Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Job on frozen continent puts 9-to-5 routine on ice

Antarctica NZ has plenty of work opportunities at Scott Base for adventurous souls - in summer or winter

The summer just passed was Becky Goodsell's third working at Scott Base in Antarctica. Photo / Supplied
The summer just passed was Becky Goodsell's third working at Scott Base in Antarctica. Photo / Supplied

Wanted: Hard-working Kiwi for brrr-illiant, chilled-out job. Expect a cool time, unusually long days ... and penguins.

When it comes to advertising what might be the country's most unique job opportunity, Antarctica New Zealand has as many puns to work with as it does ice.

The Crown entity is today opening applications for fixed-term jobs at Scott Base for summer-only and winter-overing positions.

The jobs range from base engineers, mechanics and carpenters to chefs and general domestic duties, with hours largely spanning a 48-hour week, Monday to Saturday.

And for workers used to going to work at dawn and heading home at dusk, expect things to be slightly different.

The summer months come with 24 hours of sunshine, while during the coming winter, the white continent is plunged into darkness for four months.

Antarctica New Zealand says it goes without saying that applicants have to be motivated and enthusiastic.

For the adventurous who don't mind life on the ice, the experience is life-changing.

"Working at Scott Base is like working in a modern utopia, where common sense, practicalities and good honest hard work are more important than rules and stereotypes," said Antarctica New Zealand's winter base leader Becky Goodsell.

Ms Goodsell was one of three summer domestic staff for the 2012/13 season, and had spent two previous summers in Antarctica - once as part of a scientific project funded by Antarctica New Zealand studying on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, and once as a summer domestic. In work and play, she said, there was always plenty to do.

"Summer is a good opportunity to get outside and work on a goggle-tan, while winter is a good time to really get to know one another.

"No matter what your role is down here, there are plenty of opportunities for learning and self-development."

Richie Hunter, who worked as a field trainer during the summer 2012/13 season, has family links that stretch back a century to the time of Terra Nova and Robert Falcon Scott's South Pole expedition.

His great-grandfather William McDonald sailed from Lyttelton on both the second and third voyages of Terra Nova and he helped to build the cross that stands atop Observation Hill, behind Scott Base, in honour of Scott's fallen party.

"My great-grandfather worked in far tougher conditions than I did this season and I wonder what he would think about our selection of modern-day clothing, Hagglunds and helicopters," Mr Hunter said. "I certainly wouldn't tell him about the hot sausage rolls we get for morning tea."

Mechanic Lex McKenzie has worked three seasons on the ice and is just starting his second winter-over.

"Don't let the thought of the cold put you off. It's Antarctica and, yes, it does get cold but it is a different cold than you experience in New Zealand.

"With the correct clothing, there are not many days through the summer you can't go outside and feel quite comfortable."


• To check out the jobs on offer, visit antarcticanz.govt.nz.


Team spirit a key attribute

Working on the driest, coldest and windiest continent comes with obvious character requirements.

Because of Scott Base's remote location, it is essential that staff there work well as a team, are safety focused and can successfully integrate into the small base community lifestyle, says Antarctica New Zealand's Julie Patterson, who is leading the recruitment process.

"One of the biggest challenges people face in Antarctica is living and working away from home and their usual support networks."

But for the right type of person, Ms Patterson says, there is also much to do - and much to enjoy.

Fresh food is served up in buffet meals at the base mess hall.

Those not busy with their day jobs can tramp walking tracks around the base, relax in a well-stocked movie room, work out at the gym, read a book in the library or have a tipple at the base bar.

There is a skifield to use during the summer season and indoor sports to join in at the nearby United States-run McMurdo Station.

- NZ Herald

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