28 January, 2013

New Research Laboratory opened at Rothera Research Station

A new scientific laboratory has been built at the UK Rothera Research Station in Antarctica as a result of an international collaboration between the British Antarctic Survey and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The research facility — named the Dirck Gerritsz Laboratory — was officially opened on Sunday (27th Jan) by Leo le Duc on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is a signatory of the Antarctic Treaty, but the country does not have a research station of its own in Antarctica. For over 20 years, the NWO have collaborated very successfully with British Antarctic Survey, and Dutch scientists have often used Rothera Research Station as a base for their polar research. In order to extend and enhance this existing collaboration, the NWO and the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science invested in building the Dirck Gerritsz Laboratory, which was built in partnership with BAS and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ).

The laboratory allows NWO to run a research facility in the Antarctic and continue to use the existing facilities at Rothera Research Station. Scientists from the Netherlands will use the laboratory to continue their important studies into climate change, glaciology, marine biology and oceanography.

The laboratory was named after a Dutch explorer, Captain Dirck Gerritsz, who was part of a fleet of five ships to find a trade route via South America to Asia. Whilst sailing round the southern tip of South America, his ship ‘Annunciation’ was blown southwards and he may have been the first person to gain sight of Antarctica in 1599. The building consists of four separate laboratory units — named Annunciation, Love, Faith and Hope after the Dutch fleet of ships. Each unit is made of a ship container that has been specially modified into a working lab with scientific instrumentation, running water and electricity.

The British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Research Station at Rothera Point,  Adelaide Island, Antarctica
The British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station at Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, Antarctica

You can read more about the life and work of the Dutch scientists based at Rothera Research Station by following their blog.