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I have been fortunate enough in my life to tick a major holiday off my bucket list. In 2000 I visited Antarctica on board a Russian icebreaker.

My husband had no desire to accompany me saying “if I want to be that cold, I’ll stick my head in the freezer”. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually not that cold in the Southern Continent during the tourism season. Winter is another story all together! In most coastal regions the mean annual temperature is around −12°C but the lowest surface temperature ever recorded in nature was −89°C at the Russian Vostok station, within the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Oh and by the way, if you’re a GP, the Australian Antarctic Division is looking for you! The ad reads: “Here is the opportunity of a lifetime – to practice generalist medicine in one of the most challenging, rewarding and unique environments in the world – Antarctica”

My 12 day expedition included a visit to a disused whaling station, a working Russian scientific base (where they make their own vodka) and the world’s most southern post office! We were fortunate enough to see killer whales, leopard seals and a gazillion penguins. I spent a couple of hours one day sitting, by myself in a penguin rookery with around 100,000 birds all sitting on eggs…it was amazing…but smelly.

There were so many highlights it’s hard to pick one but a stand-out was a non-denominational spiritual service held on the ice and officiated over by a fellow passenger, Father Gerry. Although a Catholic, he welcomed all of us to give thanks for being in such an amazing location in whatever form that took and to whichever God we worshipped. After the service, we camped overnight on the ice. The cold wasn’t the problem here it was the 24 hours of daylight that prevents one from closing one’s eyes in case you miss anything!

I tell anyone who cares to listen that Antarctica is such an incredible experience and well worth the trip. My tip? Don’t go on a large cruise ship, the smaller the ship the better to really appreciate the wonder of this extraordinary continent.

To apply: http://www.antarctica.gov.au/jobs

 

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