Antarctica is one of the last remaining untouched places on the planet. The total surface area of the continent is about 14 million square kilometres: approximately 50 times the size of the UK. The nearest land mass is South America at 1,000 kilometres away, separated by the roughest stretch of water in the world, the Drake Passage.
The coldest, driest, windiest continent, it has a strikingly beautiful landscape, as well as being an incredibly dramatic and exciting place to work.
With a population of around 1,000 - 5,000 people depending on the time of year and the number of projects, Antarctica is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world.
There are always more people looking to work in Antarctica than there are jobs available. Those that do end up working in Antarctica are often experts in their field, working on important scientific research or highly specialised technical engineering jobs. These can include biologists, geologists, oceanographers, physicists, glaciologists and meteorologists. However, there are also supportive and logistical roles that help to maintain the smooth running of research bases.
The scientific research is largely based around global warming and its impact on the local ecology. Antarctica is warming faster than anywhere else on earth, and holds 70% of the world’s fresh water, so it is imperative to understand how ice melting will impact sea levels, and whether we can avert our current trajectory. Everyone working there understands that they’re part of a larger team and that their work is important, building towards something bigger than themselves.
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One of the major positives of living in Antarctica is the beauty of the landscape. Thanks to its unique position on the globe, Antarctica enjoys incredibly long periods of sunlight during summer, meaning its breath-taking features can be enjoyed. Giant glaciers, sparkling oceans and endless expanses of snow and ice are just some of the sights you can see in an environment that seems almost alien.
Thanks to the Antarctic Conversation Act, its environment is highly protected, with those who live there held to the highest standards when it comes to interacting with the local ecosystem. Any waste is shipped away, and no one can interfere with the local wildlife.
Some of the bases create no emissions, setting the standard for how projects should be undertaken in the area.
Whilst there’s six months of sunlight in summer, there’s also six months of near permanent darkness in winter. This means that everyone who stays in Antarctica during winter bands together to keep each other happy, with a big focus on team activities and interaction. Group settings foster inclusivity and comradery, even between people who work in completely different fields who might never otherwise have interacted.
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The Antarctica Treaty prohibits any military activity in Antarctica. There are no military bases or contingents on the continent, and while many countries have laid claim to Antarctica in the past, today it is a neutral landmass. Whilst all countries involved have agreed to a truce, there is no formalised military force to defend the continent in the event of a land invasion.
Antarctica is one of the most fascinating and beautiful places on earth and being able to live and work there is something that very few people will ever experience.