Guidance

Visiting Antarctica

This guide sets out who has to apply for a permit, how to apply and explains the other rules covering travel to Antarctica.

Requirements for visiting Antarctica

The Antarctic Treaty signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 preserves the Antarctic continent for peaceful and scientific use.

The Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection, signed in 1991, is the only international agreement designed to protect an entire continent. It ensures that all human activity in Antarctica is carefully planned and managed. It enables a range of human activity to take place in Antarctica including scientific research, well-managed, environmentally sensitive tourism, and exploration. Crucially, the Protocol prohibits commercial mining and protects vulnerable areas, animals and plants.

The Antarctic Treaty does not prevent tourists, military personnel or scientific researchers from being present in Antarctica - but they do require an appropriate permit from a Treaty Party.

Permit criteria

Anyone on a British expedition to Antarctica or taking a British vessel or aircraft into Antarctica will need to apply for a permit from the Polar Regions Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

A British expedition is one organised in the UK, or one where the last place of departure for Antarctica is the UK, a British overseas territory, or a Crown Dependency. ‘Expedition’ consists of a single person or group, undertaking a tour or journey of any purpose, including activities such as landing ashore, skiing, kayaking, small boat activities, climbing, diving or any related activity.

You do not need a permit for:

  • ships or aircraft travelling to an immediate destination outside Antarctica
  • fishing vessels, unless they are carrying out functions related to an expedition
  • expeditions organised in and authorised in writing by another contracting party (country) to the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty

It is also unlikely that you will need a permit if you are a passenger on an organised visit to Antarctica, as your tour operator would usually arrange this. However you should confirm this with them before travelling. Contact the Polar Regions Department if you are still unsure.

Applying for a permit

You should submit applications for permits as far in advance as possible. This should be at least 4 months for a new or unusual application, or at least 2 months before the date of your departure if you have previously obtained a permit for summer activities.

Organisers must demonstrate that they are sufficiently prepared for a visit to Antarctica. You should discuss your plans informally with the Polar Regions Department before you begin completing the permit application. This is especially important if your expedition involves specialist activities such as extreme sports, extended trips or multiple transport options.

Application forms and guidance

For a land or vessel based expedition you can download the permit application form and guidance below. For further information please contact the Polar Regions Department. Before completing either application form,

Expedition Permit Application Form (MS Word Document, 77.3KB)

Expedition Permit Application Guidance Notes (PDF, 950KB, 16 pages)

If you plan to undertake more specialist activities in Antarctic (such as wildlife monitoring or scientific research) it is likely you will need a separate permit. For further information please contact the Polar Regions Department.

Specialist Permit Application Form (MS Word Document, 65.3KB)

Specialist Permit Application Guidance Notes (PDF, 970KB, 12 pages)

Historic Site and Monument Application Form (MS Word Document, 59.7KB)

Once the expedition is complete, you will need to complete a Post Visit Report. Permit holders who are members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) need only to provide the Polar Regions Department of the Post Visit Report prepared by IAATO.

Post Visit Report: Expedition, Vessel and/or Aircraft (MS Word Document, 59.1KB)

Post Visit Report: Specialist Activities (MS Word Document, 56.2KB)

How to contact the Polar Regions Department

Telephone: 020 7008 1500

Email: polarregions@fco.gov.uk

Address:

Polar Regions Department
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Room W2.80
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Publishing application details

Applicants should be aware that within 10 days from the Polar Regions Department confirming receipt of any permit applications, the FCO will openly publish information relating to these applications on this website. This will include application type, applicant name, duration of visit, proposed itinerary and the contact details of the applicant.

Please also see our privacy notice

UK Antarctic enforcement policy and procedures

The FCO is responsible for ensuring that the UK’s Antarctic legislation is fully complied with. See our UK Antarctic Enforcement Policy and Procedures page for further details.

Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations (CEEs) received for activity in Antarctica

Name Company Purpose and location Date received and CEE
BAS Environment Office information@bas.ac.uk British Antarctic Survey Replacement of Rothera Wharf and stabilisation of the area around the runway at Rothera Station January 2018 - available at www.bas.ac.uk

Initial Environmental Evaluations (IEEs) received for activity in Antarctica 2018 to 2019

Name Company Purpose and location Date received and IEE
BAS Environment Office information@bas.ac.uk British Antarctic Survey Proposed Deep Ice Core Drilling Project on Skytrain Ice Rise, Antarctica September 2018 - available at www.bas.ac.uk
Oliver Plunkett Oliver.plunkett@macswitzerland.ch Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 Research the Larsen C ice shelf and attempt to locate the wreck of Endurance, Weddell Sea September 2018 - available at www.weddellseaexpedition.org

Applications received for expeditions from the 2018 to 2019 season

Permit applicant Vessel/Aircraft name Purpose and date of visit Brief itinerary
Oliver Plunkett Oliver.plunkett@macswitzerland.ch SA Agulhas II Weddell Sea Expedition 2019: 28 December 2018 to 28 February 2019 Weddell Sea area including Larsen C Ice Shelf
Robert Dougall McCallum rob@eyos-expeditions.com DSSV Pressure Drop Scientific research 1 January 2019 to 30 January 2019 Lander deployment, South Sandwich Trench
Skip Novak skipnovak@pelagic.co.uk Pelagic Australis Tourism 1 December 2018 to 10 April 2019 South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula
Dr Dorothea Bakker d.bakker@uea.ac.uk Polarstern Scientific research 15 December 2018 to 7 February 2019 Weddell Sea
Dr Ursula Witte u.witte@abnd.ac.uk Polarstern Scientific research 9 January 2019 to 10 April 2019 Weddell Sea area including Larsen C, Larsen B & A
Julian Cope jcope@tglobal.com DS Wisconsin Transport construction materials 1 December 2018 to 7 January 2019 Rothera Wharf
Dr Tom Hart tom.hart@zoo.ox.ac.uk MV Ocean Endeavour Scientific Research 16 October 2018 to 26 January 2019 Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands
Robert Dougall McCallum rob@eyos-expeditions.com Rosehearty Tourism 14 December 2018 to 2 February 2019 Northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula
Jerome Ponchet Golden.fleece@horizon.co.fk Golden Fleece Tourism 13 December 2018 to 16 February 2019 Antarctic Peninsula
Peter Watson peter.lb.watson@gmail.com Grey Wolf Tourism 16 November 2018 to 24 February 2019 Antarctic Peninsula
Patrick Woodhead patrick@white-desert.com   Tourism 25 October 2018 to 28 February 2019 Dronning Maud Land
Robert Dougall McCallum rob@eyos-expeditions.com Legend Tourism 18 December 2018 to 5 March 2019 Northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula
Emil Grimsson emil@arctictrucks.is   Logistics and Tourism 12 November 2018 to 26 January 2019 Union Glacier, Ross Ice Shelf, Ronne Ice Shelf, South Pole, Leverett Glacier, Constellation Inlet, Amundsen Coast, Axel Heiberg Glacier
Tim Cochrane timc@noble-caledonia.co.uk Island Sky Tourism 23 November 2018 to 24 January 2019 Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands
Robert Dougall McCallum rob@eyos-expeditions.com Gayle Force Tourism 16 January 2019 to 2 February 2019 Northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula
Dame Jane Francis janefr@bas.ac.uk   Extraction and use of material in Rothera Wharf redevelopment 14 October 2018 to 31 May 2020 Rothera Point, Antarctic Peninsula
Katherine Short Katort80@bas.ac.uk Game Changer, Legend, Planet Nine Scientific research 30 November 2018 to 28 February 2019 Antarctic Peninsula
Orla Doherty Orla.Doherty@bbc.co.uk RV Investigator Filming 19 January 2019 to 5 March 2019 Dumont d’Urville Sea to the western sector of the Ross Sea
Professor Anthony Edward Hill ehill@noc.ac.uk Discovery Scientific research 6 January 2019 to 4 February 2019 Oceanic and shelf waters around South Sandwich Islands
Henry Cookson and Darrel Day henry@cooksonadventures.com and darrel@spiritofsydney.co Game Changer Science and media 30 November 2018 to 10 December 2018 South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula
Henry Cookson and Darrel Day henry@cooksonadventures.com and darrel@spiritofsydney.co Planet Nine and Game Changer Tourism 18 December 2018 to 4 January 2019 South Shetland Islands and West side of Antarctic Peninsula
Henry Cookson and Darrel Day henry@cooksonadventures.com and darrel@spiritofsydney.co Legend and Planet Nine Tourism 24 January 2019 to 9 February 2019 South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula
