Daring plumber wanted (must like penguins and the cold)

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The Independent Online

Looking for a career change and want to get away from it all? The British Antarctic Survey is looking for a plumber and an electrician to work at its Bird Island Research Station, which is 650 miles south of the Falklands.

The general maintenance posts, which run for between five and 18 months, will provide mechanical and electrical upkeep, repair and support to scientists studying penguins, seals and albatrosses around the small research centre, so named because of the abundance of natural wildlife. The island, three miles long and half a mile wide, is home to 65,000 Antarctic fur seals, 50,000 macaroni penguins and 26,000 albatross.

A few extra layers are recommended. The "office" lies off the north-west tip of South Georgia and in winter months temperatures can drop to minus 20C (-4F). Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated, stormiest and driest continent on earth, making up 90 per cent of the world's permanent ice and snow, but – the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) insists – it's also exhilarating.

"Where else can you work in an environment surrounded by penguins, seals and icebergs?" said James Miller, the personnel officer. "It's an amazing opportunity, a really fun place to work, and by supporting the scientists who look into important issues like climate change you'll feel like you're doing something really worthwhile."

Working in the "white continent", 98 per cent of which is covered by an ice sheet up to 2.5 miles thick, has its challenges. "Working at BAS is not a routine 'job'," the Survey warns. "The scientific research is world-leading, the engineering and technical challenges are immense, but ultimately you could be working in an environment where resilience and teamwork can be a matter of life and death."

There are five BAS research stations around the continent. But with a lack of fresh fruit, darkness, and a salary of just £22,340 per annum, the prospect of life in Antarctica is daunting.

Alan Light, 37, who spent four months working as an electrician for the American Antarctic research centre this year, said yesterday that the job would appeal to people who wanted to experience "the closest thing to off-planet that can reasonably be achieved". He added: "I enjoy it. Antarctica is a frontier ... It is a blank slate, and full of potential."

Eric, a mechanical services technician based at Rothera Research Station on Adelaide Island, said: "I hated small office politics, the commuting in London, the lack of space and the super-inflated egos that seemed to predominate in the corporate world ... I've swapped all that for a more peaceful existence overlooking the sea and cosseted by mountains and glaciers."

Do hurry: the deadline for applications is 21 September.

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