Structural engineer Gemma Clark explains why her winter is going to be even chillier than ours …

The Halley V station is built on legs penetrating the ice

The Halley V station is built on legs penetrating the ice

So, where are you spending Christmas?

Antarctica, actually. I arrive on Christmas Eve, and am spending about two months there.

Why Antarctica?

I'll be managing a team of five steel erectors and welders working on the British Antarctic Survey station Halley V. I'm designing and supervising the jacking of the station. This has to be done every year, as the legs that the station is built on sink quite a long way into the ice. We've got eight weeks to do that, depending on the weather.

There will be 24-hour daylight and freezing temperatures. What made you want to do that?

It's the chance of a lifetime. Also, I've been working on the Halley VI project at Faber Maunsell for the past year - literally since my first day there - which will eventually replace Halley V. We're building test models next March, so I might pick up a few ideas while I'm there. Halley VI is going to be a ski-based structure so it won't need jacking in the same way, but many of the environmental problems will be the same.

So, when do you set off?

I fly to Uruguay on Monday [this week, 28 November] then set sail on the RRS Ernest Shackleton and reach the base via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands. It takes about four weeks to get there.

How are you going to pass the time on the journey?

I'll spend a lot of the time working - I'll be undertaking structural surveys on other BAS bases on the route.

Do you have any qualms about managing a totally male workforce?

No. I've met everyone I'm going down with, and they're a really nice bunch. Obviously I'm quite young, but I've also had experience working as an assistant site manager at Tesco in Epping, Essex. It was still steelwork, just a bit warmer.

And what are your plans longer term?

I definitely want to stay at Faber Maunsell and carry on working on projects such as this. At school I always thought I wanted to be an architect - and architecture was a more popular course at university - but if I had gone down that route, would I now have opportunities like this?

Gemma Clark

Age 24
Employment history Has worked as a structural engineer on the Halley VI polar research station for Faber Maunsell since leaving university
Qualifications BEng in civil engineering from Bath University
Lives St Albans
Hobbies Playing squash and trampolining ("There aren't many of us around...")