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Would You Live in an Antarctic Penguin Post Office?

Applications soar at post office in Port Lockroy, Antarctica

(Daisy Gilardini/Science Faction/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Job location: A soccer field-sized island in Port Lockroy, Antarctica. Job duties: Process 700,000 pieces of mail, teach 18,000 cruise ship visitors and monitor 2,000 stinky penguins in less-than-ideal conditions. Sound like a dream job? If so, you’re not the only one—officials at the U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust say that they’ve received over 1,500 applications for a job at the “Penguin Post Office,” up from just 82 last year.

The BBC reports that the post office on Goudier Island has “comfortable” living conditions, but the lodgings aren’t exactly hotel-quality. With no power grid, heat or hot water, limited communications and 24-hour daylight, applicants must be willing to withstand harsh Antarctic conditions to apply. In return, they’ll become the stewards of the island’s thousands of gentoo penguins.

For over a decade, the island has been home to a wildlife study aimed at collecting environmental data about how humans impact penguin populations. But though the island is popular with cruise ship visitors, it’s carefully regulated to protect the penguins, and the entire eastern half of the tiny island is off-limits even to post office protectors.

So why are people clamoring to spend a summer on the island for a $1,700/month stipend? Genevieve Shaw Brown reports that the surge in interest can be chalked up to a reality show that aired on BBC and PBS stations. When this year’s four winning applicants take possession of the island from November through March, they’ll take their place alongside the 4,000 scientists who study in Antarctica throughout the summer.

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