Antarctica is a really cool place to work

00:30, Jan 21 2012

It's minus 3 degrees – but that's pretty warm for a summer on ice.

Former Nelson woman Madeleine Bellcroft is spending her summer working six-day weeks in 24-hour sunlight at Scott Base in Antarctica.

She sent the Nelson Mail this photo of herself and friends, West Coast science tech Nita Smith and Christchurch operations scheduler Trudie Baker, grabbing some rays in front of Mt Erebus on a recent trip away from Scott Base.

Working in Antarctica was "a dream job", Ms Bellcroft, 23, said. "There's a lot of cleaning, cooking, various different tasks for scientists. We're all trained as hut guides for historic huts so we take people through there [and] just help keep Scott Base running for all the science and other events that come through over the summer season."

She arrived just after the first light at the start of October, and will be working until mid February.

"I have always been totally fascinated with Antarctica and it's just been somewhere I've really wanted to go and see and explore," she says. "It was just the right time and it worked out, and I got the job, which was cool because it's pretty contested."


Ms Bellcroft, who grew up in Cable Bay and left Nelson for Wanaka when she was 15, has worked as a ski patroller, as a medic for ambulances, instructing rock climbing, and describes herself as "an outdoors person". Perfect for work on the ice.

"A lot of [the work] transfers across. You're working on the base, but on your day off you're out climbing and getting lowered into crevasses, skate-skiing, and doing all the amazing walks. There's a lot to be done.

"It's been the time of my life. It doesn't matter what job you're doing here because you look out the window and it's stunning. You get these experiences that so few people are privileged enough to get to do. And to live here for four or five months; you really get a close bond with the place, which is neat."

Science projects working out of Scott Base at the moment are varied, including glaciology, gathering climate data, research into antifreeze glycoproteins in Antarctic fishes, monitoring sea-ice thickness, warm winds in the Dry Valleys (the only ice-free areas of Antarctica) and microbial life inside the crater of Mt Erebus.

This year is also the 100th anniversary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated South Pole expedition. Captain Scott reached the pole on January 17, 1912, only to find that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten him there, arriving on December 14. During his return journey, Scott and the remaining four members of his team died from starvation and exposure, 20 kilometres from a pre-arranged supply depot.

Scott Base held a formal dinner to welcome Falcon Scott, Captain Scott's grandson – complete with bagpipe welcome and haka. Mr Scott, a builder, is spending five weeks on the ice to help preserve the hut that served as a base for his grandfather's ill-fated second expedition and which still holds more than 10,000 artefacts. "It was quite a moving movement. He was a lovely man," Ms Bellcroft said.

When she returns to Nelson, she has a long holiday planned, including plenty of "mountain missions". "[I have] dreams of green and smells and not having everything provided for you," she says. Then she might head off on her next adventure – possibly Nepal.

"The first thing is a holiday and some time in the bush."