AMY Chetcuti is spending her summer like no other – at the very end of the Earth.
A mechanic by trade, the Newcastle resident is putting her skills to the test as an ‘expedition mechanic’ at Australia’s Mawson research station on continental Antarctica, where she arrived in October this year and will stay through until March.
Her application for the summer stint was inspired by a love of travel, the opportunity to expand her professional skill set and “to see the penguins, of course”, Ms Chetcuti said.
“To be able to travel to such an untouched and untravelled part of the planet is rare,” Ms Chetcuti said.
She told the Newcastle Herald the trip had already “far exceeded my expectations”.
The program she is partaking in is run by the Australian Antarctic Division under the federal government’s Department of Environment and Energy. The division is currently recruiting more than 150 people to take the trip south and fill a variety of roles for the 2019-20 season.
In her role as ‘expedition mechanic’, it is Ms Chetcuti’s primary responsibility to maintain and operate a range of mechanical equipment as well as the mechanical aspects of the station’s power generation facilities.
Summer is peak work season in Antarctica, with close to 100 people on station, while in winter this number drops down to about 20, the Australian Antarctic Division’s Andrew Groom said.
With such few people covering so much work, Ms Chetcuti said a favourite aspect of the experience so far is contributing to jobs she never would have otherwise, including firefighting, search and rescue, weather observations and helping with science projects.
But she said the real highlight of her trip had been the wildlife.
“Definitely the trip out to Auster Rookery, which is an emperor penguin rookery with up to 10,000 breeding pairs/birds,” she said.
“As you walked around the corner, between two icebergs you feel like you are in a David Attenborough documentary, it was so surreal. If you sat quietly there were curious penguins that would come and check you out.”
She also said she was enjoying working closely with the people at the station and was preparing to celebrate a cold Christmas.
“We all drew a name out of the hat for secret Santa for Christmas so currently, while everyone back home is doing last-minute shopping, everyone on station is busy making their secret Santa gifts,” she said. “Some people make things out of metal, leather, wood, paper and (by) refurbishing things.”
There are opportunities in the latest recruitment round for experienced professionals over a range of specialties, including medical, engineering, plumbing, mechanics, electrical, supervisory, aviation, infrastructure, IT and communications.
Applicants are given the option of undertaking a summer placement for around four months or a longer placement of up to 15 months over the harsh winter season. The Australian Antarctic Division’s mission is to conduct scientific research to better understand the region, its impact on global climate and develop technologies to protect it.
Recruitment for positions that are currently open begins today, and applications close on January 24 next year.
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