Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, who have been together for 20 years, chose to marry in Antarctica (Photo: Rich Turner@BAS)
A gay couple has tied the knot in a historic (and no doubt chilly) same-sex wedding on the icy continent of Antarctica.
Ship stewards Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter were married at British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station on Sunday.
It is the first same-sex wedding to take place in the British Antarctic Territory. Same-sex marriage was made legal in the territory in 2016, in line with the marriage equality law in England and Wales.
“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,” said Carpenter.
Bourne added: “We’re both very proud to be the first same-sex marriage to happen in British Antarctic Territory. 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 couple, who have been together for 20 years, shared their special day with the 30 crewmembers of the UK’s new polar ship RRS Sir David Attenborough.
Captain Will Whatley performed the wedding ceremony on the ship’s helideck in brilliant sunshine. The British Antarctic Territory Government, based in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, will register the marriage which will be valid in the UK.
Speeches by the couple’s best men (crewmembers), telegrams and toasts followed the ceremony as did live music with songs performed by the ship’s doctor. The wedding cake was adorned with penguins.
Eric and Stephen are experienced seafarers, who have spent the past two decades travelling the world together onboard various ships. Eric has been working for BAS for the past three years. They decided to get married when Stephen joined the ship’s crew last year and they realised Antarctica would be the perfect place for their wedding.
“It was such an honour to be officiating Eric and Steve’s wedding,” said Captain Whatley. “The RRS Sir David Attenborough is not only our place of work but also our home, and it is a privilege to help two integral members of our crew celebrate their special day. I am very proud of the inclusive culture within the British Antarctic Survey and across the Polar Regions. I am thrilled for them both and wish them all the very best.”
A wedding reception with all the staff at Rothera Research Station will take place when the ship returns for its final call on 8 May. The couple will enjoy a celebratory dinner with around 100 staff, prepared by the station chef and dance to live music from the station’s resident band. They also plan to hold a celebration for their family and friends in Spain, later this year.