Plumbers And Penguins

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To mark the centenary of the conquest of the South Pole there's another chance to hear the stories of some of the tradesmen who live and work on Antarctica. In the summer of 2009, British Antarctic Survey very publicly recruited 43 plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians and doctors to spend 18 months working on their most southerly research stations - promising "the most exhilarating experience of a lifetime". Chris Eldon Lee discovers what actually happened to the new recruits. Almost 2000 tradesman applied to be parted from their white vans and sent into whiteout conditions. Doctors were also hired to care for their welfare in such extreme conditions.

Mark Green, a 48-year-old Bristol plumber, was sent to Halley Research Station on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. His job is to keep water supplies flowing at temperatures of minus 50 Celsius. 30-year-old Claire Lehman, a recently qualified Wiltshire GP, was posted to Rothera, on the western shore of the Peninsula.

Like everybody else in Antarctica, both have had to learn brand new skills to help keep their Bases going. Mark finds himself abseiling down precipitous crevasses and learning to be a sea-ice driver's mate. Claire is refuelling planes and supplying all the field scientists with freshly baked Christmas Cakes.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee

A Culture Wise Production for BBC Radio 4.

Chris Eldon Lee follows the fortunes of tradesmen recruited to work in the Antarctic.

In the summer of 2009, British Antarctic Survey very publicly recruited 43 plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians and doctors to spend 18 months working on their most southerly research stations - promising "the most exhilarating experience of a lifetime".

Now we hear what actually happened to the new recruits.

Almost 2000 tradesman applied to be parted from their white vans and sent into whiteout conditions.

There was to be no back up at the builders' yard, no disappearing off the job for several weeks, and no copy of The Sun in the cab.

Doctors were also hired to care for their welfare in such extreme conditions.

In "Plumbers and Penguins", Chris Eldon Lee follows the frozen fortunes of two of the new recruits and their equally adventurous companions.

Mark Green, a 48-year-old Bristol plumber, was sent to Halley Research Station on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

His job is to keep water supplies flowing at temperatures of minus 50 Celsius.

30-year-old Claire Lehman, a recently qualified Wiltshire GP, was posted to Rothera, on the western shore of the Peninsula.

Like everybody else in Antarctica, both have had to learn brand new skills to help keep their Bases going.

Mark finds himself abseiling down precipitous crevasses and learning to be a sea-ice driver's mate.

Claire is refuelling planes and supplying all the field scientists with freshly baked Christmas Cakes.

The programme follows the Antarctic year from Burns Night (in high summer), through the long dark winter to the June 21st Mid Winter Solstice, back into daylight and on towards the Christmas preparations.

What remarkable things have they experienced in the past 12 months? How are they handing their long distant relationships? And why have they all developed such a passion for penguins?

Produced by Chris Eldon Lee.