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OK so you've seen the pictures, watched the videos, read the books and now you've decided you want to actually go to Antarctica. Maybe you can't afford to go as a paying passenger or maybe you want to experience the continent more fully, more closely and most of all - during the winter months when no tourist can visit.
Jobs fall into two categories - scientific or support.
The job of the scientists is in reality the job of the base, without them there would be little or no need for the base at all. Scientists are at a minimum of postgraduate level and often postdoctoral, though the more junior they are the more likely they will be able to spend a longer time period in Antarctica (over-wintering for example). Scientists usually take down a project to Antarctica with them and are fairly self-contained equipment-wise. Occasionally they may be able to "plug-into" an on-going project fulfilling a discrete sub-part of the whole. Scientists fall into many categories:
Support positions fall into a whole range of occupations that are involved with the tasks of keeping the base and its personnel in good repair and able to perform duties safely and efficiently. These positions usually require people who are experienced experts in their particular field often with relevant professional qualifications e.g:
The large US base at McMurdo also has positions for generalist staff.
Your experience of Antarctica will depend very much on your job. Scientific staff will generally have more interesting experiences as their jobs often take them away from the base more. There are exceptions though, an atmospheric scientist will have little reason to leave base for the purpose of doing the job, and a boat handler conversely will spend large amounts of time off base. If your job involves transportation in any way, then you will probably see more of Antarctica than anyone.
In many bases there is the expectation and requirement that all staff will fulfill generalist roles such as unloading ships, washing-up, night-watch, cleaning the base, dealing with the trash etc.
Personnel are screened carefully for their psychological and physical suitability to work in the demanding environment of Antarctica. They must be in very good physical fitness as full medical facilities are far away in distance and also often in time.
As it's a case of supply and demand, and the supply of people ready to work in Antarctica is far greater than the demand for personnel, the answer to this question is therefore unfortunately not the great fortune that is sometimes assumed.
In general personnel in Antarctica on a National Antarctic Programme, supply ship, contract work etc. will be paid pretty much the same as they would be paid for doing the same job back in their home country, often with a small extra bonus but forget the 2x or 3x salaries that are imagined.
It seems that you're paid more though because:
There's not a lot
to spend your money on
First stop should be the National Antarctic programme of your own country, if only because interviews will be held in that country. Some countries also have a strong preference for their own citizens or you may find that foreign nationals are simply not considered.
Some country's Antarctic bases are run by the military or have a strong military presence and you will therefore stand a much better chance if you are already enlisted.
Listed below are links to many points of first call:
Other sites- the national sites above often have links to diaries of the bases that are written for the family and friends of the personnel on the bases. These tend to be a bit dull unless you know the people involved and are a rather sanitized official version of events. The following are a collection of "unofficial" records and so rather more realistic. The huge American McMurdo base accounts for many such internet diary entries.
I personally went to Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey on a small base and reading through some other diary entries am quite astonished at how different an Antarctic experience people have on the various bases.
Things change all the time in terms of requirements and opportunities. If you have any experience in finding a job in Antarctica that you think may help others please email Cool Antarctica (use the link at the bottom of the page) and we'll put the information up attached to this page.
I am a mountaineer and a photographer, and have managed to be shortlisted for a position as field assistant with BAS. If you have a minute to spare, I would be very grateful. I have a good idea of what they are looking for when it comes to technical skills (glacier travel, crevasse rescue, etc.), but not so much for the "softer" personality questions... If you have any advice that would help me come better prepared, it would be extremely welcome!
Well done for getting an interview. I've never worked with GA's so I can't claim to have the answers you're looking for specifically but I'll try. I presume you have all the skills and qualifications on paper that you need so, yes it's about seeing if you fit. In no particular order this is what comes to mind:
You need to demonstrate self reliance and a high degree of capability, though not be too proud to ask if you get out of your depth (and be able to recognise when you are out of your depth) or encounter a situation you don't know about. They may give you a scenario to talk them through with this.
You need to be able to be flexible and make things happen when they can happen rather than stick to the schedule.
You will be in the field with someone for weeks, possibly months, so you need to be very easy going and easy to get on with, actually there's not a lot you can do about this, be yourself, if this is not you, then the job is perhaps not for you.
You should be quite self contained and not in any way "needy", same as the last point really.
As a person you should like other
people, you "get away from it all" in Antarctica,
but you certainly don't get away from people, crowds - yes,
but people definitely not.
So I'm posting on the "Cool Antarctica" forum; it's obvious I want to go. Here's the deal: I want to go not this austral summer, but next, and when I go (theoretically) I'll have a master's degree in mechanical engineering and a bunch of sundry skills. But I've sent my resume to anonymous hiring sites before (i.e. the Raytheon outfit) and I've NEVER known that to work. Neither I nor anyone I know has even once been hired by submitting to an online server. So I'm worried that when the time comes, and I submit my papers--qualified or not--they'll be parsed by a computer, glanced over by a suit who already knows who he's sending, and tossed into the Antarctic trash bin of history.
I thus ask those who know, realistically: I'm a multi-talented fellow, and a hard worker... but what are my chances? What are they REALLY? Is there an inside track to the Antarctic Circle? And how do I get on it?
