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.”
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