Queenstowner Amanda Tutton is a woman of many talents. Arriving in Queenstown more than 10 years ago, she’s been a snowboard instructor, part of Coronet Peak’s ski patrol and a hiking and helibiking guide and has just returned from Antarctica as field support. She speaks to CASS MARRETT about how she got a job at the bottom of the globe
Five years ago Queenstowner Amanda Tutton cut out a newspaper ad for a field support job in Antarctica and stuck it to her vision board.
‘‘I thought it was the best job in the world … [but] I didn’t have any of the qualifications to do it at all,’’ Tutton says.
From that moment, she made Antarctica her goal and began collecting the relevant skills and qualifications.
At the time she was a snowboard instructor at Coronet Peak, so she decided to move into ski patrol which required her to do alpine, bush, avalanche and pre-hospital emergency care courses.
‘‘You get to see some body parts in the wrong shape, but generally, [ski patrol] is pretty cool and you’re helping people and that’s what you really want to do.’’
Tutton gained bush and alpine leadership qualifications through New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association and took up a job as a helibike instructor so she could get experience with helicopters.
She eventually ended up managing HeliBike NZ.
‘‘It’s very James Bond-esque, I’m just gonna put my bikes on the helicopter and fly to the job,’’ she laughs.
But after applying for the Antarctica role a couple of times and missing out, Tutton was
‘‘ecstatic’’ to be offered the field support role in August last year.
‘‘I looked after the needs of the scientists that were coming down, so they would come down, and we would get all their food ready, all their tents and equipment.
‘‘Sometimes we were lucky enough to set those tents and the bases up for them in remote valleys, so I got to help out with some trips out onto the ice shelves and some dry valleys,’’ Tutton says.
The highlights, she says, were visiting Shackleton and Scott huts, exploring a 50-metre deep crevasse and living among a penguin colony.
‘‘Just to see and witness a beautiful lot of [penguin] characteristics and their funny way of life and see the science behind it all and learn about why you’re studying penguins and the impact it has on the ice … just so many cool things to see and do and I definitely made the most of it.’’
Growing up on a sheep farm in Mid Wales, Tutton never imagined she would end up in Antarctica.
She had originally left university and gone into the army as an officer, following in the footsteps of her grandparents and brother.
‘‘When I first embarked on joining the army, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — you’re being shouted at, you’re being pushed to your absolute limit.
‘‘I found my limits and I went past them … from now on, when ever I’ve taken on different roles, I’ve always been [more tired] and colder and wetter and hungrier … I’m so grateful that it challenged me in that way.’’
Tutton made the decision to leave the military with her part ner at the time, and after that relationship ended, she found herself travelling the world before eventually landing in Christchurch, just before the February 2011 earthquake.
‘‘It really interested me to be part of it and I loved how the community came together.
‘‘I helped out with the farmers that came in and [dug] up lots of liquefaction, I worked in leisure centres to help support some people that had become homeless,’’ Tutton says.
After a stint working on a boat in Akaroa, visiting Hector’s dolphins daily, she arrived in
Queenstown where she began her snowboard instructor training.
Needing a job for the summer season, she became a hiking guide with Active Adventures, which took her to work in places as far as Nepal, and she still guides for them today.
‘‘I guess I’ve always had an adventurous side to me, but it’s kind of like, making the most of the opportunities that come your way,’’ Tutton says.
Following her recent adventures to the bottom of the globe, she says she isn’t quite sure what’s next.
‘‘I’ll do another season of ski patrol and then I’m not quite sure what the future holds.
‘‘Certainly climbing some mountains and swimming some seas … you know, just getting out there amongst it and keep exploring.’’