Work and Travel in Antarctica

WORK IN ANTARCTICA ALL YEAR ROUND

Volunteer and Paid Work Opportunities in Antarctica for Travellers

Antarctica is the seventh continent and one of the jewels in the crown of any world traveller. Traversing the vast white wilderness is a distant dream for many. This is an adventure that costs a lot of money to undertake and, if you work in Antarctica, you can expect to spend a considerable amount of time in freezing temperatures.

You need to have the steel and the resolve to really make the most of this snow-covered continent. The travel guides for Antarctica aren’t going to tell you much. This is not a well-covered region.

But what of the volunteering opportunities in Antarctica?

The volunteering opportunities in Antarctica are not in abundance. Thousands of travellers just like you would love to win a contract in Antarctica. You need to do things differently if you want to work and travel in Antarctica because jobs are rarely advertised.

The positions available are all at the various National Research Stations on the continent. These stations will usually have no more than 100 people there at the height of the Antarctic summer. Only about 5,000 people reside at these stations throughout the whole year.

Positions will fall into two general categories:

1. Scientific Positions

Working at a research station as a scientist depends entirely on your field and, often, whether you know the right people. Most of these scientists are specialists in their fields and work whole lifetimes for the chance to go to Antarctica. For scientific roles, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you have years of experience.

For most who want to work and travel in Antarctica, this is far beyond their capabilities.

2. Trade Positions

Remember that the scientists working in Antarctica need to be supported. There are electricians, cooks, doctors, and cleaners working as part of these stations. Those trade positions are conceivably open to anyone, but most trade positions are drafted from within organisations.

You should also bear in mind that tradespeople will be rigorously screened for their physical and psychological capabilities. Can they brave the harsh climate? Are they likely to fall ill? Remember that the nearest medical facility may be a long way away.

In short, work in Antarctica is not easy to come by and it may take you years to secure such a position. That doesn't stop you from visiting, however.

WORK & HOLIDAY VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR PAID WORK AND VOLUNTEERING IN ANTARCTICA

No country owns Antarctica, so you will never need to apply for a visa to work and travel in Antarctica, regardless of where you are from. However, the Antarctica Treaty’s Protocol on Environment Protection does have many countries that are signatories.

You will typically need permission to visit. Tour operators/employers handle this for you in nearly all cases, so you have nothing to worry about. Any fees will be built into whatever you pay or shouldered by your employer.

This simply means that you won’t be able to hire your own private boat and appear on the continent unannounced.

SEASONAL WORK IN ANTARCTICA

SPRING

In theory, volunteering opportunities in Antarctica are available at all times of the year. But the seasons will impact the likelihood of specific research projects and the requirement for people in trade positions.

Take note there are only two seasons in Antarctica due to the position of the Earth’s tilt and orbit. The lack of sun means that there are no shoulder seasons.

This section we’re going to take a look at the climate and weather of Antarctica throughout the year.

SUMMER

The Antarctic summer typically begins in November. If you do get a posting in Antarctica, November is the most likely time of your arrival. Regardless of where you are on the continent, the beginning of summer will still see nightly darkness. As you get closer to February, the night will become shorter until there’s no darkness at all.

In some areas, the sun will set and rise one hour later. The summer season lasts until around the first week of May. The end of April is when many personnel start to leave the continent.

AUTUMN

There isn't one really ....

WINTER

Winter begins from the first week of May, where a final sunset heralds in the beginning of the long night. Take note that most research stations will have nothing but a skeleton crew running at this point. Even the larger bases may have fewer than 15 people throughout the winter.

To be in Antarctica in the winter, you will need a great deal of training to do it. Planes are unable to fly at this time of year and bases are literally cut off from the rest of the world, with only some devices being able to message the outside world.

Winter will last until November before the sun comes again.

ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING IN ANTARCTICA

Antarctica is different from other continents because you’re only dealing with other foreigners working and volunteering. Everyone is in the same boat so there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to being treated in the right way. It’s also understood that everyone took difficult paths to get here in the first place.

The only way you can get to Antarctica as a worker is for your employer to pay for it. The tourist cruise ships only make short landings on the continent, assuming they make a landing at all. And the majority of research stations are out of range of the cruise ships entirely. The majority of people in the interior are flown in from Argentina, New Zealand, or Australia.

But there’s no doubt that Antarctica is the most difficult place in the world both to find a job and to work in. You need to have specialist skills if you’re going to make this work and you need to have the right temperament.

Do you think you have what it takes to work and travel in the most hospitable continent in the world?

Recent Contributors


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