Peter C Rossin Jr Prossin2@gmail.com Iron Lady Tourism 8 January 2019 to 5 February 2019 Antarctic Peninsula
Simon Morley smor@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 October 2018 to 30 September 2019 Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula
Katrin Linse kl@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 November 2018 to 31 March 2019 Signy, South Orkney Islands
James Scourse J.Scourse@exeter.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 November 2018 to 31 December 2018 Marian Cove, Borgen Bay, Sheldon Glacier, Moraider Glacier (Antarctic Peninsula)
Huw Griffiths hjg@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 February 2019 to 30 April 2019 Larsen A, B, C ice shelf, Antarctic Peninsula
Kevin Newsham kne@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 January 2019 to 28 February 2019 Signy and Rothera
Sophie Fielding sof@bas.ac.uk RRS Discovery Scientific research 1 January 2019 to 28 February 2019 Oceanic and shelf waters around South Sandwich Islands
Mike Dunn mdunn@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 October 2018 to 31 March 2019 Signy, South Orkney Islands
Phil Trathan pnt@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 15 December 2018 to 10 February 2019 Signy, South Orkney Islands
Kevin Hughes kehu@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 November 2018 to 30 April 2019 Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula
Kevin Hughes kehu@bas.ac.uk and Richard Phillips raphil@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 November 2018 to 30 April 2019 Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula
Geoffrey Evatt Geoffrey.Evatt@manchester.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 December 2018 to 28 February 2019 Whichaway Nunatuks
Geoffrey Evatt Geoffrey.Evatt@manchester.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 January 2019 to 31 January 2019 Sky Blu
Andy Binney aebi@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Rothera Treatment works 1 January 2019 to 30 April 2019 Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula
Alison Massey ajmas@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 December 2018 to 31 March 2019 Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula
James Williams WilliamsJA8@cardiff.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 December 2018 to 31 December 2018 Marion Cove, Borgen Bay, Sheldon Glacier
David Vaughan dgv@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 November 2018 to 28 February 2019 Brunt Ice Shelf
Andy Smith amsm@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 October 2018 to 28 February 2019 Rutford Ice Shelf
Rob Mulvaney rmu@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 1 November 2018 to 28 February 2019 Skytrain Ice Rise
Alex Burton-Johnson alerto@bas.ac.uk via BAS vessel/aircraft Scientific research 15 January 2019 to 30 March 2019 King George Island, Davis Coast
Dr Kate Winter k.winter@northumbria.ac.uk   Scientific research 18 December 2018 to 28 February 2019 Princess Elisabeth Research Station, Sor Rondane Mountains, East Antarctica
Dr Michelle Jackson m.jackson@ic.ac.uk RS Hesperides Scientific research 17 January 2019 to 17 February 2019 Deception Island
Robert Dougall McCallum rob@eyos-expeditions.com Planet Nine Tourism 13 January 2018 to 29 January 2019 and 7 February 2019 to 1 March 2019 Northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula
Published 16 May 2013
Last updated 8 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Further permit applications
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  5. Addition of IEE information
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  12. New information added to table.
  13. Update to 2018/19 permit application received
  14. Additional permit applications received.
  15. Additional text explaining the requirements for visiting Antarctica, updated forms and guidance and revised Post Visit Reports.
  16. Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation Added
  17. Additional permit application
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  25. Updated permit applications for season 2017-18
  26. Initial Environmental Evaluation added and permit applications updated
  27. Added new applications for expeditions in the 2017 to 2018 season
  28. page updated.
  29. updated applications received for 2016 to 2017 expedition season
  30. Revised formatting of permit applications
  31. Additional Application form and Guidance
  32. First published.