Two crew members from a polar research ship will become the first same-sex couple to marry in the British Antarctic Territory.
Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter hope to get married on Monday, although it may be delayed due to weather.
Bourne and Carpenter have been together for 20 years. They work on the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough, one of the world’s most advanced polar research ships and one that came dangerously and unforgettably close to being named RSS Boaty McBoatface.
The wedding will be performed by the ship’s captain, Will Whatley, at the British Antarctic Survey’s main research station at Rothera on Adelaide Island, a site shared with numerous Adélie penguins and Weddell seals.
The two are experienced sailors and have traveled the world together on a variety of ships.
Carpenter said: “Antarctica is such an amazing place. We’ve been together for 20 years, but now that we’ve both been in Antarctica together, it seemed like the perfect place for us to finally get married! We have even engraved the coordinates of the wedding venue on our rings.”
Bourne said they were both very proud to be the first. “BAS is a very welcoming and tolerant employer, and we feel so lucky to be able to live and work together in such an amazing community and place.”
The BAS said the couple’s big day “will mark a historic step for diversity and inclusion in polar science.”
The marriage will be registered with the government of the British Antarctic Territory (BAT), based at the Foreign Office, and the marriage will be valid in the UK.
It is the second marriage to take place between BAS staff since the BAT law was changed in 2016 to facilitate such events.
The ceremony will be attended by the 30 crew of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, followed by a reception with some 100 staff from the research station. Food will be prepared by the station’s chef and music will be provided by the facility’s resident band.
The RRS Sir David Attenborough is a £200m research ship that is part of a mission investigating whether warm waters are melting Antarctica’s glaciers and ice shelves from below. It has a unique “moon pool”, a 4 square meter vertical shaft running through the ship.
The ship was launched on the Mersey at Birkenhead in 2018 by Attenborough himself, who said the appointment was the “greatest of honours”.
Before the ship’s launch, a public vote was held to decide on a name. More than 32,000 names were proposed, including “It’s so cold in here”, “I like big ships and I can’t lie”, and “What iceberg?”.
Particularly striking was the name Boaty McBoatface, suggested by former BBC radio presenter James Hand. He got 124,109 votes and 33% of the total votes, the highest number by far. But since the ship is “a serious science ship that required a serious scientist’s name,” the vote was overturned. Instead, a small but highly advanced yellow submarine at Sir David Attenborough is named after Boaty McBoatface.
The weather forecast for Rothera on Monday is -2C (28F) and it will feel like -7C, the Met Office said. The couple said they were planning a second celebration for family and friends, this time in Spain.