Need a new job? Try Antarctica

The Paul-Emile Victor Polar Institute in France has openings for 40 people in a wide variety of jobs at its six bases in the Arctic and Antarctica, including the Kerguelen archipelago (left).
The Paul-Emile Victor Polar Institute in France has openings for 40 people in a wide variety of jobs at its six bases in the Arctic and Antarctica, including the Kerguelen archipelago (above).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • If you want to climb the career pole, a French research institute may just have the vacancy you are looking for.

But you have to relocate to the North or South Pole.

The Paul-Emile Victor Polar Institute in north-west France has launched an initiative to recruit about 40 people for a wide variety of jobs at its six bases in the Arctic and Antarctica.

From chemists and carpenters to bakers and pastry chefs, the institute is stepping up its efforts to reach potential candidates for 12-to 14-month stints at its bases with endless summer days and winter nights.

However, aspiring candidates must be able to speak French to take on these jobs.

"We get lots of interest from the biology fields, but not enough mechanics or tool operators because these people don't know about us," said Mr Laurence Andre Le Marec, hiring director at the institute that is named after a French polar explorer and pioneer.

It operates at the Spitzberg base in the Arctic as well as the Dumont d'Urville and Concordia bases in Antarctica.

It has another three bases on France's sub-Antarctic islands of Amsterdam, Crozet and Kerguelen.

Women, in particular, are being sought in this year's recruitment drive, which includes six testimonial videos from female alumni.

At the Dumont d'Urville station, there are just six women compared with 24 men. "I haven't been able to get a balance" among the sexes, Mr Andre Le Marec admitted.

The 40 successful candidates - 30 of whom are reserved for France's corps of Civic Service volunteers - will have to pass a medical examination that includes psychological evaluations.

"We make sure they are physically apt for this type of mission and psychologically ready to live in a small group on an isolated site under conditions that can at times be extreme," Mr Andre Le Marec said.

The mechanic being sought for the Concordia station, for example, will have to mesh with a group of about 60 people in summer and just 14 in winter when temperatures can plunge to minus 80 deg C.

"There's no going back over winter", the job posting on the institute's website warns.

Concordia, which houses a French-Italian team, is one of three permanent bases maintained in the interior of Antarctica, one of the most isolated and inhospitable places on the planet.

"Not all the bases have temperatures this extreme," Mr Andre Le Marec assured, adding that a biologist sought for the island of Amsterdam, in the southern Indian Ocean, would be able to work just fine "in a T-shirt".

Current employees have warm feelings about their work.

"It was incredible," said Ms Claire Le Calvez, who spent a tour at Dumont d'Urville as a chemist and glaciologist in 2003 and eventually joined the roughly 50 permanent employees at the institute.

There is no need to tune in to, say, the Discovery Channel to relax in these places. What one discovers in the natural world of Antarctica is amazing, she added. "These are memories that last a lifetime."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Need a new job? Try Antarctica'. Subscribe