27 November, 2023 AIMP, Press releases

Construction has begun in Antarctica for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) with specialists arriving at Rothera Research Station to progress several projects to secure the future of polar operations and research.

In a first for the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP), some of the construction team along with BAS team members will be working through the Austral or Antarctic winter, known as ‘wintering’. This will see eight construction team members stationed at Rothera for seven months during Antarctica’s winter season from May through to November, in which some periods are spent in 24-hour darkness, with harsh polar weather.

The season will see the team take further steps towards completion of Rothera’s science and operations facility – the Discovery Building – as much of the mechanical and electrical installation and internal fit-out is delivered. Across the next six months, teams will also be installing windows, completing flashings and finalising most of the cross-site utility works.

a yellow crane removing snow from the side of a blue building with a lot of snow piled up at the front
Credit: BAM

During the upcoming season, teams will commence the critical work to resurface Rothera’s runway, which has been in operation for over 30 years. The runway resurfacing work will maintain safe flying operations in and out of Rothera to guarantee field science operations for UK and international scientists, and is expected to be completed by Spring 2024.

There are over 100 construction specialists working on the project this season, with around a third of the team returning from previous years. The team consists of civil and structural engineers, as well as mechanical and electrical trades for the internal fit-out of the new building.

A large blue building in a snowy and icy landscape with white mountains in the background.
Credit: BAS

BAS has commissioned a team of its scientists to conduct a comprehensive pre-construction environmental baselining survey for an infrastructure project. The findings from this survey will become an important part of informing future work in the region as the AIMP team and BAS scientists continue to work together to deliver solutions.

Two people standing in a boat on a body of water with snowy mountains in the background
Credit: BAS

The programme forms part of the UK Government’s long-term investment in the Polar Regions, enabling the UK to continue to lead climate, biodiversity and ocean research and innovation in the southernmost continent of the globe.

The programme is delivered in partnership with BAM, Ramboll and Sweco. Since 2017, BAS has utilised the expertise and knowledge of the partners, and their extended supply chains, to ensure the success of delivering complex engineering solutions in the world’s harshest environment.

Elen Jones, Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme Director at the British Antarctic Survey, said:

“Following last season’s success, we’re gearing up for another important construction season for BAS and the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme. We are continually upgrading and improving our infrastructure at Rothera to make sure that the valuable and vital scientific research and support in this critical region can continue for the next generation.

For the first time during the modernisation programme, some members of our team will be wintering at Rothera; experiencing something that very few people in the world can say that they have done. We’re immensely proud of their commitment and are excited to see us approaching the final stages of the Discovery Building as well as progressing key elements of our other projects.”

Graham Hopper, Project Director at BAM, said:

“The start of the new season brings a whole host of new challenges and an exciting next chapter in the development of Rothera. Planning and preparing for work like this requires a monumental effort from all the partners. We’ve been fortunate to work as a partnership for a number of years now, and the excellent progress we’ve made during that time is a testament to each of the partners. We look forward to another successful season of delivery.”

Bruce Wulff, Framework Director at Ramboll, said:

“Our team is fortunate to be a partner of AIMP and to have the opportunity to upgrade one of the most exciting workplaces anywhere in the world. There’s a lot of work to be done, which is critical to the site’s continued operation, and we’re delighted to be a part of it once again. We wish the team on site luck for this exciting season ahead!”

Stewart Craigie, Technical Director at Sweco, said:

“We are looking forward to achieving many more milestones this year as a result of our collaborative approach and partnership to design and construction and the technical skill and knowledge of a committed team, working together to transform polar science through innovative solutions and engineering in one of the most remote parts of the planet.”