Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Royal honour for Kiwi ice queen

Agnieszka Fryckowska spent 34 months at UK-operated Rothera Research Station. Photo / Supplied
Agnieszka Fryckowska spent 34 months at UK-operated Rothera Research Station. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland expat's Antarctic exploits have earned her a date with the Queen, who will award her the same prestigious honour held by explorers Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Kiwi woman Agnieszka Fryckowska has been invited to Buckingham Palace next Friday, when Queen Elizabeth II will present her with the Polar Medal in recognition of her service with the British Antarctic Survey.

The list of previous recipients reads like a who's who of Antarctic legends, among them Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Sir Vivian Fuchs, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and New Zealand's own Sir Edmund Hillary.

In her first stint with the survey, in 2004, she spent 34 months at UK-operated Rothera Research Station - a remote base on the Antarctic Peninsula where temperatures average -9.1C over the coldest months. There, she was responsible for daily meteorological observations and maintenance of long-term monitoring equipment.

Later, she served as winter station leader at Halley V and VI stations, and as summer station leader at Bird Island and Rothera stations, before leaving the survey last year.

"Neither of these jobs are your typical 9-5, and that's partly what I loved about it," she said. "Also, it was a huge privilege to be part of a very small group of dedicated individuals - the close teamwork and dedication of colleagues enabled us to deliver world-class science."

Ms Fryckowska said living and working in such an extreme and isolated environment for long periods tested her physically, mentally and emotionally.

Ms Fryckowska, who now lives in the UK, where she is training to be a pilot, hoped her experiences will encourage others.

"I hope this recognition can give some inspiration to young Kiwis to go out and try new things - you never know where you may end up."

Since revising its honours system 20 years ago, New Zealand now presents the New Zealand Antarctic Medal for service on the ice.

- NZ Herald

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