 letters and postcards, in addition to monitoring the colony of 1,500 gentoo penguins at Port Lockroy. Salaries range from UK Pounds 1,375 to 1,985 per month.

Applicants must be prepared to share accommodation, endure extended periods without phone or internet access, and go up to two weeks without showering due to limited washing facilities on the island. Water is collected in jerry cans from visiting ships, and showers are available approximately once per week, with the possibility of longer intervals during poor weather conditions.

Antartica Cruisie
Quark Expeditions Sea Spirit Cruise Ship sailing among the icebergs as part of an Antarctica Wildlife Expedition on January 19, 2014. Photo: Shutterstock/Ion Mes

Despite the challenges, staff are expected to maintain high levels of hygiene. Food, typically shipped from the UK, consists mainly of dried and tinned items, occasionally supplemented by fresh provisions from visiting ships.

Temperatures at Port Lockroy range from minus 5 degree Celsius to 5 degree Celsius, hovering mostly just above zero. Prospective applicants are advised to be physically and medically fit, as the role involves tasks such as carrying heavy water cans, lifting boxes, and shovelling snow.


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