Really good questions! I think your chances of being hired are greatly enhanced by attending Raytheon's Job Fair in April. I did and was hired. I'm returning for my third season in October! I have been told they receive over 30,000 applications for about 500 positions. So being at the Fair, getting to know the persons for whom you hope to work, getting their extension numbers, names, email addresses really is a foot in the door.
When I worked the Midrat shift in the galley, six of the ten of us had masters degrees! No, not in culinary arts! We had school counselors, teachers, school psychologist and me, a nurse practitioner. So be willing to take ANY job. There are attorneys, judges, pharmacists, and PhD's working as mechanics, janitors, galley slaves, housing department and shuttle drivers.
Some folks have said to me, oh, I don't have the money to go to Denver for the Fair, or I'm not sure I can go. Well, do you want to go to the Ice!!!??? You do what you gotta do!! Good luck!
I have a great job record and have thought for a long time that working in Antarctica would be an interesting thing to do ! It would seem to me that there would be more of a need for help due to the cold and harsh weather one must endure down there ! Your site makes it seem like a real narrow chance to go there! I think that's a shame if that's the case ! I have been in Hi-Tech for 19 years and done lots of heavy work too! If there is any need for a strong smart guy such as myself I would sure like to give it a go !If the American or British stations can't use me, perhaps I could work at the Russian station as I have a Russian wife and can speak it some ! Thanks for your time in reading this!
It's a case of supply and demand, for every job available, there are dozens if not hundreds of people who would be prepared to do it. So the recruitment is biased towards those who REALLY want to go to Antarctica as well as being capable of doing the job, the recruiters really can pick and choose.
You need to apply through Raytheon, the US company that deals with logistics. They have annual recruiting fairs. Turning up at those improves your chances enormously.
Also, if you don't get in straight away, keep plugging at it, it seems that they like persistence too, shows it's not just a short-term idea you've had. I got the second job I'd applied for and know of many others who were turned down at least once before they were offered a position.
I Have a question that doesn't seem to have been answered here.
I'm interested in getting a job in Antarctica, but realise that everyone else is too, and so I figured that my best bet would be as a scientific guy. How do I go about getting information on research jobs in Antarctica? All the information seems to be about cooks and carpenters and mechanics.
Scientific jobs are advertised in the scientific press usually. You could try the website of your national programme as there are often the latest vacancies advertised there. Also scientific jobs are not always offered by the Antarctic programme but by a University with secondment to the Antarctic programme to go South and carry out the research. When I went to Antarctica as a Marine Biologist I was actually employed by St. Andrews University and seconded to British Antarctic Survey for instance.
The overall impression is that scientists are supposed more interested in their line of research than in just going to Antarctica which is "coincidental". Your scientific discipline and career so far are obviously extremely important, and while there may be dozens of applicants for a particular generalist support job, there may only be a handful for a scientific post - BUT that's because of the specialist nature of the job. There can be (and are) many well qualified and experienced scientists who would love to go to Antarctica, but there's just no jobs in their particular discipline.
So as a scientist, there's less chance of a job coming up that fits your experience, but if it does - the odds are narrowed in your favour.
Aa retired Registered Nurseliving in Princeville, Illinois. Sharon always wanted to go to Antarctica and in September 2000, she did just that. After attending a job fair in Englewood, Colorado. for Raytheon Polar Services she was one of the few lucky people to be hired. She has now been three times to Antarctica to work, most recently in October 2003.
Sharon also has a Masters degree from the University of Illinois, having become a nurse after her three children entered school - "so I was a late bloomer!" She now has grandchildren and turned 65 in October 2003 on the Ice! "Again, blooming late!"
Sharon's job was to drive shuttle buses around the US McMurdo base in the Ross Sea area of Antarctica. In the Antarctic summer from October to February when she was there, there are about 1,000 people on base. A very similar size in fact to the small rural community in central Illinois where Sharon lives.
Not much to report from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Cold and windy, planes can't come down from Christchurch, NZ, so many workers are stranded there.
Temperatures have been about -10F to -20F with wind chills to -60F or so. We actually had a Condition 1 in town the other day. Unusual! Must stay where you are, not go even from one building to the next. Condition 1 usually only occurs away from Mactown, at the airfields of up in the hills.
My job is going very well. I love driving shuttles!! I took some carpenters out about 10 miles onto the Ross Ice Shelf the other day in a Delta, the big orange vehicle with 5' tires. The passenger section and engine section are articulated from the driver section. The driver, me, sits forward of the front tires! The are building a shelter for the LDB, Long Duration Balloon, project. The scientists send up a balloon probably in December or January to 120,000 feet, the edge of outer space. It circles counter-clockwise Antarctica collecting data to be analyzed later at Washington U. in St. Louis.
I learn so much and hear so much that there is never a dull moment. I know we have a cushy life here compared to the early explorers, but last Thursday, a woman decided to walk/climb up Observation Hill, a 900 foot lava hill. Well, she went alone and did not take a radio! A big no-no. She lost her footing and slid on the lava about 20 feet, then rolled over and slid another 40 feet, loosing a shoe and gloves in the process. Luckily, a group of hikers came along after about 1/2 - 1 hour and found her. She has frostbite on all 20 digits!! And her one heel is purple/black. She is confined to her room, visiting medical for dressing changes and morphine and debridement daily. She is not out of the woods yet! She could see shuttles going to Scott Base that night and waved and yelled, but with howling winds almost always, nobody saw or heard her. She's lucky to be alive - and only right on the edge of our buildings!
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