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Four-woman team to run Antarctica’s remote post office

The post office at Port Lockroy which is a British outpost on Goudier Island, surrounded by penguins (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

It could be termed as one of the most unusual and challenging jobs in the world and this time four women have been chosen for it. As per a smithsonianmag.com report, they are from the United Kingdom and this winter will be in-charge of the “Penguin Post Office” in Antarctica’s Goudier Island.

Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone will be responsible for taking care of Port Lockroy post office, museum, gift shop and also keep a watch on the gentoo penguins, number 1,500 from November to March.

Their work will be tough as their stay will be devoid of comforts. They’ll enjoy a bath only on visiting ships, use a bucket for the toilet and sleep in bunk beds. What makes it truly challenging is their dependence on the traditional system of post as Internet access there is limited.

Despite all this, there is no lack of enthusiasm on their part.

In a statement, 23-year-old Clare Ballantyne from England’s Lincolnshire who will be the postmaster said, she is looking eagerly to the work “taking in the cacophony and pungent smell of the penguins, the backdrop of the glaciers and Fief mountains and being able to call [Goudier Island] home for the next few months.”

Armed with a master’s degree in Earth Sciences from Oxford University, she will oversee sending of mails numbering 70,000 to more than 100 countries.

Lucy Bruzzone, will be the base leader, managing the Port Lockroy team, coordinating with visiting ships, and working with leaders of expeditions.

Aged 40, she has had experience of living in the Arctic working in the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard which is close to the North Pole for three months. She was also a Programme Director at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Natalie Corbett, 31 is to take care of the gift shop and it suits her as she has a background in retail and entrepreneurship while Mairi Hilton will monitor the wildlife, including counting the penguins and scrutinising new hatchlings and nests of birds. Hailing from Scotland’s Bo’ness, this 30-year-old who has been part of several research expeditions, recently completed a doctorate in conservation biology.

The four were selected from more than 6,000 applicants for the job posted by UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. People have been recruited for these jobs regularly since 2006 except during Covid-19 when the post office was closed for two-and-a-half years. Following an initial selection, 12 people were chosen and from them, these four were selected based on interviews, tests, activities and presentations.

Interestingly, the choice of four women was not deliberate, rather was by chance.

After their training in remote first aid and behaviour of penguins, they will fly down with Vicky Inglis – who has worked earlier in the island – who will help them for 10 weeks to get acclimatised.

Sharing her experience, Inglis said: “You get very in tune with everything that’s going on around you.”

Also read: Climate change enables Gentoo Penguins to expand their habitat in the Antarctica