Working at the End of the Earth

Working at the End of the Earth

Aviaaja has been working in Antarctica with extreme tourism since 2016. Today, she works as Guest Services Manager at Union Glacier Camp. In addition to her many seasons with the company, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, she has also worked several seasons aboard expedition ships. Here, she has visited both the Antarctic Peninsula, the subantarctic islands south of South America and New Zealand, as well as the Ross Sea.

The Road to Antarctica
My story begins in Greenland, where I grew up surrounded by snow and rugged landscapes. It was there that I developed a deep love for the Arctic and dreamed of exploring its counterpart at the other end of the Earth.

I met one of the partners of the company, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, while working in a remote camp in Greenland back in 2016. This encounter led to a job interview which led to me quitting my job in the North and travelling to the interior of Antarctica for the first time a couple of months later. Needless to say, it was love at first sight when I stepped out of the aircraft and onto the Blue Ice Runway at 79° South!

Since then, I’ve spent a combined year and a half of my life living in a small Trango-3 tent at our main hub, Union Glacier Camp, where I today work as Guest Services Manager. Our company facilitates extreme tourism, bespoke projects as well as logistics support for science and expeditions in the interior of Antarctica. Combining this with the challenges of our remote location and the, at times, extreme Antarctic weather, we never have a dull moment.

Life at Union Glacier Camp
One of my favourite parts of working in our camp is meeting our guests who come from all over the world. It is always incredible to see them setting out and achieve their goals in this inhospitable environment, whether it is to reach the summit of Mount Vinson, x-country ski to the South Pole, walk with emperor penguins on the sea ice, run the ice marathon, skydive over the Ellsworth Mountains, or working with a government program doing science, they all bring their stories and experiences with them to Union Glacier.

Being able to share dinner with world renown scientists, a bunch of mountain climbers, people with a passion for travel and wildlife photographers, make for some really cool conversations and it teaches me a lot about the rest of the world. This year, I had the great pleasure of taking a group of guests to the South Pole and I always enjoy traveling to this historically and scientifically important place at the very bottom of the planet.

For me, going to the South Pole is the closest thing to traveling to outer space without leaving the planet. Here we need to pace ourselves as to not get sick from the altitude, we must take extra care not exposing our skin to the cold environment, and we are surrounded by extraterrestrial-looking science buildings amidst this ice desert.

Icy Weather
Life in Antarctica can be a battle against the elements when Mother Nature really turns on a show. This season we ended up waiting 20 days in Punta Arenas, Chile, before we could fly to Union Glacier Camp due to extreme weather conditions. From low temperatures to strong winds, every day brings new challenges, even if the sun never sets during the Austral Summer. Yet, with the right gear and a bit of ingenuity, we learn to adapt and thrive in this harsh environment.

Wool clothing, like the LOOW gear, is a lifesaver, keeping me warm and insulated against the biting cold. Everything from sleeping bag to polar boots through to clothing and bags of liquorice are packed with great care, so I don’t forget anything when I leave my home in New Zealand. Being able to mix and match the layers depending on the temperature outside is a perfect set up. I literally wore my LOOW vest almost every day during the season as I loved how the high neck gave me an extra layer of protection from the wind. During the day I rocked my stylish woolly base layers and at night I put on the comfy sweatpants.

Bonds Beyond Borders
In my perspective, Antarctica's greatest strength is the continent's harsh and beautiful nature, as well as the fantastic people I get to meet. There is something special about people who love to live in tents on a glacier. Being able to feel at home in a desolate and cold ice desert is thanks to teamwork and good people. All the guests who visit our camp say that their dream of Antarctica began as a desire to encounter the barren ice desert and reach the end of the Earth, but what they take home in their backpacks are the many new faces and stories they have come to know. It's as if the world can meet on the ice in a different way. And for that, I keep coming back over and over again.