These SA government jobs will get you away from it all for a whole year

14 February 2019 - 06:44 By Dave Chambers
Gough Island in the South Atlantic is one of the world's last remaining pristine environments.
Gough Island in the South Atlantic is one of the world's last remaining pristine environments.
Image: rspb.org

If you love birds and feel like getting away from it all for a year, the SA government might be able to help.

Seven jobs are up for grabs on Gough Island in the South Atlantic, with the major advantage that you’ll be at least 400km from civilisation. That’s if “civilisation” can be used to describe Tristan da Cunha and its 250 inhabitants.

Gough Island is a long way from home and much further from just about anywhere else.
Gough Island is a long way from home and much further from just about anywhere else.
Image: Google

Then again, between September this year, when your contract starts, and October 2020, when you’ll travel 2,600km back to Cape Town, you’ll only have a handful of other people to talk to.

The environmental affairs department and SA Weather Service have just advertised for the 65th over-wintering team for Gough Island, which will comprise:

  • A senior meteorological technician (R242,475 a year plus 37% lieu in benefits);
  • Two assistant meteorological technicians (R196,407 plus 37%);
  • An electrician (R356,289 plus 37%);
  • A diesel mechanic (R356,289 plus 37%);
  • A communications/electronics engineer (R 697,011 all inclusive); and
  • A medical orderly.

Most of the jobs require technical qualifications, but all the assistant meteorological technicians need to apply is a matric certificate (as long as it includes maths, physics or geography).

The weather station on Gough Island featured on a South African stamp in 1983.
The weather station on Gough Island featured on a South African stamp in 1983.
Image: 123rf/Borislav Marinic

Every day since 1956, a meteorologist on Gough Island has collected atmospheric and meteorological data and sent it back to SA.

This is the effort the new team will continue, and they may also witness a memorable event on the 91km² scrap of volcanic land: the extermination of house mice, which were introduced about 150 years ago.

A project to eradicate the mice is due to end this year on Gough, regarded as one of the Earth’s last remaining pristine environments.

In 1995, the island was declared a Unesco world heritage site for hosting some of the planet’s most important breeding seabird colonies.

Northern rockhopper penguins on Gough Island
Northern rockhopper penguins on Gough Island
Image: 123rf/Roy De Haas

Gough, where SA leases the weather station from the UK, is home to almost the entire world population of the Tristan albatross and the Atlantic petrel, and the mouse eradication programme was introduced after a 2007 study said the rodents’ predation on chicks was driving the species towards extinction.

Mice and birds apart, the recruitment ads for the new over-wintering team pull no punches about what to expect, including what may be the world’s last working fax machine.

“The ability to work and live with small groups of people is essential,” they say. “Although the base is well-equipped with e-mail, fax and satellite telephone facilities, the applicant has to be self-sufficient and self-motivated.

“The location may affect both the physical and mental well-being of the incumbent, their family and close relationships.

“Candidates must be physically fit, mentally strong and prepared for physically challenging and satisfying work. In addition the successful candidates may often be called upon to work long hours in extreme conditions on duties unrelated to their function.

“Short-listed candidates will be subjected to screening and security vetting to determine their suitability for employment. Appointment to these positions is subject to a rigorous medical examination.

“There is no option to return to South Africa before October 2020.”

As for the weather, even though the island is near the Antarctic, the large amount of ocean surrounding it keeps it relatively temperate all year round. 

The new team is unlikely to face a Day Zero. Gough receives about 310cm of rain a year, with up to 23 wet days every month.


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