I lived and worked in Antarctica for 5 months without WiFi or running water. It didn’t feel as remote as I expected.


Lucy Bruzzone, Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, and Natalie Corbett were the four women chosen by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust to join the 2022/23 Port Lockroy team.

Lucy Bruzzone is one of several women who spent the last five months working in Antarctica.
The team counted penguins for monitoring purposes and staffed the world’s most remote post office.
Bruzzone found it surprisingly easy to adjust to life on the peninsula and said it didn’t feel as remote as she expected.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lucy Bruzzone, one of four women chosen by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust to live and work in Port Lockroy, Antarctica, from November 2022 to March 2023. The group’s responsibilities included running the world’s most remote post office and museum, counting gentoo penguins for monitoring purposes, coordinating ship visits to the island, and educating visitors about the site’s history. This has been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve always been fascinated by ice and the polar regions and I’d been exploring opportunities to visit Antarctica for many years. I was keen to understand these wilderness areas for myself before no ice remains — and to bring a life-changing experience back to my day-to-day work that could help me explain more deeply the reasons we urgently need to take action.

I was also delighted when I met the all-female team I’d be working with. Historically, Antarctica has been an extremely male-dominated place; Port Lockroy didn’t have its first female team member until 2001. We were delighted to continue to demonstrate the capabilities of women in Antarctica. 

The team spent five months in Antarctica through the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

As the Base Leader, I was responsible for day-to-day operations and ensuring the safety, well-being, and continuity of the team. We were on a remote, rocky, snow-covered site at least 3 days from full medical assistance, with gas cylinders for heating and cooking, solar power for electricity, and no running water. Our connectivity with the outside world was limited to satellite phones and long-range VHF radio.

Although we were physically remote, we actually rarely felt remote. We enjoyed sending and receiving letters and postcards to friends and family, and we were occasionally able to connect to WiFi on ships and call home. 

It was quite a privilege to switch off from the frequent communication back home and indulge in just focusing on daily living and not thinking very much beyond the week ahead. It was surprisingly simple to adjust to life on the island.

Port Lockroy is the only occupied site that larger vessels visit, so we act as a hub for the industry. We had ships visiting almost every day, and several cargo drops of food, gift shop stock, and fuel during the season. I would contact ships in advance to confirm plans, then check in on the radio when they were close by to share the latest conditions to enable safe landings.

When visitors arrived, we shared the base’s rich history with them, ran the gift shop and post office, and monitored their movements to protect the island’s penguin colony.

Every other day, one of us would also help with penguin monitoring and we all became rather expert in stamps and how to most efficiently cancel stamps on hundreds of postcards.

We had weekly safety checks across the site and spent a considerable amount of time digging steps in snow, breaking up ice, and rerouting rivers of penguin poop that emerged during periods of heavy rain.

Lucy Bruzzone was the base leader of a team of women that spent five months living and working in Port Lockroy, Antarctica, through the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust charity.

If I was on cooking duty I’d get up at 7 a.m. to get the coffee and porridge ready for everyone. Most days we’d have ship visits in the morning and early evening, so we’d liaison, and we’d also go on board most ships to give a presentation about the site.

Between ship visits, we’d grab a quick lunch, restock the shop, cancel stamps on any postcards we’d received, and monitor the penguins on alternate days. After ship visits and before dinner, we’d try to do our daily chores — cleaning, waste management, and writing up the base diary, which continues to be added to the British Antarctic Survey archive each year. We also collected a record of any wildlife we’d seen during the day. 

It was a privilege to visit Antarctica and spend such an extended period really getting to experience the place. It was an amazing opportunity to see history in its original context and get a feel for what life must have been like for people who were there before.

As someone who works in sustainability, being able to talk to guides who have seen change over the years and to experience a season of extreme weather myself really drove home the importance of taking action now to mitigate climate change.

Read the original article on Business Insider

​Careers, as told to, Antarctica, Antarctic, Antarctic Peninsula, antarctic tourism, Travel, Climate Change, Research, Remotest places, Careers  

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