19 December, 2019 ,

A major modernisation programme at British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station begins its second ‘summer season’ this month with the arrival of a 60-plus person team from BAM. Construction work on a new 74m long wharf resumes, and initial groundworks for a new science and operations building begins. The works will improve operational efficiency and ensure that BAS is fit for the future.  

Getting the research station ready to berth the RRS Sir David Attenborough requires ambitious and complex engineering. This season the remaining 14 of the 20 steel frames that form the wharf’s skeleton will be put in place and backfilled with rock, completing the wharf.

Wharf enhancements include a crane for easier launching of small science boats, a personnel gangway and a floating pontoon for the deployment of scientific instruments.

Rear frame installation
A rear frame being installed for the new wharf at Rothera Research Station. Copyright: BAM

Antarctica is the highest, driest, coldest and windiest place on Earth. Construction is challenging and can take place during a short period in the austral summer (November to May). It is an exciting project for BAM, the BAS project team and Technical Advisors Ramboll.  Around 80% of the construction team are returners from the previous season. 

A key feature of the modernisation programme is to reduce fossil fuel consumption at the station and to introduce more energy efficient systems including heat recovery generators, photovoltaic solar panels and enhanced insulation.  Work has already begun on the preparations for a new 2700m2 science and operations building.  

Martha McGowan, Project Manager at BAM said:

“Having been to the naming ceremony for the RRS Sir David Attenborough earlier this year, it helped put our second build season into perspective. It will be a busy season but we recognise the importance of our projects in helping BAS continue to deliver frontier science.”

David Seaton, Senior Infrastructure Programme Manager at British Antarctic Survey said:

“After many months of planning we are looking forward to achieving two key milestones at Rothera. These two projects; the wharf and modernisation are critical to reducing operating costs, improving efficiency and keep the research stations meeting the needs of BAS personnel to facilitate world-leading research for the future”.

Installation of rear frame being
Rear frame for Rothera wharf being lowered on a crane

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM) programme is commissioned by UKRI-NERC (Natural Environment Research Council.  It aims to keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research and will last between 7-10 years and is worth an estimated £100m.

The AIM programme operates through a partnership model providing key engineering, scientific and construction expertise, this includes technical advisor Ramboll, working alongside BAS’s construction partners BAM and their designers Sweco.

Find out more information on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation programme, including the new wharfs at King Edward Point Research Station and Rothera Research Station.