Port Lockroy: Antarctica’s Fascinating Penguin Post Office

Penning letters from the edge of the world – Welcome to Port Lockroy, where the penguins play and mail flies out to the far corners of the globe – Photo: UKAHT

When most people think of the Antarctic, they think of frigid tundras, penguins, and not much else. Few people realize it’s also home to Port Lockroy, a natural harbor and the site of the world’s most remote post office.

Port Lockroy was initially discovered by Edward Dallman’s German expedition in 1873 and later by Adrien de Gerlache in 1898. However, it truly gained prominence after Jean-Baptiste Charcot’s French expeditions in 1904. The harbor was named in honor of the French politician Édouard Lockroy, a key supporter of the expeditions.

Since its discovery, Port Lockroy has had a fascinating history. It served as a secret military base for the British during World War II. After the war ended and through 1962, the area operated as a research station.

In 1996, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (or UKAHT), which preserves historic buildings and artifacts in Antarctica, began working to restore the base. In 1998, it became an official historic site and monument under the Antarctic Treaty.

Today, Port Lockroy is best known as the world’s most remote (and possibly most interesting) post office, affectionately known as the Penguin Post Office. It’s also home to a museum and welcomes many tourists during the Antarctic summer (from November to March when the average temperature is a balmy 33-36 degrees Fahrenheit).

Last year, four women — Clare Ballantyne, Lucy Bruzzone, Natalie Corbett, and Mairi Hilton — were chosen out of thousands of applicants to manage the post office. They work there during the summer, living in close quarters without a flushable toilet or running water, no internet, and minimal communication with the outside world.

Every year, the women running the Port Lockroy post office send approximately 80,000 cards to roughly 100 countries worldwide. They’re also tasked with counting penguins and other Antarctic wildlife for the British Antarctic Survey.

Those who want to learn more about the fascinating and frigid Port Lockroy can check out the following video filmed and published by UKAHT.