The Penguin Post Office in Port Lockroy is a working post office, but how exactly does a post card make it from Antarctica to your destination of choice once dropped into the red Royal Mailbox? As a designated Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, Goudier Island is only allowed 60 visitors at one time, so visitors from cruise ships are broken into smaller groups before stepping into the Penguin Post Office.
Part museum, part gift shop, part post office, the abandoned British base Port Lockroy was renovated by the British Antarctic Survey in 1996 and has been open to visitors during the Antarctic summer ever since. With one or two ships coming past every day, about 18,000 people visit the Penguin Post Office between November and March, and most embrace the unusual postcard opportunity. Last summer, more than 70,000 postcards were sent to more than 100 countries. That’s up from 50,000 the year before.
After choosing your postcard and having Antarctic stamps stuck on them, you drop your postcard or letter into the red British letterbox on the wall, the postcards are removed and franked with their special British Antarctic Territory postmark. Then the journey begins. While many of the people who posted them will finish their Antarctic journey in Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Argentina, the postcards need to hitch a ride on ships that are heading to the Falkland Islands. From the Falklands they are either loaded on to an RAF military plane or a commercial cargo plane and flown to RAF Brize Norton in the UK. At this point, they enter the British postal system and start to make their way around the world. It may be a roundabout journey from Antarctica to your chosen destination, but the well travelled postcards usually take about 4 weeks to the U.K. and about 6 – 7 weeks for the rest of the penguin loving world.