Antarctica – But how do I get there?

Image from Discovery Films via BayNature

To whomever it may concern,

I really want to work in the Antarctic. Fact. I have done for a very long time and not just for penguins but for the whole thing – the cold, the expanse, the quiet but for creaking snow and ice, the odd people that end up down there, the challenge. I’ve been reading up on the team currently completing The Coldest Journey On Earth ( and it has reminded me how much I want to go there more than anywhere else in the world.

Why have I not gone already? Because I’ve been too busy (a lame but true excuse, it is financially easier for me to get uni over and done with now than postpone it longer than a year and do it as a mature student later) and because of fitness levels and lack of experience (my family don’t really do extreme sports or even skiing or anything like that because of how expensive they are and in fact we don’t much sports in general).

I’ve been signed up to Explorers Connect for a while now and keep intending to go to a meeting (much the same way that I keep meaning to go the GeekUp at DoesLiverpool..) but I still haven’t because I know that I will feel inadequate and self-conscious – a sad, unfit geek sat in her colourful jeans, who really wants to go to one of the toughest places on earth but hasn’t done anything about it.

So the question is where do I start? How do you get your first experience, training or skills that prove you are serious about working down there? My first inclination, out of habit, is to contact the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and ask for work experience because as an academic institution, my CV should provide enough leverage to get in. But would that actually help? Lots of people study things and work with them but never get the chance to actually visit them, such as astronomers using data from the huge telescopes around the world or microbiologists studying tropical bacteria. Maybe academia isn’t my ticket in?

I couldn’t really take the adventurer/explorer route because of the intense fitness levels required. I mean, the only place I could train for any sort of thing would probably be the Chill Factory or whatever it’s called, out in Manchester. Apart from anything else I couldn’t afford to keep going there so often, not least because of the travelling required (I’m at least 2 hours away by public transport – probably 3 hours more realistically).

What do I do? I’m off to Edinburgh in September and I’m hoping that I can find some more help up there maybe. Maybe there’s an Antarctic society I can join at the university itself? Well, for now I’ve signed up to a 4 year degree course that will take up my time and procrastinate sorting it out for a while but it will still be there at the back of my mind. So, as I sit down to once again rewatch Werner Herzog’s Encounters At The End Of The World, I know that I’ll find my way there someday… Perhaps just not yet?



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