Fed up with the financial crisis? Try Antarctica

Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:04am EST
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By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

ROTHERA BASE, Antarctica (Reuters) - Anyone wanting to get away from the financial crisis might apply for a 2-1/2 year job on the only continent without a bank -- Antarctica.

Most scientists and other staff visit Antarctica in the summer but the British Antarctic Survey is among few employers on the icy continent to offer a handful of 2-1/2 year stints.

"The economy elsewhere is going downhill ... it's a good time to get away from it all," said Terri Souster, 24, a South African marine assistant who arrived at the British Rothera base in late 2008 and works as a diver.

She is due to leave the Antarctic Peninsula in 2011.

Many long-stayers say they love working in Antarctica, with wildlife such as penguins and whales, and ever-changing views over a bay filled with icebergs. But they have to cope with separation from family and friends over two dark, cold winters.

"It is daunting," said John Withers, commander of Rothera who spent the 2003-04 winters at the base. He originally signed up for 18 months but liked it so much he extended his stay.

On arriving home in Britain, he was surprised when his brother pointed a mobile phone at him at the airport -- taking a photo to send to their father. "I had no idea what he was doing," he said, having missed out on phone cameras.

With recession biting in many parts of the world, now may be a good time to get away to Antarctica where many people save most of their salaries. A U.S. base at McMurdo does have an automatic cash machine but the closest banks are in Chile.   Continued...

<p>Staff drive towards the British Rothera base on the Antarctic Peninsula on January 14, 2009. The base is high tech and has hot running water, Internet access and a canteen with chefs. Outside the base, camping is more primitive. To match WITNESS-ANTARCTICA</p>