British same-sex couple make history with Antarctica wedding

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Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, 41 and 49, celebrating in the British Antarctic Territory  (Richard Turner/PA)
Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, 41 and 49, celebrating in the British Antarctic Territory (Richard Turner/PA)

Two RRS Sir David Attenborough crew members have become the first same-sex couple to marry in the British Antarctic territory.

Stewards Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter, 41 and 49, have been together for two decades, and have travelled the world together on different ships, before tying the knot in the BAT this week.

Bourne said he is “proud to be part of history”, adding that his wedding was “the best day” of his life, in a statement to the Press Association.

The newlyweds met in December 2002, while working for the Royal Fleet Auxilliary, before they were deployed to the Middle East onboard RFA Sir Percivale.

“When we got back (from the Middle East) after six months, our relationship had established itself. We’ve been together ever since,” Bourne told the Press Association.

When Carpenter joined the British Antarctic Survey in 2020, the couple realised the Antarctica would be the perfect spot for their wedding because it’s a “completely different world from what we’re all used to”, Bourne explained.

“This is such a special part of the world,” he added.

Photographs of newlyweds Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter with their best men (Press Association)
Photographs of newlyweds Eric Bourne and Stephen Carpenter with their best men (Press Association)

The pair, who are both part of RRS Sir David Attenborough’s catering team, began their wedding day at 5.30am in the ship’s galley, where they prepared for the ceremony.

“To say it was amazing is an understatement,” Bourne said of his historic wedding ceremony, adding, “It was an unforgettable day.”

The marriage will be registered by the British Antarctic Territory Government and is to be valid in the UK (Press Association)
The marriage will be registered by the British Antarctic Territory Government and is to be valid in the UK (Press Association)

Bourne and Carpenter were married by Will Whatley, the ship’s captain, at the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station, and were treated to speeches from their best men – both crew members – telegrams and toasts, followed by music from the ship’s doctor after the ceremony.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough, docked at Rothera Research Station (Press Association)
The RRS Sir David Attenborough, docked at Rothera Research Station (Press Association)

Whatley said it was an “honour” to officiate the wedding, adding: “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.”

Their wedding reception will be held on 8 May, after which the happy couple plans to celebrate with family and friends in Spain later this year.

The British Antarctic Territory Government, based in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, will register the marriage, which will be valid in the UK.

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