Port Lockroy: Five Fun Facts
Located off the Antarctic Peninsula’s coast, Port Lockroy is a natural harbor with two ship visits per day during summer, making it Antarctica’s single most visited site.
It was named after Étienne-Auguste-Édouard Lockroy, a politician who funded the expedition that led to the site's discovery in 1904. For cruise-ship passengers and adventurers, exploring Port Lockroy is an unforgettable experience. Here are five essential facts.
- Port Lockroy is part of the Palmer Archipelago.
The Palmer Archipelago is a group of islands stretching from Anvers Island in the south to Tower Island in the north. Adrien de Gerlache discovered the archipelago in 1898, and since then it has hosted research stations for both Argentina and the United Kingdom. Port Lockroy is situated on the northwestern shore of Wiencke Island, one of the islands of the archipelago.
- The British military base in Port Lockroy was turned into a museum.
The British military set up a base in Port Lockroy in 1944, which remained operational until 1962. In 1996, the base was renovated into a museum. Bransfield House is the main base building, constructed in 1944. Visitors can explore the building and read posters explaining the exhibits, which seek to replicate the original science base as it was in the 1950s.
- The site is run by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.
The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) is a British charity, with Princess Anne as its patron. One of its primary goals is to conserve certain British scientific bases on the Antarctic Peninsula to educate and, of course, entertain visitors. Under the Antarctic Treaty, the UKAHT operates Port Lockroy as a Historic Site and Monument.
- There’s a charming little post office and gift shop.
The “Penguin Post Office” is Antarctica’s most-visited tourist spot. The main currency used at the post office and gift shop is the US Dollar, although Pounds and Euros are accepted as well. Visitors can send letters and postcards through the red letter box at Bransfield House, but it may take weeks for them to arrive at their destinations. Each year, seasonal staff send roughly 70,000 postcards to more than 100 countries, and the revenue helps fund the UKAHT.
- There is an ongoing study of the gentoo penguin population.
There were no gentoo penguins in the area when the base was founded. The existing colony is believed to have popped up around 1985, establishing a bigger colony on Port Lockroy. The UKAHT has monitored the population’s breeding habits since 1996, including the effects of tourism; as part of the study, half of the island is off-limits to visitors. Despite this, you’re still likely to see some penguins while exploring Port Lockroy. If you’re lucky, you might even snap a picture of these endangered creatures.
It’s no wonder Port Lockroy is such a sought-after destination. With penguins, ice caps, snowy mountain ranges, and a cool museum, the town’s full of fun surprises.