28 July, 2023 News stories, SDA

Further trials are underway on RRS Sir David Attenborough in preparation for its first Antarctic science cruise.

Over the coming weeks, the crew and scientists on board will be carrying out a range of trials on the moonpool, Erebus and the coring equipment, all of which are critical elements of upcoming science missions – BIOPOLE, PICCOLO and KANG-GLAC. These trials, which are taking place in both deep and shallow water around the Scottish coast, will focus on testing science equipment and developing safe and effective ways of working with them.

A large ship in a body of water
RRS Sir David Attenborough is currently undergoing trials in preparation for a full science season in Antarctica. BAS.

Erebus, the ship’s workboat, will also be put through its paces with new equipment, including an A-frame, winch and upgraded electronics for its acoustic sensors, being tested. Scientists will use Erebus to get to places where the SDA is too large to go, such as areas of shallow water in fjords, allowing researchers to reach and survey new areas.

The final part of the trials will focus on the coring equipment. Sediment cores are critical in helping us to understand more about the climate and ocean over the past thousands of years. As well as the gravity and multi-corer, a piston corer, which can collect cores up to 17m long, is also being trialled. Researchers will analyse the collected cores using sensors in a purpose-built container laboratory, the Multi-Sensor Core Logger. This plug-and-play lab contains and instrument that can analyse samples on board the ship, informing the next sample site.

During these science trials, the ship is also experimenting using Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) for the first time, as part of BAS efforts’ to reduce British Antarctic Survey’s carbon emissions.

After the trials are complete, the ship will head back to Babcock International Yard for a further period of routine maintenance before departing for Antarctic later in the year.

This season will see the ship conduct multiple funded science cruises – a significant moment in the ship’s history. The first project, BIOPOLE, seeks to unravel one of the most important ecological processes in the ocean; the release of nutrients from melting sea ice into the water, and how this might be affected by climate change.

More information about the RRS Sir David Attenborough can be found here.