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The Kerguelen archipelago, which forms one of the five districts of the territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Photo: AFP

VideoIf working at the North or South Pole is your dream job, France is looking for candidates

Carpenters, bakers, pastry chefs, scientists – polar institute has launched a public appeal to recruit around 40 French-speaking people for a variety of jobs, which will last for up to 14 months, at its six bases in the Arctic and Antarctica


Fancy a job at the North or South Pole? A French research institute is looking for you.

The Paul-Émile Victor Polar Institute in northwest France has launched a public appeal to recruit around 40 French-speaking 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.

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

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

A scientist studies penguins in Antarctica, at the Antarctic Peninsula. Photo: Alamy

At the Dumont d’Urville station there are just six women compared to 24 men. “I haven’t been able to get balance” between the sexes, Andre Le Marec admits.

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

“We make sure they are physically fit 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,” says Andre Le Marec.

The Kerguelen archipelago, which is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands Photo: AFP

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 degrees Celsius.

“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 in the interior of Antarctica.

“Not all the bases have temperatures this extreme,” says Andre Le Marec, adding that a biologist sought on the island of Amsterdam, in the southern Indian Ocean, would be able to work “in a T-shirt”.

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“It was incredible,” says Claire Le Calvez, who spent time at Dumont d’Urville as a chemist and glaciologist in 2003 and eventually joined the roughly 50 permanent employees at the institute.

What one discovers in the natural world of Antarctica is amazing, she adds.

“These are memories that last a lifetime.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Wanted: candidates for French polar expeditions – preferably female