If you want to be involved in the Australian Antarctic Program you need to pass through a fairly comprehensive selection process before you are approved to travel to Antarctica. This includes a psych evaluation, a full medical, a personal qualities assessment, and most importantly, you need to have a job to do.
So what does this involve?
For the psych evaluation I had to complete a personality test and attend an interview with a psychologist at the AAD. The personal qualities assessment was along the same lines as the psych evaluation and involved an interview with members of HR at the AAD. These assessments were to see how I would fit into the team who are spending the summer at Davis Station and to determine whether I would be able to cope with the isolation and other stresses of living in Antarctica. The interviews were also a way for them to let me know some of the situations that I might find myself in and to give me things to think about before I leave, particularly when it came to my family and making sure that I am prepared for the journey ahead of me.
The medical assessment was comprehensive to say the least. Eye test, hearing test, blood tests, chest x-ray, ECG, full physical assessment, and detailed medical history. This is important to ensure that they decrease the likelihood of any serious illnesses occurring to any of the expeditioners. We only have one doctor at Davis and there is very little opportunity to leave if there is an emergency. So minimising the risks are a high priority.
Lastly, I had to have a job to do. It’s expensive to get to Antarctica and to live there for 5 months, particularly in these days of tightening government budgets. Part of the privilege of travelling south is that I don’t have to pay for anything. There are no food, accommodation or travel costs. It’s all covered by the Australian Antarctic Program and the project that I am involved in. Therefore, its important to everyone that we’re all there for a reason. My supervisor had to put forward a strong justification for me being included in the project and I will be required to also take part in the general running of the station, such as cleaning and cooking duties. It’s not a holiday, I’m going there to do a lot of work. It’s just that I get to work in one of the most isolated and amazing places in the world!