Port Lockroy Blogs
Eleven nervous candidates met in early May at the Mepal Outdoor Centre, knowing that the next two days could bring them the life changing opportunity of working at Port Lockroy. This year’s job advert went viral, leading to an unprecedented 2,400 applications. The UKAHT staff spent a busy few weeks sorting through them and, as candidates, we felt particularly fortunate to have made the final shortlist.
After passing a telephone interview, the selection at Mepal is designed to test our abilities and see how we work together, so UKAHT can select a strong team for the four months working on the Antarctic Peninsula. We were given a packed schedule to emulate how busy life can be at Lockroy! Activities got underway and soon half of us were blindfolded and trusting fellow candidates to lead us round an assault course.
There were plenty of group team building exercises to break the ice and get us working together, involving everything from skipping ropes and drainpipes to spaghetti and jelly babies. Individual tasks, some of them physical, tested more specific skills required for Lockroy such as moving jerry cans of water and wheelbarrows of snow (in this case sand). There was much laughter across the two days, particularly at large group exercises like raft building, where nearly everybody got soaked.
Part of the job entails giving talks to cruise ship passengers, so in the evening we each gave a short presentation on Antarctic heritage. With free rein to choose our subject, we heard interesting talks on topics ranging from Shackleton to Charcot. We spoke more in depth about ourselves during individual formal interviews, allowing UKAHT to further gauge our motivations, past experience and ability to work in a remote environment like Antarctica. Naturally we were also keen to suss each other out, with every break time allowing us to chat and relax whilst figuring out with whom we would most like to share a tiny island!
The two days flew by and soon we anxiously waited to hear from UKAHT. For Adele, Iain, Laura and myself it was good news. All the candidates put in a strong performance at selection, so we were delighted to be the final four heading south. After a flurry of congratulatory e-mails, we organised a date in August to meet and discuss our forthcoming adventure. We all live in different parts of the country so we chose to meet at Doddington Hall near Iain’s home town Lincoln. We spent a sunny afternoon walking around the grounds, discussing a myriad of questions about our future work together and comparing verbal notes on our preparations thus far.
By mid-September it was time for our training at Girton College, Cambridge. The week began with sessions explaining the UKAHT ethos, and the heritage of Port Lockroy and other historic huts maintained by the Trust. We had the opportunity to meet trustees and heard fascinating recollections from Alan Carroll and Dave Burkitt. Both worked at Port Lockroy when it was a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) base and were instrumental in setting up Lockroy as a living museum.
We were given a bulging kit bag with all the gear needed for living in Antarctica. By day two, we were flying the flag for UKAHT wearing Port Lockroy branded t-shirts and fleeces. We also listened to a Foreign and Commonwealth Office official who explained we will be representing the UK to the many international tourists who visit Goudier Island. Quite a responsibility!
Our training ran concurrently with the British Antarctic Survey conference so we joined BAS employees for some of their sessions like environmental issues and fire extinguisher training. We also enjoyed BAS expertise during talks specific to us. For example, we will monitor the Port Lockroy Gentoo penguin colonies during our stay. A BAS penguin biologist taught us how to carefully observe and count the birds. The results are evaluated by BAS to make sure tourism does not have a negative impact on breeding success. Everybody is looking forward to monitoring our feathery neighbours. Another benefit of training alongside BAS was joining their mid-week ceilidh. There was much dancing and sweating. Some team members endured achy legs in the following days.
Further sessions covered PR, maintenance, retail and health and safety. We were introduced to IAATO and learned how the cruise ship visits work. Break times enabled us to question the various experts and the UKAHT team. The week was long and busy but we learned so much that we came away feeling as prepared as possible. We would like to thank the UKAHT team for organising such a detailed training schedule and we are grateful for the time and expertise of the guests who talked to us. Time is passing quickly and only weeks remain until we meet again at Heathrow in early November. In the meantime, we will be busy preparing, packing and pondering the amazing experience our team is about to share.