Meet our new Antarctic team
The Port Lockroy team will bring in the site's 80th anniversary, while our conservation carpenters will conduct urgent restoration work at two of our bases.
We are delighted to introduce our new team travelling to Antarctica for some of the world’s most remote jobs. The team will be deployed at two remote Antarctic islands; living and working at Base A Port Lockroy during the heritage site’s 80th anniversary year and Base W Detaille Island which operated as a science station in the 1950s.
Base A Port Lockroy became the first British base in Antarctica in 1944 during a secret World War II mission, Operation Tabarin. It is now home to the world’s southernmost public Post Office, a museum and a colony of gentoo penguins.
Base W Detaille Island operated as a science station from 1956 to 1959 where survey expeditions would be mounted by dog sledges. Today it is a protected historic site, rich in artefacts which were left behind when it was hastily evacuated in 1959.
The charity can reveal the successful applicants who will be travelling to live on the football pitch-sized Goudier Island at Base A Port Lockroy for five months, including spending Christmas together: Bridie Martin-West (base leader), Jerome Viard (wildlife monitor), Shabir Alidina (shop manager), Laura Büllesbach (museum manager & postmaster), along with returning Base A team member, Clare Ballantyne (last year’s postmaster) who will settle the team in and split the season with the fifth new recruit Lisa Ford (general assistant).
The new Port Lockroy core team: Shabir, Bridie, Jerome, Laura (Credit: UKAHT)
The team will manage the remote museum, post office and gift shop, carrying out maintenance of the historic buildings and conducting a penguin count as part of a long-term study of the breeding success of the gentoo penguin colony. The new team will be responsible for upholding the strict protocols and standards that UKAHT sets out, in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty, to ensure the environment is properly cared for.
In December, they will be joined by a team of skilled conservation carpenters who will get the chance to work on ‘once in a lifetime’ conservation projects in the extreme wilds of Antarctica.
Experienced conservation carpenter, Graham Gillie, will be returning to Base A for his third season since travelling out there in 2004 and 2010 and will be joined by carpenter, Pete Townsend.
Sub-zero temperatures await them as they repair historic Bransfield House after heavy snowfall last season and protect it from the ongoing challenges of the Antarctic environment. The team will need to evaluate weather conditions daily to ensure each task can be completed, minimising their exposure to the extreme cold and ensuring they uphold strict protocols that protect the colony of gentoo penguins.
At the neighbouring site, Base W Detaille Island, conservation carpenters Dale Perrin and Graham Gillie will be joining a field team that will be conducting a detailed survey of the site and preparing vital specialist reports on this unique place. This will mark the first full conservation season to take place here since 2012-13.
Detaille undergoing restoration in 2013 (Credit: T Morgan/UKAHT)
They plan to stay on the remote Island for a month and during this time will perform essential repairs to the buildings, assess the conditions of the artefacts on the Base and catalogue artefacts that were left hurriedly in 1959 as sea ice closed in on the team. The work will not only protect the buildings and their contents from the ongoing challenges of the Antarctic environment but also improve our understanding of their condition and character in order to inform UKAHT’s future conservation work.
The Antarctic team will have to abandon home comforts dealing with almost continuous daylight and freezing temperatures. The team based at Base A will need to live without running water and a flushing toilet and will not have access to internet and social media. The team deployed to Base W will be camping in the extreme Antarctic conditions where they may face katabatic winds, sub-zero temperatures and the possibility of metres of snow.
Commenting on the appointment of the new team, UKAHT CEO, Camilla Nichol said:
“This is a unique moment to be working in Antarctica and an important season for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. During this season we will be celebrating Port Lockroy’s 80th anniversary and its legacy as the birthplace of British scientific research in Antarctica. We are also sending a team of specialist conservation carpenters to Base A Port Lockroy and Base W Detaille Island to conduct urgent repairs and capture data on the condition of the site and its artefacts.”
“We’ve handpicked each team member for their expertise, genuine love and fascination of Antarctica and determination to preserve its rich heritage. We know it will be a challenging time for all team members as they will be living in a very remote part of the world, but they’ll play an essential role in bringing our heritage sites to life.’
UKAHT’s role is to conserve British Antarctic heritage on the Antarctic Peninsula for future generations and there are six heritage sites managed by the charity. UKAHT has also been appointed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as Statutory Advisor on Antarctic Heritage. This includes leading the Conservation Management Plan for the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance - found deep in the Weddell Sea in March 2022 – which they are undertaking in partnership with Historic England.
Introducing the 2023/24 Antarctic Team
This year’s team includes a group of conservation carpenters due to conduct urgent restoration work at Base A Port Lockroy and Base W Detaille Island. The Port Lockroy team will be there during the base’s 80th anniversary.
Bridie Martin-West, Base Leader, Port Lockroy
Bridie will be joining the team as Base A Leader and will be responsible for managing the team, coordinating all visits to ships and liaising with Expedition Leaders.
As a practising midwife in a busy London hospital, she is used to working in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.
Bridie will be Base A Leader (Credit: UKAHT)
Having grown up on a Cornish farm, Bridie is passionate about the great outdoors and recently completed a charity cycle across the length and width of the UK on a tandem bike.
“Embarking on this trip to Port Lockroy is both a privilege and an exciting challenge for me. I’m looking forward to playing my part in protecting its heritage and future. Hearing about the role was such a lightbulb moment - I can remember the excitement I immediately felt and was so inspired to apply for a chance to work in the icy wilderness of Antarctica.”
