First journey to Rothera

1 February, 2023 Rothera

Simeon Anastasov, Principal Fire Engineer at OFR Consultants, is currently working at Rothera Research Station providing site supervision as part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP). In this blog he describes the mental and physical preparations he made before working in Antarctica, his travel South and settling into a new – and colder – workplace!

A man in high-visibility clothing standing next to a blue building
Simeon Anastasov, Principal Fire Engineer at OFR Consultants

Pre-deployment training and preparations

As somebody representing British Antarctic Survey (BAS) but mostly involved with the activities of the construction partner BAM Nuttall, I was invited to attend two separate pre-deployment training weeks. The first organised by BAS was more general in nature and focused on introducing the various aspects of life at the station. There was a huge emphasis placed on the mental and psychological wellbeing and on managing interpersonal relationships in an environment where you live with your colleagues for an extended period of time. This training helped a lot to prepare me for my first time in Antarctica, and it is really something that is difficult to describe until you experience it yourself.

The training organised by BAM was a lot more focused on construction-related activities and on physical wellbeing, with a lot of valuable advice provided on exercise, sleep, and recovery. The best takeaway from the two events for me was that you meet a lot of the people you will be spending time with at the station, making it a lot easier to integrate into the community.

With my background in structural and fire safety engineering, my role in the site supervision team includes quality control across the Rothera sites, focusing on the cladding installation, and developing fire safety strategy for the new Discovery Building, where I work closely with the construction partner BAM Nuttall. I arrived in early December 2022 and will stay until the middle of February 2023.

Arriving at Rothera Research Station

Travel to Rothera on the Antarctic peninsula took around three days, with an almost two-day trip to Punta Arenas in Chile; the main gateway destination alongside the Falkland Islands.

A group of people standing around a plane
Taking the Dash 7 plane from Punta Arenas, Chile to Rothera, Antarctica

My first week at the station was marked by clear skies and amazing views. I was able to enjoy some skiing in my spare time and had several encounters with the local wildlife.

I was eased into life on the station by a day and a half of compulsory training, emphasising all station-specific life and work aspects that were not covered in detail at pre-deployment training. I was also given the opportunity to take some time-off during the day to participate in skidoo training in the local travel area.

A group of people sitting in a room
Attending a science talk after work hours

Settling in at the new (work) place

The following few weeks were very busy and took some getting used to in terms of being in a new environment and a new work setting, however my experience has been a positive one. Having supportive and friendly colleagues around me helped a lot.

One of the highlights of my first month was the arrival of the RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship at Rothera. Everybody was given the opportunity to go on board and have a tour of its facilities. Apart from bringing in a lot of fresh faces for a week, it brought in supplies for the upcoming season, with almost everybody on the station getting involved with relief operations.

A large ship in a body of water with a mountain in the background
RRS Sir David Attenborough

So far, the work I have been carrying out at Rothera has been an interesting change of pace from my typical work as a design consultant. Having a supervision role overarching all construction works on the station meant that I got some invaluable insight into several aspects of construction outside of my expertise, as I had to communicate updates and progress to the team in the UK via photos and emails.

It has been very useful to be able to make decisions based on my personal familiarity with the site and to be able to have input into how solutions are implemented.

I can’t wait for what the next few weeks have in store!

A rocky beach with a group of penguins close by
A group of penguins encountered on a “Point Walk” (an hour-long walk around the peninsula)

Find out more about the projects to upgrade our research stations through the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme

Image credits: Simeon Anastasov, OFR Consultants