A Scot has been selected to spend four months in one of the most remote locations on the planet - Port Lockroy in Antarctica.
Laura MacNeil, 37, from Inverness, is to be part of a team of four who will the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s (UKAHT) base on Goudier Island, where her responsibilities will include counting penguins and other wildlife in the area, as well as looking after the shop and post office open to intrepid visitors who arrive from cruise ships.
A graduate of St Andrews and Glasgow Universities, Ms MacNeil, who is fluent in English, Russian and German, decided to apply for the position after completing a Masters degree this summer.
Approximately 18,000 visitors will visit Port Lockroy on board expedition vessels, which tour the region throughout the “summer” season.
Throughout its 100 year history, Port Lockroy has been home to explorers, whalers, scientists and sailors, all of whom have made vital contributions to Antarctic history.
The team will be responsible for the care and maintenance of the museum and overall site, as well as monitoring any impact on the local wildlife, which includes carrying out surveys of the resident gentoo penguin colony.
Three other people have been selected for the trip by the UKAHT: search and rescue volunteer and dog sled guide Lucy Dorman, Belgian dentist Hannelore Cuypers and Adele Jackson, an artist who has spent the last three seasons in the Antarctic as a photographer on board a Norwegian polar expedition ship and previously as a base leader at Port Lockroy.
The group have undergone extensive training at UKAHT’s Cambridge headquatrers, where they learned about the Antarctic Treaty; British Antarctic Survey wildlife monitoring and environmental data collection; artefact handling at the Scott Polar Research Institute and interactive role play to help the team deal with the variety of situations that could arise when living in one of the most isolated places on Earth.
Camilla Nichol, chief executive of UKAHT, said: “Our training week is an ideal opportunity for the team to really get to know each other and us them, whilst at the same time learning all they need to know about Port Lockroy including how to cope with the environment, respect the wildlife and undertake the tasks we ask of them safely and responsibly.
The team will arrive at Port Lockroy in early November.
Ms MacNeil is the fourth Scot to take up the challenge: Laura Martin, from Kingussie, Amy Kincaid from Oban and St Andrews graduate Florence Barrow have previously held the job.