First off I highly recommend that you watch this documentary about the Penguin Post Office, brought to you by PBS.
As a way to create a claim to Antarctica, the Brits created a Post Office!
The Post Office is located at Port Lockroy, a small island about the size of a football pitch with two dwellings on it and a lot of penguins. One houses the current workers and another was the previous dwelling which is not a tourist attraction and houses the shop, post office, and museum. I, of course, did make a couple of purchases at the store, purchasing a wool Antarctica hat and a puzzle because it just seemed like such a unique gift that I couldn’t resist. They take credit cards and actually prefer it as currency can’t be changed out for a long while. Funny enough the credit cards come out showing a Tennessee address.
This base is home to 4 people for about 4 months a year as part of the British Antarctic Trust. The base originally opened in the 1940s before closing in the 1960s. It was reopened and renovations began in the 1990s to restore it to its former glory. At this time the workers stayed in the historic building which is now the museum.
Each (Southern Hemisphere) summer, 60k-80k postcards will be brought back to England and sent around the world. This post office is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Antarctica and I had the distinct pleasure of visiting it.
We started off watching the documentary on the boat. If you do watch it there’s really no need to continue as I am just stating some of the facts that I appreciated.
The building showed the bunk space where the workers would stay as well as the small living spaces. These included the kitchen, a bar, and the bathroom. There was also a storage area and a radio room.
The documentary discusses a lot about life as a penguin as well, including the harsh realities, showing a penguin chick who wandered into the wrong neighborhood and basically got stabbed to death by the other territorial penguins. The saddest part was seeing its sibling come and lie down on it, mourning its death. A skua also got a chick and ate it… But it’s all a fact of life.
The best part of the video was when we saw how the penguins teach their chicks to “run.” They make them chase them to get food, thus building up stamina and leaning more about their bodies. They dive into the water as well to show them how to do it and get them to give it a go.
The whole island is an experiment with half of it allowing human interaction with penguins and the other half being shut off from humans. What they’ve discovered thus far is that humans have no effect on the penguins.
We were excited to spot our first penguin eggs and chicks while on the island. One had to be patient in order to see them when the parent readjusted but we had some spectacular sightings.
When they started to do some of the restoration of the older building, they discovered that a previous person had painted some actresses in the nude on the walls. These are now available for visitors to see.