Four women are to give up their home comforts to live and work in a remote part of Antarctica.
Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone make up the team picked to take on the responsibility for managing historic site Port Lockroy, on Goudier Island.
They were among 6,000 people who expressed an interest in the roles – including running the world’s most remote post office and counting the island’s penguins – which were advertised by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) charity.
The team will travel 9,000 miles to reopen the bay for the first time since the pandemic, taking care of the charity’s flagship site – home also to the world’s most remote museum.
They will be based on the island – in a region without running water or a flushing toilet – for five months, which means they will spend Christmas together.
As well as dealing with sub-zero temperatures and almost constant daylight, the women will share the island with a colony of gentoo penguins, which Ms Hilton will be in charge of monitoring.
“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?” Ms Hilton, 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.”
Scientist Ms Bruzzone will be base leader, managing the team and co-ordinating all ship visits to the island.
She has already spent three months in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard on an Arctic expedition, and described her new adventure as a “lifelong dream”.
Newly appointed postmaster Ms Ballantyne, 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.
Newlywed Ms Corbett, who has worked in retail for more than a decade, will be in charge of running the gift shop and will leave behind her husband for the trip, which she dubbed a “solo honeymoon”.
The team will be joined by Vicky Inglis, who will help settle them in for the first 10 weeks.
The 42-year-old from Aberdeenshire who started working for UKAHT full-time in the 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.”