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UK Antarctic Heritage Trust celebrates 80th birthday of Port Lockroy

Tuesday, February 13th 2024 - 10:34 UTC
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From secret mission to penguin post office, Base A, Port Lockroy is an ever-evolving story. From secret mission to penguin post office, Base A, Port Lockroy is an ever-evolving story.

The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is recalling that on 11 February, the flagship site Port Lockroy celebrated its 80th birthday, and that over the coming weeks the Trust has further celebration plans. Particularly on Wednesday 21 February 2024 to enjoy the story of Operation Tabarin: From Secret Mission to Penguin Post Office, the first in the third season of online talks, “Antarctica In Sight: Live!”

Meantime the UKAHT team has been working tirelessly at Base A, Port Lockroy, repairing the roof and making it structurally sound for the future after last year’s record snowfall caused unprecedented damage. Skilled heritage carpenters use traditional materials and techniques to repair and preserve the buildings’ authenticity. While they’ve had some help from the rest of the team on Goudier Island it’s thanks to citizens support that work can continue.Every adoption, membership and donation we receive means our expert teams can deliver vital conservation work at Port Lockroy and across the heritage sites that we preserve. Sites such as Base A, Port Lockroy, would quickly deteriorate without your support.

UKAHT's CEO Camilla Nichol will be joined by Professor Klaus Dodds who has written extensively on the geopolitics and governance of the polar regions as well as the cultural politics of ice. The Trust will also welcome Ieuan Hopkins who manages the Archives Service at BAS. He will shine a light on the first permanent British scientific presence in Antarctica using original base and field reports and photographs.

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been involved since we were entrusted with the care of Base A and other heritage sites. To all our collaborators, partners and friends within the polar and scientific communities here in the UK and in Antarctica, your continued support for our work is greatly appreciated. We look forward to many more years working closely together to ensure the preservation of Base A, Port Lockroy alongside our other special heritage sites on the Antarctic Peninsula.

80 years of our ever evolving story

The location of our beloved penguin post office has been a safe anchorage since it was first named in 1903. For this reason, in 1944 it was selected as Base A – the first continuously occupied British base in Antarctica – as part of the secret wartime mission, Operation Tabarin. Over the ensuing years, Base A, Port Lockroy witnessed the birth of British Antarctic science while it operated as an atmospheric research base until 1962.

Abandoned for three decades, Base A was restored in 1996 with support from UKAHT, after which in 2006 we took over full management of the site. Since then, we’ve been welcoming visitors to the museum and the world’s southernmost public post office, while capturing important data on our resident gentoo colony.

From secret mission to penguin post office, Base A, Port Lockroy is an ever-evolving story. We can’t wait to hear what the next 80 years have to say.

Do you have a question for the Port Lockroy team? They may be nearing the end of their season at the world’s southernmost post office but between stamping the final few postcards and packing up their holdalls, they have time to answer some of your questions. Please visit our social channels to leave a question and they will share their answers over video as soon as they can.

Last Friday, BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt were joined by UKAHT CEO Camilla Nichol as well as Port Lockroy team members, past and present. They covered the region’s unique history from whaling station to penguin post office, life on the base and the importance of preserving our heritage for future generations. Last season’s shop manager Natalie Corbett and this year’s team also spoke to journalist Charlotte Andrews for a separate piece appearing on the BBC website.

There are some other press moments lined up in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled for more stories.

To celebrate Base A’s birthday we’ve dug out this BBC Radio 4 program about Operation Tabarin, first recorded on 5 January 2005. In the show, Klaus Dodds tells the story of the 1944 secret British mission to take possession of a part of Antarctica and examines the possibility that it may have been an intelligence operation linked to the Enigma Code. The recording is used with permission from BBC Archive.

Is all this talk of birthdays making you feel a little nostalgic? This selection of photography from 80 years of the penguin post office provides a peaceful backdrop to a lazy Sunday afternoon and is bound to bring back some memories.


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