Written by Eleanor Floyd.
Three years ago I joined the Polar Regions Department as the ‘Desk Officer for Antarctica and the British Antarctic Territory’ at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Little did I know quite how varied the role would be and how much I would enjoy getting to know more about this unique region.
As my stint in the team comes to an end I have reflected on what I have learned.
I have learned:
- Global impact: that what happens in Antarctica doesn’t stay in Antarctica – it has a massive effect on the world’s climate and ocean systems;
- Geopolitics: the Antarctic Treaty brought stability to the region at the height of the Cold War – countries that can often be against each other are brought together in the Antarctic fora and work for a common goal;
- World-class science: the UK conducts world-class science on a wide range of issues from wildlife, glaciers to outer space via the work of the British Antarctic Survey;
- Heritage: the UK has an amazing history of Antarctic exploration and its heritage remains well cared for today by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust;
- Accessibility: there’s a whole Antarctic world which anyone in the UK can explore thanks to the Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge and the Polar Gallery at the National Maritime Museum.
- Quiz skills: and some may say trivial, but as a quiz lover I can name more species of penguin and seals than I ever knew before.
Whether it’s been working on a Boaty McBoatface 50p coin, reviewing legislation or helping process applications for couples to get married, the job has been fascinating and most importantly all the people I have met along the way have been great to work with.
If you get the opportunity to work, visit or learn more about Antarctica, then go for it. In the meantime, I seem to have become a new collector of stamps and coins so I’m off to review my collection!
Eleanor joined the FCO in June 2001 and has previously worked on areas including Consular, South Asia and Migration. Roles in the Polar Regions Department are only available to existing civil servants.