Icy landscape, freezing cold sea and snowy islands surrounded by towering mountains, this is our white continent Antarctica. An amalgam of unparalleled beauty and extreme isolation. A continent fit for scientific discoveries but unfit for habitation. No human settlement, just research base to talk about. And penguins, of course everywhere, as Antarctica is the land of penguins.
In such a scenario, when I heard of post office in Antarctica, I sprang with surprise. During evening recap session when expedition leader talked about post office in Port Lockroy, run by United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, that was hard to believe. More so when I knew that post office is operational. Truly a fascinating feel.
While visiting Port Lockroy on Gaudier Island, I got the opportunity to walk into the unique post office which is located in Bransfield House. So excited to witness the farthest post office on earth. Appropriately named Penguin Post Office, this was a rare sight, one and only of its kind. And I was quick to seal it in my camera. Though I did not post a card but I was more delighted when I captured sentiments of my fellow traveler dropping card in post box.
Penguin Post Office in Antarctica holds great emotional value than a practical purpose to serve. This is operational in Antarctic summer when visitors from all over the world come to Port Lockroy. On an average 70,000 postcards by an estimated 18,000 visitors are posted each year. Mail takes around six weeks to arrive at the destination.
Post office at Port Lockroy is more of a symbolic gesture run by British trust to keep the spirit of Antarctica alive. A significant proportion of the post office revenue is donated for trust’s Antarctic activities. Along with post office there is a souvenir shop also, and very popular too, as this is the only place where travelers to Antarctica can indulge in some purchasing. Items were moderately priced. I purchased few magnets to cherish the memories of Antarctica.
I admired the courage of people working for the post office, braving severe climate and frightening silence of Antarctica.
Port Lockroy is a site that reflects British military might. Advance scientific researches. And also reflects dedication to conservation. A brainy site in Antarctica, as I see it. Lot much happened here, in past. And lot much, still, is happening here.
Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on the north western side of Wiencke Island. Port Lockroy was established during World War 2nd as British military base in Antarctica. Bransfield House on Port Lockroy was the permanent structure of British government in Antarctic Peninsula. Later, Bransfield House was used for British scientific researches which continued till year 1962.
British Station A, on Port Lockroy is the historic site No. 61, under the Antarctic Treaty. Following the conservation survey of Antarctica in the year 1994, this honour was awarded to British Station A, after considering its historic importance.
I was very excited while visiting Port Lockroy as previous day during recap session, expedition leader talked in detail about British base. He also talked about Gentoo penguins behaving in exceptionally friendly manner at Port Lockroy.
Landing area at Port Lockroy was not very safe so everyone had to wear safety vest while moving around on island. As I neared Bransfield House, the British Station A building, I noticed penguins roam free everywhere, unlike other islands where they stick to their trail. Most surprising was the scene when I saw penguin standing in museum building entrance, not bothered by the visitor entering in museum. Though Port Lockroy is a breeding area for Gentoo penguins but I spotted Chinstrap penguins, also.
In the year 1996, British Station A, on Port Lockroy was restored as a living museum which is operated by United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). Port Lockroy is perhaps the most significant historic site in Antarctica. And most popular, too, amongst visiting travelers.
Visiting museum was a very learning experience for me. Every room and each equipment used are placed as used to be when base was in use. Original pictures adorn walls. Even the clothing used by staff is hanging in bunk room. Minutest detail has been taken care of.
For visitors, Port Lockroy is a destination to get more info on continent Antarctica. In accordance with the Antarctic Treaty, UKAHT monitors environmental impacts of visitors and ships in the continent. And acts as a regulator to safeguard the ecology of Antarctica.
MY ANTARCTICA ODYSSEY continues ….