4 women leave Britain for Antarctica to run the world’s most remote post office – and count penguins – for the winter

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An all-female team of four prepares to travel 9,000 miles from England to Antarctica to reopen the world’s southernmost and most remote island. post and museum.

Beat 4,000 other candidates for the coveted posts that Women will be based at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula, a historic site managed by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). Starting in early November, the order will last five months – over the winter and Christmas – and will mark the first time since the pandemic that the charity’s flagship site will open.

(L-R) Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone. (Courtesy of UK Antarctic Heritage Trust)

Lucy Bruzone will take on the role of base manager; Clare Ballantyne becomes postmistress; shop manager duties are taken over by Natalie Corbett; Wildlife Monitor will be Mairi Hilton’s title. Former Port Lockroy team member Vicky Inglis will join them and spend ten weeks helping them acclimatize to the unique and challenging place.

The sun rarely sets on Goudier Island, which means that there is almost constant daylight and you have to get used to the sub-zero temperatures. The team’s living quarters on the tiny island have no WiFi, no running water, no flush toilets, and some interesting neighbors: a colony of donkeys penguins.

Ballantyne and Corbett said ITV News that they expect “little downtime” but will take board games, books and tablets with films downloaded. You will also take walks to explore the countryside.

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The Port Lockroy post office surrounded by a line of Gentoo penguins in Antarctica. (Courtesy of UK Antarctic Heritage Trust)

“Each team member has a keen sense of adventure and a genuine love for Antarctica,” UKAHT CEO Camilla Nichol said in a press release. “It will be a challenging role… but they will play an integral role in bringing Port Lockroy and its museum to life.”

In addition to the day-to-day duties of the team running the post office, museum and gift shop, Hilton is tasked with conducting a “penguin count” as part of a long-term study of the colony’s breeding success; The British Antarctic Territory government donates a portion of postal revenue to UKAHT to fund research.

The women will train together before heading to Antarctica from the city of Cambridge, England. This training includes briefings by a “penguinologist” and remote first aid drills.

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The Post Office on the rocky coast of Goudier Island, Antarctica. (Courtesy of UK Antarctic Heritage Trust)

Postmaster Ballantyne, a recent Masters in Earth Sciences and ultramarathon runner, is tasked with hand-sorting about 80,000 postcards destined for international addresses. What she looks forward to most is calling the island — with its picture-perfect fief mountains and glaciers — “home” and “breathing in the cacophony and pungent smell of the penguins.”

Aside from counting penguins, Wildlife Monitor Hilton will monitor new hatchlings and nests and will record vessels and an expected 18,000 visitors to the area. Scottish-born Hilton has a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology and has undertaken wildlife research expeditions in the Peruvian Amazon and Trinidad and Tobago. This will be her first visit to Antarctica.

“I have no idea what to expect when we get there, how cold it’s going to be,” Hilton said. “Do we have to dig through the snow to get to the post office? …personally I can’t wait to see the penguins and other wildlife like seabirds and whales.”

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Gentoo penguin nestlings spotted near Port Lockroy Post Office. (Courtesy of UK Antarctic Heritage Trust)

Bruzzone once spent three months on an Arctic expedition in Svalbard, serving as chief scientist. Now seconded from the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership to Port Lockroy – her lifelong dream – where she will lead the team as base leader, coordinating ship visits and working with expedition leaders.

Like her teammates, she “can’t wait” to live and work in Port Lockroy’s unique, remote setting.

Shop Manager Corbett has over ten years experience in retail and her own business selling handmade pet accessories. She also recently married.

“I first read about this job at the BBC and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that just be the most amazing, once in a lifetime experience?'” she said. “I’ll be leaving behind my husband George, who I only married in June, so I’m treating this like my solo honeymoon!”

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Gentoo penguins on the rocky coast of Goudier Island, Antacrtica. (Courtesy of UK Antarctic Heritage Trust)

Welcoming the team, Inglis served as Port Lockroy’s Assistant General and Wildlife Observer during the 2019/20 season. The site holds a special place in her heart. After helping them settle, she will lead a conservation field team at a nearby UKAHT heritage site in Damoy.

Inglis said she has “gathered five months’ worth of equipment, supplies and toilet paper” that the new team will need and is aiming to absorb as much of the shock as possible as she adjusts to her new climate.

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Louise Kammern

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Louise Chambers is an author, born and raised in London, England. She reports inspirational news and stories of human interest.

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