Did you know there is a British Post Office in Antarctica?!
Be sure to tune into “The Penguin Post Office” on Thursday 24 July at 8pm on BBC2, for a fascinating and unique insight into how Gentoo penguins at Port Lockroy share their home with UK Antarctic Heritage Trust staff working in the Post Office during the summer months.
The remote Post Office sells British Antarctic Territory stamps. Income from the sale of stamps is re-invested in cultural and conservation projects.
We hope you tune in and would love to hear your thoughts on the programme via twitter at #penguinpostoffice
If you would like to purchase British Antarctic Territory stamps from the UK, our 2014 issues shall shortly be available on the Pobjoy website.
Previous releases are available to order here
We’ve put together some answers to questions you may have whilst watching the programme:
Q. Under whose authority does the Port Lockroy Post Office operate? Is it official?
A. Yes - it is an official Post Office of the British Antarctic Territory. Other Post Offices in the Territory operate from the British Antarctic Survey stations in the region. Mail sent using the Territory’s stamps enters the global mail system in the same way as in any other region.
Q. Is this the Royal Mail?
A. No. The stamps are produced by the British Antarctic Territory, a separate postal entity. All the Territory’s Post Offices are run either by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust or by the British Antarctic Survey.
Q. Why does the British Antarctic Territory need a Post Office?
A. The Territory is the most heavily visited part of Antarctica, with around 35,000 visitors each season, mainly on cruise ships. Being able to buy stamps and send postcards is an integral part of the experience. Scientists and support staff on British research stations also want to be able to send mail to family and friends.
Q. Does this undermine the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty?
A. No. Article IV of the Treaty, to which the UK is a signatory, puts all territorial claims into abeyance but does not deny them. The UK’s good governance arrangements – such as stamp and coin production – are fully compliant with the Treaty.
Q. How long does it take mail posted in Antarctica to arrive? Are the Post Offices open all year?
A. It depends. A couple of months is not unusual. The Post Office at Port Lockroy is usually open from November to March. The BAS-run Post Offices at Rothera and Halley are open all year, but mail is only collected or delivered during the summer months.
Q. How much does it cost to send a postcard from Antarctica?
A. Only 65p – fantastic value for a journey (to the UK) of around 9,000 miles.
Q. How does the mail leave Antarctica?
A. From British research stations it will be via British Antarctic Survey planes and ships and from Port Lockroy by the cruise ships which call regularly.
Q. Does this service cost the British taxpayer money?
A. No. The Territory’s postal service is entirely self-financing, in cooperation with non-governmental partners in the region. There is no cost to the British taxpayer.
Q. Do other nations sell stamps in Antarctica?
A. Yes. But given that the Port Lockroy Post Office is the most visited location in Antarctica, the majority of stamps sold are those from the British Antarctic Territory.
Q. Can the Territory’s stamps be bought in the UK?
A. Yes, but they are not valid for use on mail sent in the UK. Stamps can be bought from:
Harry Allen (CASCO) (for stamps released up to and including the 2013-14 season) and
Pobjoy Mint (for stamps released from 2014-15 onwards)
Q. Where does the money go?
A. A proportion of the income from the sale of stamps at Port Lockroy is donated to the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust to support ongoing historic conservation work. Other income from stamp and coin sales and income tax from over-wintering scientists goes towards supporting projects to ensure the environmental and historical protection and promotion of the region.
Q. Where can I learn more about Antarctica?
A. Find out more about this fascinating region and get access to free educational resources through the award-winning Discovering Antarctica website
Q. I want to go to Antarctica. Do I need to get permission?
A. If you are planning a British expedition, or plan to take a British vessel or aircraft to Antarctica, you may do. Visit https://www.gov.uk/visits-to-antarctica-how-to-apply-for-a-permit for full details and to find out more.
More details on the programme can be found on the UKAHT website.