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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

British Antarctic Territory to hold its first same-sex wedding

British Antarctic Territory to hold its first same-sex wedding

Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, who work on RRS Sir David Attenborough, hope to tie the knot on Monday

Two polar research ship crew members are to become the first same-sex couple to get married in the British Antarctic Territory.

Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter hope to tie the knot on Monday, although it may be pushed back because of the weather.

Bourne and Carpenter have been together for 20 years. They work on the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough, one of the most advanced polar research ships in the world and one which that came perilously and unforgettably close to being called RSS Boaty McBoatface.

The wedding will be performed by the boat’s captain, Will Whatley, at the British Antarctic Survey’s main research station at Rothera on Adelaide Island, a place shared with numerous Adélie penguins and Weddell seals.

The pair are experienced seafarers and have travelled the world together on a variety of ships.

Carpenter said: “Antarctica is such an incredible place. We have been together for 20 years but now we’ve both been to Antarctica together, it felt like the perfect place for us to finally tie the knot! We’ve even had the coordinates of the wedding location engraved into our rings.”

Bourne said they were both very proud to be the first. “BAS is such a welcoming and accepting employer, and we feel very lucky to be able to live and work in such an incredible community and place together.”

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 British Antarctic Territory (BAT) government, based in the Foreign Office, and the marriage will be valid in the UK.

It is the second marriage to take place between BAS staff since BAT law was changed in 2016 to make such events easier.

The ceremony is due to be attended by the 30 crew of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, followed by a reception with about 100 staff from the research station. Food will be prepared by the station’s chef, and the facility’s resident band will provide the music.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is a £200m research ship that is part of a mission investigating whether warm waters are melting the glaciers and ice shelves of the Antarctic from below. It has a unique “moon pool”, a 4 sq metre vertical shaft that goes right through the ship.

The boat was launched on the Mersey at Birkenhead in 2018 by Attenborough himself, who said the naming was the “greatest of honours”.

Before the boat’s launch a public poll was held to decide a name. More than 32,000 names were put forward including “It’s Bloody Cold Here”, “I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie” and “What Iceberg?”.

Particularly striking was the name Boaty McBoatface, suggested by the former BBC radio presenter James Hand. It gained 124,109 votes and 33% of the total vote, the biggest number by far. But given that the boat is “a serious science ship that required the name of a serious scientist”, the vote was overruled. Instead, a small but very advanced yellow submarine on the Sir David Attenborough carries the name Boaty McBoatface.

The weather forecast for Rothera on Monday is a bracing -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.

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