Wedding in the British Antarctic Territory: Gay marriage first in Antarctica

Stephen Carpenter (left) and Eric Bourne tied knot on board RRS Sir David Attenborough (Photo: PA)

Two crew members on a British research vessel became the first same-sex couple ever to be married in British Antarctic territory today.

Used by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Rothera Research Station was the unlikely meeting place for Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter’s cool wedding.

Kilt, rugged boots and a snowmobile were on display for the quirky ceremony, where colleagues held ice chops while the couple walked down a frosty ‘corridor’ in front of their ship.

The couple were together for 20 years before hitting each other in sunny conditions, which diminished fears that their big day might be delayed by the weather.

For the event on the helicopter deck of the RRS Sir David Attenborough – a polar vessel on which the couple works as stewards – were 30 crew members from the British ship who defied freezing conditions to the heartwarming event.

About 100 employees from the research station then attended the wedding reception.

The group was warmed up by food prepared by the station’s chef and expected to dance to music from the facility’s resident band.

Undated distribution photo issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of RRS Sir David Attenborough's stewards, Eric Bourne (right) and Stephen Carpenter, who will be the first same-sex couple to be married in British Antarctic territory.  Date of issue: Sunday, April 24, 2022. PA Photo.  The couple, who have been together for 20 years, are married to Will Whatley, the ship's captain, at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Rothera Research Station.  The exact date depends on the weather, but the ceremony is expected to take place on Monday.  See PA History SOCIAL Antarctica.  Image credit must be: Rich Turner / British Antarctic Survey / PA Wire EDITOR'S NOTE: This distribution photo may only be used for editorial reporting purposes to simultaneously illustrate events, things or persons in the image or facts mentioned in the caption.  Reuse of the image may require additional permission from the copyright holder.

The couple said Antarctica ‘felt like the perfect place’ to get married (Photo: PA)

Feeling Antarctica as an ‘incredible place’, Mr Carpenter said: ‘We’ve been together for 20 years, but now that we’ve both been in Antarctica together, it felt like the perfect place for us to finally bond.’

The couple, who are to be married by the ship’s captain Will Whatley, have traveled the world with each other on a number of different ships, but both have a soft spot for Antarctica.

Sir. Bourne, from Rochford, Essex, has spent the last three years working for BAS, saying the couple chose the unusual wedding destination after Mr. Carpenter of Caerphilly joined the ship’s crew.

“We’ve even had the coordinates of the wedding venue engraved in our rings,” Mr Carpenter said.

The vessel is a new British polar research ship (Image: PA)

His fiancée added: ‘We are both very proud to be the first gay marriage to take place 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 wedding will be registered with the British Antarctic Territory Government, which is based in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and will be valid in the UK.

The couple will hold another party for family and friends later in the year, in what they hope will be significantly warmer surroundings, in Spain.

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