A gay couple from the UK have made history by becoming the first same-sex couple to marry in the British Antarctic Territory (BAT). As its name suggests, the region is a large chunk of the world’s southernmost continent over which the UK claims sovereignty.
The men, Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, have been together for 20 years. They serve as stewards on the polar research vessel, RRS Sir David Attenborough.
They married yesterday while the ship was at the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station. Thirty of their crewmates joined them as guests.
Captain Will Whatley performed the wedding ceremony on the ship’s helideck, while the ship’s doctor performed some live music afterward.
The marriage will be valid in the UK.
It’s not clear if this is the first same-sex wedding in the whole of Antarctica. A spokesperson for the British Antarctic Survey told Queerty they hadn’t found news stories about any other same-sex weddings, “but I believe quite a lot of weddings take place on Antarctic cruise ships so its possible that same-sex marriages have taken place there before and we just don’t know about it!”
“Antarctica is such an incredible place,” Stephen said in a statement.
“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.”
Eric added: “We’re both very proud to be the first same-sex marriage to happen in British Antarctic Territory.
“We feel very lucky to be able to live and work in such an incredible community and place together.”
Captain Will Whatley, said, “It was such an honor to be officiating Eric and Steve’s wedding. 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.”
Seven countries claim sovereignty over parts of Antarctica, with Australia and Norway laying claim to the biggest areas.
The £200 million polar scientific vessel upon which Eric and Stephen serve is one of the most advanced in the world. It hit controversy during its construction in 2016 when a competition was announced for members of the Britsh public to name it.
A local radio DJ jokingly suggested calling it Boaty McBoatface. That suggestion proved popular with the public and earned more votes than the other suggestions combined. However, the government stepped in and said it was going to name it RSS David Attenborough instead, after the famed broadcaster and zoologist.
Congratulations to Eric and Stephen and here’s wishing them many more seafaring adventures together.