History was made yesterday (24 April) as RRS Sir David Attenborough stewards, Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, tied the knot at British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station. It was the first same-sex wedding to take place in the British Antarctic Territory (BAT).
The couple, who have been together for 20 years, shared their special day with the 30 crew of the UK’s new polar ship RRS Sir David Attenborough, perhaps best known for very nearly being called Boaty McBoatface in a public poll.
The sun shone
Captain Will Whatley performed the wedding ceremony on the ship’s helideck as the sun shone. The British Antarctic Territory government, based in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, will register the marriage. It will be valid in the UK.
This is the second marriage between BAS staff since the BAT marriage law was reformed in 2016; the law made it easier for marriages to be arranged in the Territory, and also updated the relevant paperwork for same-sex marriages.
Speeches by the couple’s best men, telegrams and toasts followed the ceremony as did live music with songs performed by the ship’s doctor.
Perfect place for a wedding
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.
Eric and Stephen are experienced seafarers, who have spent the past two decades travelling the world together on board 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.
Stephen commented: “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.”
Eric 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.”
Captain Will Whatley, Master of RRS Sir David Attenboroughand a BAT Magistrate officiated at the ceremony, and said: “It was such an honour 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. 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.”
Before departing for Antarctica, Eric and Stephen had their wedding rings engraved with the coordinates of their ceremony, which will take place 67 34’ S 68 08’ W, overlooking the Antarctic Peninsula complete with mountain peaks and icebergs in the bay – the couple’s favourite view.
The couple plan a celebration for their family and friends in a decidedly warmer Spain, later this year.