Mining boom puts Antarctica jobs on ice
There are times when the sun never sets on Antarctica, but a long-term Australian programme encouraging people to "live the dream" and work in the vast frozen landscape is having to extend a deadline for the project due to a shortage of applicants.
For decades a potential job for adventurous youth seeking to see a part of the world most people never get to, the programme has been going for nearly 100 years since the first Australian explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson, sailed into Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica in an expedition from 1911 to 1914.
But the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), which each year offers employment stints ranging from six months for a summer season to 16 months that include a winter, said that applications for 2013-2014 fell by roughly 1,000 from last year's 2,200, and so the deadline is being extended.
Though the reasons for the drop are unclear, Australia's current mining boom, with its high salaries, is likely to be siphoning off a number of potential applicants, said Rob Bryson, AAD Territories, Environment and Treaties Section Manager.
"The people we are targeting are heavily sought after, particularly in the mining and the oil and gas industry, especially trades people," he said.
But the overall recruiting goals are relatively broad. In addition to most trade requirements, including carpenters, plumbers, builders and mechanics, the AAD also seeks chefs, field training offers and logistical and medical staff.
The average trade salary is approximately $150,000 compared to a fly-in fly-out miner whose average salary is $200,000.
Two main categories of applicants are young people who haven't started families yet and those whose children are ready to leave home. Both are looking for a challenge and can fit into a team of people capable of building and sustaining a community in a remote and hostile environment.
Bryson said that despite hardships such as isolation and long times away from family and friends, the job offers immeasurable intangible benefits for the right people to come and "live the dream".
"We may not offer the same money as the fly-in fly-out miners are getting, but we can offer a breathtaking environment to operate in. Very few people in the history of humanity have actually been to Antarctica," Bryson said.
"Remoteness is the big issue and being away from family plays on people's minds. However, these things haven't changed in the last 70 years since the Antarctic Division has been around."
Applications, which now close on Jan 10, 2013, are normally confined to Australian citizens but Bryson said they would look at all opportunities.