Four women are chosen to run the post office in Antarctica and count penguins

Four women are chosen for an unusual job in Antarctica – running the world’s southernmost post office and gift shop – and counting penguins.

Port Lockroy, the post office which doubles as a museum, is closed from Pandemic covid-19 began. In preparation for the reopening of Port Lockroy, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust has advertised four jobs: base leader, postman, store manager and wildlife monitor, the Trust said in a press release.

They received 4,000 applications, but four women were chosen to travel 9,000 miles to do the job: Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone. Vicky English, who previously worked there, will return for 10 weeks as team leader to help them settle.

The team will work for five months on Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula, giving up all “home comforts”, the trust said.

Penguins around the old British base of Port Lockroy
Penguins around the old British base of Port Lockroy, Goudier Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica.

DeAgostini/Getty Images

They won’t have running water or a flushing toilet and will face sub-zero temperatures. They will live in almost all daylight, as the continent has about six months of daylight in the summer months – October to February – and six months of darkness in the winter months, March to September.

The four will share their space with a colony of gentoo penguins, which they will be responsible for counting as part of the trusts effort to monitor and protect the birds. The trust’s role is to preserve Britain’s Antarctic heritage and monitor the impact on wildlife. The trust looks after the island’s buildings and property, records the number of ships and visitors and of course operates the southernmost post office and gift shop.

The women will start training this month, including lessons from a “penguinologist”, and will also receive remote first aid training, UKAHT said. They will begin their mission in early November and will remain in Antarctica until March 2023.

Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone. Vicky Inglis, who worked there previously, will return for 10 weeks as team leader to help them settle.


Clare Ballantyne was appointed postmaster. She will be responsible for dealing with approximately 80,000 postcards mailed from Port Lockroy each year. She recently obtained a master’s degree in earth sciences and worked as a cleaner and sales assistant while at Oxford University.

“I’m really looking forward to going to Goudier Island and enjoying the cacophony and pungent smell of the penguins, the backdrop of the glaciers and the Fief Mountains – and being able to call it home for the next few months,” he said.

Mairi Hilton is wildlife watching. She will be responsible for counting the penguin population and monitoring new hatchlings and nests. Hilton recently earned a Ph.D. in conservation biology in Australia. He has participated in wildlife research expeditions to the Peruvian Amazon and Trinidad and Tobago.

Natalie Corbett will be store manager. It will look after the gift shop located at the end of the world, which can accommodate up to 18,000 visitors during the season. She has a background in retail and started her own business, creating handmade pet accessories inspired by her three rescue dogs.

Corbett got married in June but will have to leave her husband behind. He said he’s treating this as “just a honeymoon.”

Lucy Bruzzone is the base leader. He will manage the team, coordinate all ship visits and work with mission leaders. He previously completed a three-month arctic expedition to Svalbard – the area between Norway and the North Pole.

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