Mairi Hilton, originally from Bo’ness, has beaten 4,000 applicants to live and work at old Port Lockroy base on Goudier Island, Antarctica, which has served as a home for explorers, whalers, scientists, and sailors for more than a century.
Ms Hilton, 30, a graduate of Glasgow University, will now take up the position of wildlife monitor on the island, home to the world’s most remote post office and museum, for five months.
She is now set to abandon home comforts – such as running water and a flushing toilet – while enduring sub-zero temperatures and almost continuous daylight. Meanwhile, her neighbours on the football- sized island will be a colony of gentoo penguins.
One of Ms Hilton’s key roles will be leading a count to help monitor and protect the birds.
Ms Hilton said: “This will be my first time in Antarctica and I’m very excited to set eyes on the white continent. I have no idea what to expect when we get there - how cold it will be, will we have to dig our way through the snow to the Post Office? I’m a conservation biologist, so personally I can’t wait to see the penguins and other wildlife like seabirds and whales.”
After graduating from Glasgow University, where she embarked on expeditions to the Peruvian Amazon and Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Hilton relocated to Australia to complete a PhD in conservation biology before recently moving to New Zealand.
She is one of an all-woman team selected by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust after 6,000 expressions of interest and 4,000 applicatios were made for the highly-coveted roles.
Camilla Nichol , CEO of the trust, said: “After receiving a record response to the opportunity to join our first Port Lockroy team since the Covid -19 pandemic, we’re so pleased to have appointed such a capable team.
" Each team member has a keen sense of adventure and genuine love of Antarctica. It will be a challenging role as they will be living in a remote part of the world for five months, but they will play an essential part in bringing Port Lockroy and its museum to life.’
Among the team will be Vicky Inglis, from Aberdeenshire, who previously travelled to Port Lockroy with the trust and will help new recruits settle in to their new way of life.
The team will begin their training in Cambridge later this month with briefings from a ‘Penguinologist’ and remote first aid training part of the preparions.
The team will depart for the Antarctic in early November and will live and work in Port Lockroy until March 2023, including spending Christmas together.
Port Lockroy is one of six heritage sites managed by UKAHT, which is charged with preserving British Antarctic heritage.
It has been known as a safe anchorage following its use by the whaling fleets of the early 20th century and was selected as the first continuously occupied British base to establish year round British presence in Antarctica. Base A, Port Lockroy was established on the 11th February 1944 as part of a wartime mission code-named Operation Tabarin.