Biologist who will spend five months at the world’s most remote post office in ANTARCTICA with an all-female team says they were picked based on how well they get along as a foursome
- Mairi Hilton is one of the four-woman strong team set to be running Port Lockroy
- The conservation biologist said there was no intent for group to be all-female
- Mairi says they picked the quarter based on how they ‘think we would get along’
One of the four women travelling to Antarctica to help with conservation said there wasn’t any specific intent for the power quartet heading over to be an all-female team.
Mairi Hilton told Lorraine Kelly that teamwork was vital to the recruiters when putting them all together.
She is part of the group set to take over the running of Port Lockroy – based on the small 1.7acre Goudier Island near the South Pole.
Mairi said that while 6,000 people expressed an interest in the job and some 4,000 applied, ‘they picked us sort of not based on any one individual but how they think we would get along as a team’.
Mairi Hilton told Lorraine Kelly that teamwork was vital to the recruiters when putting them all together
She is one of a five-strong all-female team set to take over the running of Port Lockroy (pictured) – based on the small 1.7acre Goudier Island near the South Pole
She added: ‘It’s four women. All the other women are great, we all get along really well.’
The conservation biologist set to make her way to Port Lockroy is currently in New Zealand, and told the morning talk show how excited she was to spend time with the ‘charismatic’ penguins.
Mairi confirmed she’ll spend ‘hours’ with the creatures, being in charge of wildlife monitoring, and will also be part of the team running the post office, gift shop and museum.
Asked why she wanted to become part of the team, she expressed that she had always ‘wanted to go to Antarctica’, hailing it a ‘beautiful place’ and felt it was an ‘important cause to get behind’.
Natalie Corbett, 31, from Hampshire, only married her beloved, George, in June this year. But now she will swap a white wedding for the white snow sheets of Antarctica as she jets off to run the world’s most remote gift shop
Mairi (pictured left) will be joined by Clare Ballantyne (pictured right), Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone on the five month trip. Port Lockroy veteran Vicky Inglis will also travel with them to help them settle in
Despite its remote nature, Port Lockroy’s lack of running water and the fact it has no flushing toilet, the base is one of the most popular tourist destinations for cruise-ship passengers in Antarctica.
It welcomes around 15,000 visitors each year – many of whom come to visit the area’s Gentoo penguin colony.
And its post office, which proudly boasts to be the most southerly operating post office in the world, processes an astonishing 80,000 polar postcards each year.
One member of the team, Natalie Corbett, was planning her wedding before finding out that she would be spending her ‘honeymoon’ more than 8,700 miles apart from her new husband in one of the world’s most remote locations.
Lucy Bruzzone (pictured left) will be the Base Leader on Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy veteran Vicky Inglis (right) will be the General Assistant and Wildlife Monitor and will help the group settle in
The 31-year-old, from Hampshire, only married her beloved, George, in June this year.
But now she will swap a white wedding for the white snow sheets of Antarctica as she jets off to run the world’s most remote gift shop.
Newly wed Natalie, who spent several years working in retail, will leave behind her husband – who she says is ‘very supportive’ of the move – to take over the running of the island’s gift shop for five months.
But the businesswoman, who beat a record 6,000 applicants to get the job, has revealed she never actually expected to get the job.
The women will share the island with a colony of gentoo penguins, which Ms Hilton will be in charge of monitoring
She told the Daily Telegraph: ‘My husband was very supportive when I told him I was applying. But, like me, he was thinking you can apply but you’re not going to get the job. I think now he’s panicking a bit.’
She added: ‘Who wouldn’t want to spend five months working on an island filled with penguins in one of the most remote places on the planet?
‘I’m treating this like my solo honeymoon.’
Natalie will be joined by Mairi, Clare Ballantyne and Lucy Bruzzone on the five month trip. Port Lockroy veteran Vicky Inglis will also travel with them to help them settle in.
Alongside a lack of running water and a flushing toilet, the women will be dealing with sub-zero temperatures and almost constant daylight.
But they will share the island with a colony of gentoo penguins, which Mairi will be in charge of monitoring.
UK Antarctic Heritage Trust advertises yearly for postmasters who work at the site seasonally. Pictured: A map showing where the post office is located
Situated on the 1.7 acre Goudier Island, Port Lockroy is an Antarctic base run by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT)
‘This will be my first time in Antarctica and I’m very excited to set eyes on the white continent. I have no idea what to expect when we get there – how cold it will be, will we have to dig our way through the snow to the post office?’ Mairi, from Scotland, said.
‘I’m a conservation biologist, so personally I can’t wait to see the penguins and other wildlife like seabirds and whales.’
The four women were among 6,000 people who expressed an interest in the roles, which were advertised by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) charity.
They will be based on the island for five months, spending Christmas together and taking care of the charity’s flagship site.
Training for the trip, which will see the team travel 9,000 miles to reopen the bay for the first time since the pandemic, includes learning remote first-aid and a talk from a ‘penguinologist’.
Alongside a lack of running water and a flushing toilet, the women will be dealing with sub-zero temperatures and almost constant daylight. Pictured: Inside Port Lockroy
Newly appointed postmaster Clare, who has just completed a masters in earth science at Oxford University, will deal by hand with approximately 80,000 cards which are mailed each year from the site to more than 100 countries.
‘I’m most looking forward to stepping on to Goudier Island and taking in the cacophony and pungent smell of the penguins, the backdrop of the glaciers and Fief mountains – and being able to call it home for the next few months,’ the 23-year-old from Lincolnshire said.
Lucy will be base leader, managing the team and co-ordinating all ship visits to the island.
The scientist, who has already spent three months in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard on an Arctic expedition, described the opportunity as a ‘lifelong dream’.
The team will be joined by Vicky, a general assistant in the 2019/20 season, who will help settle them in for the first 10 weeks.
Vicky, a 42-year-old from Aberdeenshire who started working for UKAHT full-time in summer, said: ‘Port Lockroy holds a very special place in my heart.
‘Having spent five months out there before the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m excited to be travelling with the new team to introduce them to the magic of the Antarctic.’
The Gentoo penguin: The crustacean-munching birds that can weigh up to 8.5kg and swim at speeds of up to 22mph
Gentoo penguins are a penguin species easily identifiable because of a wide, white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of their head.
First discovered by German naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster in 1781, they live in the Antarctic region, including on Goudier Island, as well as parts of southern South American – including in the Falklands.
They are the third largest species in the world – after emperor and king penguins – and fully grown adults can weigh up to 8.5kg.
Gentoo penguins are a penguin species easily identifiable because of a wide, white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of their head
They are fast swimmers, with top speeds of up to 22mph, and feast mainly on crustaceans, shrimp and krill – but can also eat fish.
Generally, gentoo penguins are monogamous breeders, and scientists have even observed that the penguins can punish infidelity by banishing cheating males from their colonies. The penguins also gift each other rocks, used to build their nests, as a sign of love.
Gentoos are currently not considered endangered, with a total breeding population estimated to be over 600,000 birds.
However rapid declines in some key areas are believed to be driving a moderate overall decline in the species population.
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