Our History

The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) was established in 1993 as a registered British charity. Initially working to support the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZAHT) in raising funds for the conservation of heroic-era huts in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica, in 1993 UKAHT was born through the vision and energy of founding Chairman John Hamilton, who was inspired by the need to recognise and conserve Britain’s long and distinguished history of exploration and scientific research. In 1993 John Heap took the helm, and with Peter Hetherington and Pat McLaren paved the way for UKAHT to take a more active role in Antarctic affairs.

From 1994: Historic Sites in Antarctica

In 1994 the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UKAHT, carried out a conservation survey of several abandoned British bases on the Antarctic Peninsula. As a result, four bases – Port Lockroy, Argentine Islands (Wordie House), Horseshoe Island and Stonington Island – were designated as Historic Sites and Monuments (HSMs) under the Antarctic Treaty (respectively Nos. 61, 62, 63, 64). With funding from the FCO, in 1996 BAS restored Port Lockroy to its 1962 condition (when it closed). Since then it has operated during the summer months as a living museum and Post Office, run by BAS until UKAHT took over its management in 2006.

2000 Onwards: Rapid Expansion

In 2000 Rachel Morgan became the Director of UKAHT, and in 2006 Philippa Foster Back OBE took over as Chairman. Together they steered UKAHT through its rapid expansion on the Peninsula, the £6m Ross Sea Huts campaign, a comprehensive media engagement programme and a landmark commemorative service at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the Centenary of Captain Scott’s expedition in 2012. In 2003, the old British base and aircraft hangar at Deception Island was also declared a Historic Site along with the remains of the Norwegian Hector whaling station (HSM no. 71), and in 2009 Detaille Base W and Damoy Hut were also designated as HSMs (nos. 83 and 84 respectively). In January 2007, the Trust's Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, visited Port Lockroy as part of an official visit to the Antarctic. 

Restoration and Maintenance

Since taking over the management of these HSMs on the Antarctic Peninsula, UKAHT has embarked on a comprehensive restoration and maintenance programme of the buildings and artefacts. As well as the annual maintenance work carried out at Port Lockroy, work has taken place at Damoy annually since 2009, at Wordie House during 2009-14 seasons, and at Detaille during 2010-13 seasons. During this last season at Detaille, the postal system was temporarily reinstated for the first time in 53 years. At Port Lockroy, purpose built staff accommodation was constructed during the 2010/11 season. This award-winning project saw the rebuilding of the original Nissen Hut, providing suitable accommodation for the annual Port Lockroy staff and allowing the bunkroom, to be opened as part of the living museum.

2013: Our 20th Anniversary

In 2013 UKAHT marked its 20th anniversary, celebrating its work and achievements over the last two decades in its 20th Anniversary ReviewMore recent years saw Donald Lamont become Chairman of UKAHT in 2013 and Camilla Nichol take over as Chief Executive in 2014 when Rachel Morgan stepped down as Director. UKAHT celebrated the 70th anniversary of Operation Tabarin in 2014, the wartime mission that established Port Lockroy in 1944, with a reception and exhibition at the House of Commons, and the popularly acclaimed documentary ‘Penguin Post Office’, a BBC Natural World and Thirteen’s Nature production based at Port Lockroy, was aired for the first time in this year. 

UKAHT Continues to Grow

UKAHT has seen a huge growth in visitor numbers, with more than 18,000 visitors to the site each year as well as the implementation of a comprehensive works programme at several HSMs on the Peninsula. In addition, grants have been given to support the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Programme and British Antarctic Oral History Project, as well as more recently to assist with the Falkland Islands Museum relocation, to the South Georgia Museum and to fund a conservator post at the Scott Polar Research Institute for several years. Friends of Antarctica membership numbers as well as online engagement continue to grow, and in 2012 UKAHT was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s ‘Geographical Award’ for its ‘outstanding work to further learning through historical Antarctic expeditions’.

2015 and beyond

In 2015 celebrations to mark the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ expedition were well underway, and UKAHT was proud to be the headline sponsor of the successful Enduring Eye exhibition held at the Royal Geographical Society from November 2015, as well as taking a lead in planning the service of commemoration that took place at Westminster Abbey in May 2016. UKAHT took over the management of the HSMs at Horseshoe and Stonington in 2015 and carried out conservation work at Horseshoe during the 2016/17 season and at Stonington in 2017/18. 

Antarctic History Timeline

Explore how the human story in Antarctica has evolved over time and the many events that fill it's rich history.

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Press Enquiries

We love to talk about the important heritage work that we do, telling the story of life in Antarctica both past and present. If you are interested in running a story about us, would like to arrange an interview, use our images or films, or want to discuss an opportunity to collaborate then get in touch.

For all press enquiries, please contact ukaht@89up.org or +44 (0) 203 411 28 89. For urgent press enquires out of office hours, please call +44 (0) 203 2 89 89 01.