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Montevideo, June 19th 2024 - 11:18 UTC



HMS Protector digs out snow covered Port Lockroy scientific base managed by four women

Monday, December 5th 2022 - 10:25 UTC
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The new arrivals at Port Lockroy, with the Royal Navy team from HMS Protector The new arrivals at Port Lockroy, with the Royal Navy team from HMS Protector

Ice Patrol HMS Protector's sailors and Royal Marines spent two days digging out the Port Lockroy scientific base in Antarctica which is home to a museum, gift shop and the world's most remote post office.

The site is currently managed by four women, Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone, who out of 6,000 applicants, accepted the task of reopening the site 9,000 miles from the UK in October after the coronavirus pandemic.

They were setting up, assisted by three other staff who are leaving shortly, ahead of the austral summer - which falls from December to February in the southern hemisphere - when heavy snowfall of between two and four meters deep arrived.

The team from HMS Protector shifted several tons of snow and carried out temporary repairs. Engineers say they used traditional naval ship damage control methods using wooden stakes and blocks to stabilize the structure.

The ice patrol ship pays regular visits to international bases like Port Lockroy on the frozen continent, delivering supplies, and supporting scientific research of the UK and other nations.

The staff can now resume their five-month stint at Port Lockroy, a former whaling station that has become a tourist attraction visited by around 20,000 people during the summer season.

During their time at the site, the four have given up running water, a flushing toilet, wi-fi, and can only speak to their loved ones for 10 minutes a week.

But when they were asked about giving up on creature comforts, the four said they could not resist the opportunity to work on the island.

Ms Corbett, in charge of running the gift shop at the site's museum, was a newlywed when she embarked on the role.

The 31-year-old from Hampshire dubbed the trip a “solo honeymoon”.

“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 Ballantyne, from Lincolnshire, had just completed a masters in earth science at Oxford University.

The 23-year-old will deal with approximately 80,000 cards during her time on the job, which are mailed each year from the site to more than 100 countries.

Ms Hilton, from Bo'ness, near Falkirk in Scotland, is a conservation scientist in charge of monitoring the number of Gentoo penguins that live on the bay.

Ms Bruzzone, from London, who previously spent three months in Svalbard as a chief scientist on an Arctic expedition, is working as the base leader, managing the team and coordinating all ship visits to the island.

Port Lockroy is a bay forming a natural harbor on the north-western shore of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic base with the same name, is situated on Goudier Island in the bay.

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