Delivering Christmas to Antarctica - the last posting date is 26 October 2018

Delivering Christmas to Antarctica - the last posting date is 26 October 2018

Key points

  • Around 200 British Antarctic Survey (BAS) researchers and support staff work on the frozen continent in the Antarctic summer
  • Christmas cards and parcels for these researchers need to be on their way by 26 October 2018 to arrive in time for Christmas Day
  • Mail travels by plane to the Falklands, some 8,000 miles away. From there, it is loaded onto one of two BAS ships, or a Royal Navy ice patrol vessel that serves the five British Antarctic research stations.
  • The British Antarctic Territory is the oldest territorial claim to a part of the continent. A regular postal service has served this area since the 1950s

In the run-up to Christmas, Royal Mail delivers festive cheer to customers across the globe but some of the remotest recipients are the polar researchers and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who work in the Antarctic. 

They spend Christmas on the other side of the world, far from their family and friends in the UK.  The Christmas cards and presents* delivered by Royal Mail from their loved ones are a heart-warming link to home over the festive season.

Like Royal Mail, they need to start thinking about Christmas well before December!

To enable cards and gifts to reach the Antarctic in time for Christmas 2018, items will start their long journey south from 26 October 2018. 


James Miller, HR Manager at the British Antarctic Survey said: “In an age of telecommunications where, even in the Antarctic, emails and phone calls are very much part of daily life, there’s very little that creates as much excitement as the arrival of mail. In today’s digital age, the personal touch of a handwritten letter or card still counts for so much more, especially during the festive season. Spirits are always raised when the post bag arrives at our research stations.”



The journey to the Antarctic

To cover the 9,000 mile journey from Cambridge to the BAS’s five research stations, mail initially travels by plane to the Falkland Islands, where it is loaded onto one of two BAS ships or occasionally a Royal Navy ice patrol vessel.  This vessel takes up to two weeks to complete this stage of the journey to arrive in time for Christmas.  

The British Antarctic Territory is the oldest territorial claim to a part of the continent. A regular postal service has served this area since the 1950s. In total, around 200 people from the UK are based on the frozen continent during the peak summer months. They are largely based at two main Antarctic research stations, Halley and Rothera, carrying out research into glaciology, climate change, geology, marine biology and oceanography.  They are supported by field workers, engineers, mechanics and other professions who keep the stations running.

Christmas celebrations in the Antarctic take place in almost continual 24-hour daylight as it is summertime in the Southern Hemisphere. At the largest research station, Rothera, there is a tradition of gathering on Christmas Eve for a sing-song and a quiz. Some people do have to work on Christmas Day but most people will enjoy a lie-in before getting up and calling home or opening cards and presents. There is often a Christmas-themed movie showing in the TV room at lunchtime. The main event is at 4.00 pm, when everyone sits down to a four-course meal. People then retire to the bar or TV room or wrap up and head outside for a walk.

Mail from the researchers and support staff, including any thank you letters, begin their journey back to the UK from the Post Office branch, located at the Rothera research station. There is also a Post Office at Port Lockroy in Antarctica. It was first established in 1944 and is run by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.  It has four staff during the summer months (November to March), and they handle mail from the tourists who visit the continent each year.


Royal Mail’s preparations for Christmas

Royal Mail delivers to over 230 countries and territories worldwide. We have been planning our Christmas operations since April as it is the busiest time of year for the business.  Some Christmas mail has already started its journey to other parts of the globe, with international economy (surface) mail now en route to many destinations.

Andy Pickering Royal Mail’s Head of Network, said; “In the modern world, it is easy to forget that mail can still take several weeks to reach some remote destinations, such as the Antarctic. As we don’t want anyone to be disappointed if they are waiting for Christmas mail, we urge all our customers to post early as Royal Mail builds up to its busiest time of year. The last recommended posting dates for overseas destinations around the globe by air are typically in early December and will be announced at a later date.”


- Ends -

Note to Editors


For mail posted within the UK, the latest recommended posting dates for Christmas 2018 are:

  • December 18 for Second Class mail
  • December 20 for First Class Mail
  • December 22 for Special Delivery

The British Antarctic Territory is the oldest territorial claim to a part of the continent. It includes all the lands and islands in a wedge extending from the South Pole to 60° S latitude between longitudes 20° W and 80° W. It is administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an Overseas Dependent Territory.

There is no indigenous population, but the British Antarctic Survey has five research stations and two ice-strengthened, red and white ships there. The Royal Navy also maintains an ice patrol vessel in the area during the austral summer. The Territory has its own legal system and legal and postal administrations.



Sally Hopkins, Royal Mail press office
Tel: 020 7449 8246
Mob: 07801 094345


British Antarctic Survey press office
Athena Dinar, Senior Communications Manager 
Tel: 01223 221441
Mob: 07909 008516

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