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Two rainbows over Gough Island in the South Atlantic seaIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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Gough Island is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha – itself a remote British territory in the south Atlantic

A British wildlife group is looking for someone to work on one of the remotest islands in the world for 13 months.

Gough Island, a British territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean, has no permanent population.

It is around 1,500 miles (2,400km) from the African mainland – and, with no airport, reaching Gough involves a seven-day boat ride from South Africa.

It is a journey already completed by Rebekah Goodwill and Lucy Dorman, who currently work on Gough.

They are among the seven full-time employees – and eight million birds – who call Gough home.

Lucy Dorman and RebekahIMAGE SOURCE,ANTJE STEINFURTH
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Lucy and Rebekah in Gough

The pair work for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Before moving to Gough, Lucy worked in Antarctica while Rebekah worked for the RSPB in Scotland.

Rebekah’s year on the island will end in September, so the RSPB is looking for a new field officer, with a salary of between £25,000 and £27,000.

The job involves “frequent long days” tracking seabird species, and requires candidates to adapt well to living in a “challenging and remote sub-Antarctic environment”.

Candidates should also have “a science degree or equivalent experience in a relevant subject”, as well as “wild bird/animal handling and monitoring experience in the field”.

And Rebekah and Lucy warn potential employees they will have to brave tough weather – and put up with no fresh food for a year.

“I think Bekah and I, being British, thought we were used to rain,” Lucy says. “But there’s a lot of rain.”

She adds: “We are on the edge of the roaring forties, we are just a small rock in the middle of the south Atlantic, so we do have some pretty extreme weather.”

The roaring forties describes the area between the latitudes 40 and 50 south of the equator – notorious for strong winds.

A woman walks along the cliffs in Gough islandIMAGE SOURCE,LUCY DORMAN

So what do you eat when you’re more than a thousand miles from the nearest country? Get ready for meals to come packaged – or frozen.

“It was definitely one thing they stressed for us before we came – that for many people, the lack of food and the lack of fresh food is significant,” Lucy says.

“The main thing I certainly miss is just like a crunchy carrot, or being able to bite into a nice apple. Just some crunch, but apart from that – I don’t feel like I’m really missing much.”

Fresh fruit and vegetables pose too much of a biosecurity risk of germinating and spreading across the island. Instead, food is mainly sourced from two walk-in freezers, stocked once a year.

“One’s full of frozen vegetables and the other’s basically full of frozen meat and then we’ve got lots of tinned frozen fruit and veg,” Rebekah says.

“They give us a year’s worth of supply of food during that two-week takeover time, and we live off it for the rest of the year.”

The takeover time refers to the period once a year, in September, when some employees on Gough pack up and return home, and new workers take over.

Lucy Dorman works near an albatross and its chickIMAGE SOURCE,REBEKAH GOODWILL

And as for social isolation?

“In an odd sort of way I kind of feel like I’m more connected to my friends and family here than I probably was when I worked up in Scotland,” says Rebekah.

The pair say with internet on the base, staying in touch is as easy as ever – and the support of the small team makes up for challenging moments.

“It’s a very nice community here so we’re able to share stories, and learn from each other and support each other when you can’t be at a wedding or a funeral,” adds Rebekah.

As part of the RSPB International Conservation Science Team, Lucy and Rebekah track the movements of various endangered birds, such as the Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, Atlantic petrel and MacGillivray’s prion.

During the day, they brave the weather and head into the field – usually equipped with waterproof jackets and trousers, and wellington boots – to locate the birds.

They are collecting data on chicks on the island, and their fight against mice, an invasive species, that have been eating them.

“They [the mice] did start to eat the seabirds,” Lucy says. “They don’t have any predators, the mice on the island, and so they were having a massive impact, particularly on the small chicks.”

In 2017-18 the mice became so detrimental to chicks that just 21% of Tristan albatross chicks survived to fledge. In one critically endangered petrel species that nests in burrows – the MacGillivray’s prion – not a single chick survived.

The RSPB suspects the mice were introduced onto Gough by sailors in the 19th Century, and the group has been working to eradicate them.

The eradication has significantly reduced the population – but the RSPB has not yet been able to completely rid the island of mice.

So, for those interested in a year on Gough – birds, mice, frozen food, and spectacular remoteness included – the deadline to apply is the end of Sunday.

Map of Gough

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