Research Station life #2

Katie Joy | 26 Dec 2018

Spending time at Rothera before we transfer out to the field has been great and given me a chance to see some of the local wildlife, see some spectacular scenery, and meet the great people to work hard to keep the station and field operations on the go. The next few blogs will hopefully give you some insights to what life is life at the research station. See Research Station Life post 1 for some background to the wildlife around the base.

Who works at Rothera research station?

It turns out a lot of people — some 125 or so at the moment — and they all do very different jobs. I have met a few scientists who are working on marine biology projects close to the station, many more are out in the field at the moment at their various different science field projects, but most of the people who are living and working at Rothera either are employed by the British Antarctic Survey directly to help run the station and support the science projects, or are employed by the contractor (BAM) who are building the new wharf area. At one of the many opportunities to eat or have a cup of tea, I have often ended up asking who I end up to what they do… so to give you a bit of a flavour of the many job roles:

Amazing Christmas roast lunch 🙂

chefs — these guys work really hard to feed everyone on site (did I mention the food is really great and I am enjoying it a bit too much to the point where I am not sure I will be able to fit into my thermals soon… Geoff who arrives next week needs to get ready to eat and drink tea, a lot of tea). They have a well stocked kitchen and pulled it out the bag yesterday for Christmas day serving up an amazing three course meal over two sittings.

  • vehicle mechanics — these guys keep all the amazing vehicles on site up and running (see the next post about this), and commission new kits that arrives – from snowmobiles to container vehicles there are is a lot of traffic around site, and we all wear florescent jackets to keep good visibility.
  • doctors — at the moment there are two doctors on site, and in the winter there is only one, although many of the station team are trained in advanced first aid. The doctors assess issues as they arise, keep the field medical kits well stocked and train field parties how to use them, and even have an X-ray machine on site to check for broken bones.
  • 20181223_164020v2.jpg
    Julie Baum our field guide for the meteorites recon trip
    • field guides — these guides help to keep the science and logistic field parties safe and assess surface travel across snow and ice to find safe routes. They come from a range of backgrounds — some are mountaineers, others have do outdoor training. Each field party team is assigned a field guide and many are off station at the moment in the field.
    • station managers — Rothera has local station managers to organise work around station, liaise back with Cambridge on operations, help plan field operations and flight plans for moving people between stations, and making sure that everyone on site has a bed and knows what job they are there to do.
    • construction team — Rothera station is undergoing a modernisation project at the moment and has about 40 extra people on site than is normal in the summer from the contractor contraction company. The current wharf will be demolished and a new one built over a period of two years meaning that there are crane experts, infrastructure engineers, demolition experts, heavy vehicle operators, quarrying experts, along with environmental protection and monitoring of the site.
    • Met Office weather team — the weather forecast team are seconded out from the Met Office and work to integrate daily weather reports for the flying crew and field teams to help keep operations safe.

    This is to name but a few of the roles people do — there are the boat crew and pilots who get people around the continent safety, science lab management of the field projects and also the marine biology lab, plumbers and the mechanical team who keep the power generators running to make sure everyone on base is warm and has warm water, communications and radio operators to talk with the air crew and field parties, marine biologists who will dive and collect samples to monitor local ecosystem changes, others maintain the observation equipment around the station… the list goes on and I am still finding new people to talk with about what their job entails.

    How can I work in Antarctica?

    You can see what jobs they have at Rothera, and on the other UK Antarctic research stations and at BAS’s headquaters in Cambridge by looking at the BAS job vacancy page. At the time of posting this, they are looking for a mix of different people from boating officers who can take out dive crews into the bay, field guides who have mountaineering and guiding experience, planet mechanics, radio operators, electronic engineers, local support staff who help with a variety of different activities from waste management and cleaning through to cargo, marine biologists …. Some of these require specialist training, others require enthusiasm and the desire to work somewhere different. Some of the jobs are for the summer season (~October to May), some for both a summer and a winter (meaning you will live south for 18 months through the Antarctic night with a small team of people).

    Or you can get lucky like we have been and get a science project funded to come to Antarctica for a short period of time to collect whatever data or samples, and/or make measurements that are needed to achieve their project goals.

    Science team field plan for this season showing BAS field locations across the western part of Antarctica.
    Our Rothera science office door

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