In the Spotlight - Julia Doyle

Julia PortraitName: Julia Doyle
Role: Hotel Manager
1st ALE Season: 2013
Nationality: USA

Did you always want to work in Antarctica or is there another profession you took a stab at before joining ALE?

I’ve worked in everything from disaster relief to social work to teaching. Most recently, I ran a small business in central Chile. I haven’t been able to choose any one area to focus all of my attention on. My only academic degree is in anthropology… if you’re familiar with that field you’ll understand the irony that I now choose to live and work in Antarctica.

What first brought you to ALE?

A lovely Swiss coworker in coastal Chile was applying for a job with ALE and we spent a lot of time discussing English grammar as she wrote her cover letter. When she got back from her first season on the ice and recounted the experience, I was keen to apply as well. Fortunately, she was willing to put me in touch.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The remembering! Keeping a long and ever-changing mental list, especially towards the end of the season, takes super-human concentration. In the Hotel department we have to know who is going where and for how long and what their names and allergies are. Our map of who is staying in which tent is a good reference, but memorizing is more efficient.

What do you love most about your job?

Working in Union Glacier Camp is a lesson in problem solving on the go and being resourceful. I like being challenged; people thrive under those conditions. Needless to say, being one of the lucky people who lives a quarter of each year in Antarctica is also a perk. It’s a spectacular place to be and my coworkers are both very funny and very inspiring. Hard to complain.

What’s the most unusual question a guest has asked you?

“Did you lose some sort of bet?” As in, how did you end up stuck here for three months?! I told him I had won the bet.

Any top tips for a first time traveler to Antarctica?

Bring extra sunblock and an extra pair of sunglasses. You will inevitably lose your sunglasses. Those are probably the only extra things you will need. Everybody over packs! Bring a few items you can count on and travel light. Wool is your best friend.

Julia Profile (1)Do you have a favorite memory from the last few seasons?

Seeing the emperor penguins at Gould Bay this past December was a definite highlight (of my ALE career and my life). They are fascinating and Hannah runs a fun camp. Any opportunity to explore the continent more becomes a great memory.

How does working in Antarctica compare to other regions in the world where you’ve worked?

Living on a glacier is a unique experience in terms of the natural surroundings and the social environment. Weather and potentially limited resources dictate the course of our day. We work hard, everyone puts in a massive effort, and we still manage to cooperate and coexist peacefully. My experience of Antarctica has been sort of Utopian in that way. We have fun and do our jobs without much fuss.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I’m more or less an open book, my coworkers will confirm this, but I do try to hide how absolutely terrified of spiders I am. It is a proper phobia that I will deny until the end; ‘end’ being the entry of a spider into the room.

Where are your favorite places in the world (besides Antarctica)?

My favorite cities are Berlin and New York City. The food is good and the people are interesting and welcoming in both places. Chilean Patagonia is a wonder of the natural world and I intend to spend more time exploring it. The coastline of the northeastern USA also makes the list, as the Atlantic Ocean is where I spent most of childhood.

Is there one thing you always take with you, no matter where you travel?

Like anyone, I always have a device with plenty of music options in my pocket. I recently invested in a lightweight MacBook so that comes with me as well, along with snacks, a book, a bathing suit, my coffee mug, and a pencil. Sometimes my wallet. Ready for anything!

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while working in Antarctica?

Be patient, pay attention to your surroundings, every day (really) is a new adventure. Stay interested! The world is big and we are small. Seeing camp from the air as a speck in the white expanse is humbling.

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