Margo’s frozen summer

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A Queenstowner has beaten 125 other applicants to a summer posting in Antarctica after a five-month selection process.

Margo Rhys-Jones, 36, has scored the job of support officer – which includes cooking – at the Australian Antarctic Division’s Wilkins Runway camp.

She heads to Hobart at the end of this month for two months’ training.

It’s the third time the role’s taken her to Australia this year.

During the recruitment process, she flew to Sydney for individual and group interviews – then after a medical at home it was off to Melbourne for a psychological test.

Rhys-Jones’s chances were helped by having already done an Antarctic summer as a chef at New Zealand’s Scott Base in 2006-07.

But her next job will be more varied – including weather-reading, runway operations and driving 70km to Casey Station for supplies.

She’ll also be more isolated.

At Scott Base, she was only 2km from America’s large McMurdo base but at Wilkins she’ll be in a team of only eight to 10 people for six months – there won’t even be internet access, just a satellite phone for 30 minutes a week.

Rhys-Jones says a big plus for her was being able to get on with a small group of people – she could point to a stint running a lodge on Fiordland’s Hollyford Track “where I was even more isolated”.

Asked why she wanted to return to the Deep Freeze – and an area notorious for bad weather, with an 18-day blizzard last summer – Rhys-Jones says: “I like extremes, being out of my comfort zone.

“And Antarctica is almost like a last frontier – only a small handful of people will ever set foot on it.”

She also likes the buzz of a half-year assignment: “I’m a six-monthie.”

After Antarctica she’s considering returning to Iran, where she worked as a massage therapist for a bike-racing team last year, and to war-torn Iraq.