Royal Navy sailors came to the aid of four women who have taken up jobs at an isolated Antarctic scientific base – after heavy snowfall buried some of the buildings.
Clare Ballantyne, Mairi Hilton, Natalie Corbett and Lucy Bruzzone beat a record number of applicants to become the team responsible for managing historic site Port Lockroy on Goudier Island – home to the world’s most remote post office.
The team, who share the island with a colony of gentoo penguins, had been setting up the base, assisted by three other staff who are leaving shortly, ahead of the austral summer, when the bad weather struck.
Some of the buildings were buried, while the roof of Bransfield Hut – home to the site’s museum, gift shop and post office – was damaged by the heavy spring snowfall of between two and four metres deep.
A team of sailors and Royal Marines from Royal Navy ship HMS Protector shifted several tonnes of snow and carried out temporary repairs.
‘At least the snow killed the smell’
Warrant Officer First Class Lee “Rattler” Morgan said it had been good for the ship’s company to “step ashore and help out”.
He added: “The sailors were all smiles and happy to get cracking on with such a worthwhile task.
“I was taken aback by the sheer amount of snow and how the buildings had all but disappeared.
“When I left here at the beginning of the year, the penguins were lying on bare ground of rocks and mess – at least the snow got rid of the smell.”
Engineering Technician Marine Engineer Jack Pearce said: “This is only my second ‘run ashore’ in the Navy, having come out of training just three weeks ago.
“It’s amazing to be here, I have enjoyed the scenery and wildlife, but also it feels great making a difference by working with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.”
The four women were among 6,000 people who expressed an interest in running the site, abandoning home comforts to live and work in the region without running water or a flushing toilet.
The former whaling station, which has become a tourist attraction visited by around 20,000 people during the summer season, is home to the world’s most remote post office, which handles around 80,000 cards mailed each year to more than 100 countries.
Another job the team overseeing the station has, is counting the island’s penguins.
HMS Protector is the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship, which pays regular visits to international bases on the frozen continent, delivering supplies, supporting scientific research and conducting her own.