Antarctica needs a postmaster: Must love penguins

Wish you were here?
Wish you were here?
Image: UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
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Are you the person we’re looking for? Thus reads a job advertisement posted this week by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Every year, the trust recruits four people to crew the most southerly post office in the world.

What they’re looking for, it transpires, is dexterity with hand tools, a high tolerance for cold temperatures and lack of sleep, and the ability keep one’s footing while “dodging” penguins.

There are 2,000 gentoo penguins on Goudier Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, where the base of Port Lockroy is located. It has a shop, museum, the post office of course, and not much else. No running water, for example.

Each austral summer, the southern season that runs November to March, about 18,000 visitors arrive on cruise tours. They’re enthusiastic correspondents: 70,000 items of mail pass through the office.

The job calls for “Adaptability to different situations. Are you happy not to shower for up to a month, live in close proximity to three people and 2,000 smelly penguins for five months?” it asks.

After a selection process and training in the UK, the new Antarctic post people (pdf) will be flown to South America, and then undertake the rest of the journey by sea. They get paid £1,100 (around $1,500) a month. The deadline for applications is 27th February 2015.

The research centre on Port Lockroy was established in 1944, and was permanently occupied until 1962. It was restored and opened to visitors in 1996–but by then postal workers could no longer find the same level of peace in the silent isles and snowy peaks. The penguins arrived on Goudier Island in 1985. They now outnumber the other local bipeds by 500 to one.