What it's like to live and work in Antarctica

BY Michelene Dlamini , Flight Operations Lead

With guests beginning to arrive on ice for our 2023/24 Antarctica season, we wanted to reveal just how our multi-national team work and live on ice with one shared aim – to create the very best experience for our guests.


White Desert’s Flight Operations Lead, Michelene Dlamini, is tasked with assisting both the Flight Operations Manager and Antarctic Operations Manager running the flying program down south.

Michelene Dlamini at Wolf’s Fang Runway, Antarctica


Take a moment to read more about her experience with White Desert Antarctica, while she is stationed at Wolf’s Fang Runway.


What it’s really like to live and work in Antarctica?

This year is my second season working on the Seventh Continent. I am still just as awestruck returning to the last wilderness as when I first stepped foot onto the glacier almost one year ago.

Every day is unpredictable, with variables from weather to operational requirements determining my daily tasks. No matter the day, I make sure to stop and remind myself to enjoy each moment I have while in this life-changing environment.


Is it really cold living in a tent?

Living as a staff member in Antarctica was an adjustment to my days in sunny South Africa. At first, the thought of sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temperatures was a daunting prospect but the human body is a wonder. It’s amazing how one’s body just adapts, and after a few days I found myself walking about without a beanie or gloves.

The tents are also amazing at absorbing the day’s 24 hours of continuous sunshine, so when I enter inside there’s a fair bit of heat within.

Lying inside a tent in Antarctica.

The way to Antarctic ‘staff happiness’ is… Food!

Food is really fantastic on ice. Our chefs make sure the staff eat very well which keeps us energised and satisfied. Anything from perfectly cooked lamb shanks, lasagne, authentic Indian curries and Malva pudding (a South African classic) are on offer. You will not go hungry down here…

Hearty meals are served three times a day and snacks are always available – very important for someone like me who snacks throughout the day. On ice, it becomes very clear how the simple things in life are the most valued – good food, great company and the occasional warm shower* makes all the difference.

*showers are a precious commodity with water being a very scarce resource in Antarctica.


How to keep fit in the Polar regions

Just the simple act of walking across the ice in my Baffin boots is a good leg workout.

We do have access to Skidoos, Arctic Trucks and fat bikes to move about on, but I really enjoy walking around in the day for some gentle exercise, plus I get to take in my dramatic surroundings. Some of my colleagues enjoy taking a run down the runway when they get a chance or climbing some of the mountain ranges with our high mountain guides leading the way.

Hiking is truly on another level in this landscape, and the moment I was able to recognise just how vast and precious the Earth is. To stand in this untouched wilderness and connect with nature is a blessing that I will always cherish.

White Desert staff on a skidoo at Wolf's Fang Runway, Antarctica.


Why should people visit Antarctica if they get the chance?

I am really privileged to have set foot on such a breathtaking continent. The opportunity really makes me appreciate life even more so. If ever you get an opportunity to visit the continent, grab it with both hands. The stark beauty and isolation of this continent will change your perspective.