Staff awaiting its arrival cheered as the DS Wisconsin pulled alongside, guided for the final few hours through sea ice by the ice-strengthened RRS Ernest Shackleton. Work began immediately on the huge task of unloading the cargo, which is likely to take around two weeks.
The ship, containing plant, 83 containers, permanent and temporary materials and 1,000 tonnes of steelwork, departed the UK in late November for her month-long journey.
Her arrival at Rothera is a major milestone in the modernisation of the UK’s Antarctic infrastructure, as once the ship is unloaded construction partner BAM Nuttall can begin deconstructing the old wharf and building a new one big enough to safely berth the new polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
BAS Programme Manager, David Seaton, said: “The arrival of the Wisconsin here in Rothera is extremely welcome, and we are all now very keen to get on with the work of building the new wharf – an integral part of modernising our infrastructure and keeping the UK at the forefront of polar science.”
BAM Project Manager, Martha McGowan, added: “It was a major logistical undertaking to get every single thing needed to build a wharf in freezing Antarctic waters loaded onto one ship. One month and 11,000km later, it is very good to see all that hard work paying off.”
An additional 50 members of the construction team are present at Rothera this season in order to deliver the first phase of wharf work. This includes deconstruction the old wharf, and building the rear section of the new one. Completion of the project is scheduled for April 2020.
Operated by BAS, Rothera is the UK’s Antarctic Hub, and acts as the gateway for deep field research by UK scientists and their international collaborators. This year is an extremely busy year for Antarctic science and logistics, marking the start of the major International Thwaites Glacier Programme as well as beginning the wharf construction.