Port Lockroy, Antarctica
Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on low-lying, rocky Goudier Island and forms part of the British Antarctic Territory on the Antarctic Peninsula. To reach the harbour, cruise ships must sail through the impressive cliffs of the Neumayer Channel.
Port Lockroy offers travellers breathtaking mountain scenery as well as an abundance of wildlife. The harbour is home to Gentoo penguins, Snowy sheathbills, Subantarctic skuas and Crabeater seals. Cruises to the region offer passengers a rare chance to get up close to these often-reclusive species.
The harbour was initially used for whaling activities but became of interest to British military operations during WWII. The base that was established there during the war has since been restored and renamed Bransfield House. Much of Port Lockroy’s fame is due to Bransfield House – it’s the only location in all of Antarctica to feature a museum, postal service (officially the southernmost post office in the world) and gift shop. An official Antarctic stamp is a popular souvenir for many tourists.
Port Lockroy is the main anchor point for Goudier Island, which itself forms part of the Palmer Archipelago. Only 3 ships (carrying 500 or fewer passengers) may land per day, with a maximum number of 60 visitors permitted on the island at any one time.
The west side of the island is the preferred disembarking point for passengers; however, alternate access is available on the north side of the island if the weather conditions on the west aren’t favourable.
The nearest permanently occupied station is Palmer Station, located on the south-west coast of Anvers Island, 30 kilometres away from Port Lockroy.
Port Lockroy is the only location that has a permanent shop where souvenirs and other small items can be purchased. A basic docking area and boat house is available, as are amenities and fresh water.
Other facilities include:
- A museum
- Post office
- Gift shop
How to Get Around
The tourist sites on Port Lockroy are all within walking distance from the docking area. Many cruises conduct small guided tours to allow passengers to familiarise themselves with the island. It is difficult to get lost in Port Lockroy – there are only two walking trails through the entire settlement.
- Currency – Port Lockroy is one of the only locations in Antarctica where you can purchase goods outside of your cruise ship. The currency exchanged here is predominantly the British Pound (£).
- Time Zone – Port Lockroy is three hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
- Weather – As is the case for most locations in Antarctica, the facilities of Port Lockroy are only accessible during the summer months due to the climate. Influenced by a polar-maritime air mass, the average annual temperature in Port Lockroy is approximately -3 degrees Celsius. However, temperatures can drop to -10 degrees Celsius in winter.
- Bransfield House – Once a British military base, the Bransfield House was converted into a museum for the port’s thousands of annual visitors. It contains a kitchen, radio room, bunk room, lounge and science room, all frozen in a 1950s time warp. They give a perfect historical example of the facilities available during that time period, and the type of research being conducted. The museum shop is also located here, with all proceeds going to the conservation of the port and other historic sites on the Antarctic Peninsula.
- Post Office – The Post Office is by far the most popular attraction in Port Lockroy. This mail service at the bottom of the world will deliver most mail to your intended destination within 2 – 6 weeks. In excess of 70,000 postcards are sent to more than 100 countries each year.
- Wildlife – Gentoo penguins are the most abundant fauna on the island, and are hugely popular with tourists. The penguins don’t feel threatened by humans, so visitors can easily walk among them. Other interesting wildlife at Port Lockroy includes seabirds and seals. A large Fin whale skeleton can also be seen; a relic from the island’s whaling days.
- Research Station – There is a research base at Port Lockroy that studies the local Gentoo penguin population, primarily seeking to understand the impact of human interaction on individuals and the group. The station had a broader mandate in the past; major achievements include the first measurement of the ionosphere (a region of earth’s upper atmosphere), the first recording of the atmospheric whistler (the audible chirps and squeaks created by the electromagnetic waves around Antarctica), and a significant contribution to the research conducted as part of International Geophysical Year in 1957.