Wanted: Postmaster at the end of the world

A view on historic Port Lockroy on Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula on Jan. 7, 2013.

Flickr user Christopher Michel

Ever dreamed of sorting mail in smelly, freezing conditions with thousands of penguins underfoot? Then Antarctica has a job for you.

A historic British base on the Antarctic Peninsula is looking for postmasters. A team of four people will spend five months running a post office, museum and gift shop on Port Lockroy from November to March.

Port Lockroy is on Goudier Island, and served as a harbor for whaling ships in the early 20th century before being converted into a base in 1944 during World War II. It was later used as a place to conduct scientific research on the ionosphere.

You might not think a tiny island in Antarctica needs a gift shop or a post office, but Port Lockroy gets swarmed by tourists in those summer months. Two cruise ships a day stop for a visit, unloading 18,000 travelers over the season to peruse the gift shop and write a postcard or two.

The post office processes 70,000 items of mail over the summer, and it takes anywhere from two to six weeks for them to reach their destinations.

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A Gentoo penguin at Port Lockroy in the Antarctic Peninsula.

This is not an easy job. The buildings have no power lines, no heat and no running water. Communication with the outside world is limited. A worker must be able to carry heavy boxes over slippery rocks while dodging penguins, according to the job description. The island is home to 2,000 Gentoo penguins that nest around the buildings. Average temperature during the summer is around 36 degrees, falling to 14 degrees during the winter.

Anyone with a delicate sense of smell need not apply. Since there's no running water, workers may have to go for up to a month without bathing. And the penguins have their own share of pungent odors.

Forget about sleeping. Workers are on call for all waking hours seven days a week, and in the Antarctic summer the sun shines for nearly 24 hours a day.

And the pay? A little more than $1,600 a month. The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, the not-for-profit group that runs the base, pays for food, expenses and travel to and from the continent. The deadline to apply is Feb. 27.

In short, job applicants should have a taste for adventure. One woman who worked at the post office two years ago described it as the "opportunity of a lifetime," according to The Telegraph.

That opportunity does come with a few drawbacks. "If you slice spam really thinly, fry it and close your eyes, you can just about convince yourself it is bacon," the woman told the newspaper. "There is a lot of wishful thinking involved."

  • Kim Peterson

    Kim Peterson is a financial journalist covering business and the economy. She has written for several online and print publications, including MSN Money and The Seattle Times.