Photo courtesy of United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. Used with their permission.
Around 70,000 cards are posted each year for over 100 countries. Mail usually takes 2-6 weeks to arrive. There is no express service available!—United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust
There are lots of online services that will sell you stamps postmarked from Antarctica, but it’s not the same as scribbling a loved one’s address and having it postmarked right there on the ice. Two to six weeks later, odds are good you’ll be safely back home, dreaming of icebergs. That’s probably before your post is delivered to friends and family who were lucky enough to make your “I’ll send you a postcard from Antarctica” list.
“My” ship, the Polar Star, makes a stop at Port Lockroy, the source of those 70,000 cards. According to the visitor’s guide, only 60 visitors at a time are allowed on Goudier Island. I’m planning to scribble as many postcards as possible during the time allowed. It’s about the stamps, of course, and the idea of a little scrap of cardboard with a picture on it (probably of penguins) making its own way to my in-laws in Austria, my father in the American Southwest, my friends in the Pacific Northwest….
About two ships a day visit the post office; around 15,000 tourists during the Austral summer, such as it is. The job requirements for working at Port Lockroy—which is the site of a museum and souvenir shop/very limited general store—include:
…. hardly a gig for the faint of heart. If you want to know more, the Port Lockroy crew posts a diary—you can read about day to day life at the tiny station where typical activities include counting penguin eggs, worrying if there’s enough oatmeal for the season, painting window trim, shoveling snow, baking bread, acting as ambassadors to visiting ships, and so much more.
The Port Lockroy post office takes second place in the contest for most southerly post office in the world, losing only to the station at the South Pole. It’s hardly a second best choice, though—a visit here will get you a passport stamp with a penguin on it! You can get the same stamp on your postcards, along with the coveted Antarctica postmark reading “British Antarctica Territory – Port Lockroy.”
Yes, you can use American dollars to pay for your post. The nice folks at the Heritage Trust told me it’s two dollars for a postcard, another dollar for a postcard stamp to anywhere in the world. And, if you remember, bring some small bills. I’m guessing the folks at Port Lockroy don’t get to the bank for change too terribly often and would appreciate not having to break a fifty.