The Penguin Post Office – Bransfield House (Base ‘A’) is a little bit of Britain in the heart of Antarctica. Inside the British Base ‘A’, run by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT), the Post Office has everything you’d expect: a postbox, stamps, postcards and four dedicated UKAHT staff. Outside, things are a little bit different, neighbouring the Post Office are 2,000 gentoo penguins. They’re here for one reason, to raise a family, but their lives are far from picture postcard - adultery and robbery are rife, as the BBC program makes clear
In October 2013 BBC Natural World with the help of the UKAHT set out to film at Port Lockroy. The program they made, narrated by Juliet Stevenson and filmed and produced by Andrew Graham-Brown, follows the lives of the UKAHT staff and a colony of gentoo penguins as they survive around Bransfield House, a British Antarctic Territory Post Office in the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Every summer the gentoo penguins return to the location of the world’s most southerly public Post Office, and it is here the viewers find out that as the penguins nest, they share their home with four newly recruited UKAHT staff, who run the Post Office for visiting tourists, proudly flying the Union flag and cleaning up the penguin mess around the base, we soon learn that there is more to these adorable little penguins than comical waddling. We also take a look around the Post Office and learn about its history in the 1940’s and 50’s. We meet this year’s Base Leader, Helen Annan, and Post Mistresses, Kristy Leissle and Jane Cooper, who were living alongside the penguins for the austral summer. They, and some of the visitors to the island, share their thoughts direct to camera on these special animals and what they are writing on their postcards home.
As Helen Annan Base Leader said “it’s a dream job and like the penguins I would like to come back here ever year”.
THE UKAHT POST OFFICE WORKERS
Base Leader - Helen Annan
Helen was Base-Leader at Port Lockroy in the 2013/14 season. She travelled down ahead of the other Post Office workers, with the Penguin Post Office film crew to get everything set up and organised. Helen spent a season working at Port Lockroy in 2007/8 and loved it so much she returned again! Helen is from the UK and, until last year, worked in the youth hostel industry. She is currently living in Perthshire.
Sarah originates from France, has spent a few years living and teaching in Japan and regularly works the summer season in Tromsø, Norway, as a tour guide. This was her first season in the Antarctic, but she is already set to return next year to do another season as Base Leader in Port Lockroy.
Jane is from Stroud, UK. She trained and worked as a lawyer before deciding to change career. Prior to the 2013/14 season at Port Lockroy, she worked for Mencap as a trainer. Her hobbies include climbing and travelling. This was her first time to the Antarctic.
Kristy is from New York, USA, but currently lives in Seattle, where she works as a Professor at the University of Washington. She travelled to the Antarctic as a passenger on a cruise ship and actually visited Port Lockroy in a previous season, deciding then that she wanted to work there. She is also known as the Doctor of Chocolate, having completed a PhD about the cocoa industry in Ghana and the global trade of cocoa and chocolate.