Couple make history in first ever same-sex wedding on British Antarctic Territory

WS250422 Antarctic Wedding (Rich Turner) 10
Stephen Carpenter and Eric Bourne tied the knot at a ceremony at a research station in British Antarctic Territory Credit: Rich Turner

A British couple have made history by tying the knot in the first ever same-sex wedding to take place on British Antarctic Territory.

Stephen Carpenter, from Caerphilly in south Wales, and Eric Bourne, from Rochford in Essex, work aboard the polar research vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

They became officially married at the British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Rothera Research Station, sharing their big day with 30 of the ship's crew.

Stephen said he felt Antarctica was the "perfect place" to marry his partner of 20 years.

The couple said Antarctica was the 'perfect' place to tie the knot. Credit: Rich Turner

"Antarctica is such an incredible place," he said.

"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."

Before departing for Antarctica, Eric and Stephen had their wedding rings engraved with the coordinates of their ceremony, which took place at 67 34’ S 68 08’ W, overlooking the Antarctic Peninsula with mountain peaks and icebergs in the bay - the couple's favourite view.

Eric said: "We're both very proud to be the first same-sex marriage to happen in British Antarctic Territory.

Stephen and Eric were joined by 30 of the ship's crew as they celebrated their big day Credit: Rich Turner

"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 was performed by the ship's captain, Will Whatley, and is registered with the British Antarctic Territory Government, which is based in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The couple's marriage will be valid in the UK.

Captain Whatley said: "It is such 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'm very proud of the inclusive culture within the British Antarctic Survey and across the Polar Regions.

Stephen and Eric work aboard the polar research vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough Credit: PA Images

"I am thrilled for them both and wish them all the very best."

Eric and Stephen first met whilst working aboard another vessel, the RFA Sir Percivale, before being deployed in the last Gulf war.

It is the second marriage between BAS staff since the BAT marriage law was reformed in 2016.

The law was brought in to make it easier for marriages to be arranged in the Territory, and also updated the relevant paperwork for same-sex marriages.

A wedding reception for Stephen and Eric with all their colleagues at the Rothera Research Station is set for May 8, when the ship returns for its final call.