Many years ago, I wrote an inquisitive letter to the British Antarctic Survey to ask them if they had any vacancies available for disgruntled veterinarians. They never replied, and, a little offended, I didn’t bother to pursue the matter.
Several years further down the line, I had ditched my veterinary career altogether and taken up a job with a company that designed telecommunications software. It then struck me one cold evening that this might yet buy me my ticket to Antarctica.
The more I considered the idea, the more it appealed. As the idea blossomed I made a concerted effort to devour all of the Antarctic literature I could find, from the very English classics of Scott and Shackleton in the Antarctic golden-age of exploration, through to the modern brutal reality of Ranulph Fiennes’ expeditions. My interest developed into a passion and I scoured the Antarctic jobs pages for a role that would match my new-found skills.
For the next 3 years I waited hopefully for the annual Antarctic recruitment season to come around. Each year, I spent hours of my spare time filling in application forms and waiting in trepidation for an offer of an interview, but then always received a terse letter of rejection.
However, as the first few minutes of New Years’ Day 2011 ticked by, I silently resolved that this would be the year that I made it to the Antarctic. Sure enough, by luck or Providence, on one amazing Monday morning in April (and before I had even braced myself for the next refusal) my phone rang and I was invited to an interview in Cambridge with the British Antarctic Survey for the role of Wintering Communications Manager.
After a surprisingly short interview and a nerve-shatteringly long wait for news, I was offered the job that I had been dreaming about for years. However, this wasn’t the end of the trauma – first I had to submit myself to hours of medical examinations, blood tests and xrays. Eventually, having been declared fighting fit, TB and STD free, I was finally allowed to sign on the dotted line. I was going to Antarctica.