Laura Büllesbach, Museum Manager & Postmaster, Port Lockroy
Laura will be overseeing the management of the museum at Bransfield House and dealing with approximately 80,000 postcards by hand which are mailed each year from Port Lockroy to over 100 countries.
Laura will be managing the museum and post office (Credit: UKAHT)
Originally from the Bavarian Alps, Laura has a background in Social Anthropology. Her recent position as Assistant Curator at the Science Museum in London allowed her to curate collections, conduct research and enhance visitor experience and understanding.
Passionate about inclusivity and LGBTQ+ visibility in the sector, she also co-founded the Science Museum’s Gender and Sexuality Network. Laura has a love for the polar regions having worked at a Saami eco-tourism company above the Arctic Circle in Sweden.
“I’m thrilled to take on the role of Museum Manager and Postmaster this season. I’m passionate about making museums more accessible and my fascination for the polar regions, combined with my life-long love for the outdoors will mean that I’m able to unit my passion for heritage and nature in joining the new Port Lockroy team. I can’t wait to experience Port Lockroy’s incredible environment, nature and history and share it with the team.”
Jerome Viard, Wildlife Monitor, Port Lockroy
Jerome will be joining the team as the wildlife monitor and will be in charge of counting the penguin population and keeping an eye on new hatchlings and nests.
Jerome will be the new wildlife monitor (Credit: UKAHT)
Originally from France, Jerome moved to Cambridge where he’s lived for the past 16 years. After spending 12 years as a pastry chef, Jerome moved into horticulture and now works in the gardens of Newnham College, Cambridge.
His passion for the Antarctic started when he worked in South Georgia in both 2015 and 2019.
“I am so excited to live and work for 5 months in such a remote environment amongst the incredible landscapes of sea and ice, surrounded by wildlife, in a setting that is so extraordinary and removed from everyday modern life. I’ve lived in lots of different places, but I’ve never been so far South before! As a keen naturalist, I can’t wait to see the penguins again!”
Shabir Alidina, Shop Manager, Port Lockroy
Shabir will be joining the team as shop manager to look after Port Lockroy’s gift shop and could be expected to meet around 18,000 visitors during the season.
Shabir will be the new shop manager (Credit: UKAHT)
Due to his deep passion for adventure, Shabir has travelled to a number of remote locations including the Arctic, Antarctica and even North Korea and regularly volunteers for wildlife conservation projects around the world.
“I feel so fortunate to have been selected for such a unique opportunity to support the heritage of Antarctica whilst living and working in such dramatic landscapes. I’m looking forward to managing a gift shop located at the end of the world. It will be good to unplug from regular life and I’m looking forward to working with the team and visiting the white continent once again.”
Graham Gillie, Conservation Carpenter, Port Lockroy and Detaille Island
Graham will be returning to Antarctica this year to lead urgent restoration works required.
A fifth-generation Scottish joiner, Graham spent the first 20 years of his career in Edinburgh working on a wide range of projects including historic buildings and landmarks.
Graham is returning to Antarctica (Credit: Graham Gille)
However, it was a winter of working as a Carpenter at Halley Research Station in 2004 that consolidated his love of the Antarctic. He also spent two summer seasons at Port Lockroy. Initially, Graham was an assistant shopkeeper and carried out maintenance on the building. He returned in 2010 to build the Nissen accommodation hut. Graham lives in the Scottish Borders with his wife, two sons and chickens. He is a keen skier, hiker, ex-rugby player and amateur sourdough baker.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges and excitement of working in remote locations and also seeing how the Nissen hut has weathered over the past 13 years. The experience of living and working in Antarctica is like no other. It’s a privilege. I am attracted to working in an extreme environment where you’re reliant on your own skills and a close team.”
Pete Townsend, Conservation Carpenter, Port Lockroy
Originally from the South coast of England, between the sea and the South Downs National Park, Pete followed his love for the sea, working as a Carpenter onboard some of the world’s biggest yachts.
Pete is heading to Port Lockroy (Credit: UKAHT)
It was onboard that Pete developed the skills to design, build and maintain the highest standards in a range of materials and finishes.
After 10 years at sea, Pete moved ashore and will be developing his conservation carpentry skills with the team at Base A Port Lockroy. Once the tools are away, Pete spends his time outside, either surfing, sailing or playing rugby.
“I’ve been fortunate to travel to some incredible places, from Arctic glaciers to tropical paradises, but the opportunity to travel to Port Lockroy and contribute to its preservation is truly exciting.”
Dale Perrin, Conservation Carpenter, Detaille Island
Dale is a conservation carpenter and has been working in the industry for 16 years, based primarily in the southeast of England.
Dale is going to Detaille (Credit: UKAHT)
In 2017, he was awarded the William Morris Craft Fellowship (overseen by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings); a year of study, travelling the length and breadth of the UK exploring all aspects of current conservation projects, methods and philosophy.
Dale has worked on many prestigious projects including Westminster Hall, Windsor Castle and, most recently, the Austrian Parliament. He is keen to share his knowledge and present the world of traditional crafts and trades to new generations and interested parties alike. Outside of work, you will find Dale travelling, exploring and exercising.
“Beyond the world of craftsmanship, I’ve always been drawn to exploration and the world. That’s why I’m particularly excited about the opportunity to merge my interests with my work for UKAHT. I’ve always been intrigued by human exploration and remote and wild environments. I can’t wait to visit Base W which remains relatively unaltered since its abandonment in 1959.”’
To support Port Lockroy with its restoration efforts for its 80th anniversary, you can make a donation here.
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