Brooms and penguin toys heading to Antarctica

Brooms to clean bird droppings, along with thousands of toy penguins, are among tonnes of items being shipped out to the UK’s most remote post office.

Each year, four scientists become postmasters, manning the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s post office at Port Lockroy in Antarctica for four months.

Items to stock the office for tourists, plus food and scientific equipment for the team have now been shipped out.

They include seven brooms, essential for cleaning guano – seabird droppings.

Port Lockroy, on Goudier Island, was home to explorers and whalers before becoming the first permanent British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Built in 1944, it was used as a science base until 1962, when it closed permanently.

Restoration began in the 1990s and since 2006 it has been managed as a post office and museum by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The island is deserted for most of the year but comes to life during the Antarctic summer when the trust’s four staff are shipped in and thousands of tourists begin arriving.

This year’s all-female postal team, whose names have not yet been released, will head out to the base in November and will also carry out scientific work, including monitoring penguins, before returning to the UK in March.

Supplies have to leave the trust’s Cambridge headquarters ahead of their arrival.

The logistics of kitting out a tourist attraction in the middle of what the trust admits can look a little like a penguin toilet mean that brooms for sweeping up seabird excrement are one of the essentials.

Seven were sent last year – but only one survived the rigorous cleaning regime.

It takes a team from the trust a year to gather together everything needed to make the post office function, and about two months to pack it all up.

Everything needs to survive both the journey and long-term storage, so food is all tinned or dried – nothing is fresh.

Last year’s post workers got through 337 tins of food as they franked 63,050 stamps for the tourists’ postcards and sold 2,361 soft toy penguins.

They got through 55 litres of bitumen paint to protect and maintain the settlement’s historic buildings, and that had to be fitted in while counting penguin nests and surveying artefacts.

Last year, the trust shipped 1,200 boxes of goods to Port Lockroy. This year’s supplies are a “top-up” so only 400 are being sent.

They left the UK on a container ship on 4 September and arrived on the Falkland Islands on 28 September.

Supplies are then delivered throughout the season by the cruise ships carrying tourists.

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