“Even though Antarctica is fascinating, life there is sometimes difficult.” Human resources assistant at the French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor (IPEV), Anne Savary warns candidates who are not afraid of getting involved. Like every year, this research institute recruits contract workers and volunteers in civic service to work in its bases located at the South Pole. At the end of the job dating in Brest, the first departures will take place in October 2024, with a return no later than Christmas 2025. The contracts offered last from two to fourteen months, if they are "country" or " winterers”.
“Country people leave between the end of October and the beginning of January, for a period not exceeding three months, because it is no longer possible to leave Antarctica from March,” explains Anne Savary. For good reason, the weather conditions prevent planes from landing, and the ice floes completely reform, making it impossible for boats to pass through. Winter residents (the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere Editor's note), for their part, extend their stay for at least a year.
Depending on the base where they are assigned, modern-day explorers will not have the same living conditions. At Concordia, a Franco-Italian base located inland, temperatures in summer (until March) are around -30°C in summer, and even drop to -80°C the rest of the year. The other base, Dumont-d’Urville, is located in the north of the continent, on the sub-Antarctic islands in Adélie Land. It is “only” -1°C in summer, and -17°C in winter.
Candidates can rest assured: IPEV provides the suits to survive these extraordinary temperatures. And a doctor is permanently present at each base, as well as alongside supply expeditions. “These are land convoys which can take 10 days to arrive, to transport food and fuel from the islands to Concordia,” indicates Anne Savary. “But contract workers are rarely required to leave the bases,” she says.
In total, 80 people will be recruited to assist the permanent members of the IPEV in their missions. The IPEV is looking for something to feed and operate its bases: a baker, cook, plumber, machine mechanic, central mechanic, electrotechnician, chief mechanic, toolmaker, technical manager, and finally an instrumentation technician. “It is important to be qualified, because the person will often be the only one doing their job.” Notice to the cook: he must be specialized in collective catering, in order to be able to feed up to 120 people at the peak of activity at his base.
To apply, you must first go to the Ateliers des Capuçins de Brest on October 19, in the afternoon. There, former winterers and scientists working in polar stations will interact with the candidates. After an initial reading of the CVs, the suitable profiles will undergo an interview and technical tests, to ensure their good autonomy. Then the selected candidates will have to go to Paris to undergo a complete examination (radiographs, electrocardiogram) at the medical service of TAFF, the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Finally, an interview with a psychologist and personality tests complete the selection process. Anne Savary insists: “You have to be in good physical condition, and be sure of your motivation because there is no going back.”