Newlywed leaves husband behind for post office in Antarctica

Natalie Corbett and three other women beat a record number of applicants in competition to manage historic site on Goudier Island

The British base-turned-museum of Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. PA
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Four UK women are to travel to Antarctica to take up jobs, including running the world's most remote post office and counting the island's penguins.

Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone beat a record number of applicants to become the team responsible for managing the historic Port Lockroy site on Goudier Island.

The team will abandon home comforts to live and work at the site, which will have neither running water nor a flushing toilet.

Ms Ballantyne will take charge of the post office while newlywed Ms Corbet will leave behind her husband for the “solo honeymoon” to take charge of the gift shop,

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 am very excited to set eyes on the white continent,” Ms Hilton, from Scotland, said.

“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?

“I am 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 charity.

They will be based on the island for five months, spending Christmas together and taking care of the charity's flagship site, Port Lockroy — home to the world's most remote post office and museum.

Training for the trip, during which the team will travel about 14,500 kilometres to reopen the bay for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, includes learning remote first aid and a talk from a “penguinologist”.

Pungent penguins await

Newly appointed postmaster Ms Ballantyne, 23, who recently completed a master's degree in earth science at the University of Oxford, will deal by hand with about 80,000 cards that 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,” Ms Ballantyne, from Lincolnshire, said.

Training for the trip includes learning remote first-aid and a talk from a 'penguinologist'. PA

Ms Corbett, 31, from Hampshire, who has worked in retail for more than a decade and got married in June, said she could not resist the opportunity to work on the island.

“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?” she said.

Ms Bruzzone will be base leader, managing the team and co-ordinating all ship visits to the island. The scientist, who 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 Inglis, 42, a general assistant in the 2019-2020 season, who will help settle them in for the first 10 weeks.

Recently married Natalie Corbett. PA

Ms Inglis, from Aberdeenshire who started working for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust 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 am excited to be travelling with the new team to introduce them to the magic of the Antarctic.”

Updated: October 04, 2022, 1:25 PM