Rothera Research Station

Rothera Point, Adelaide Island

Position
Lat. 67°35'8"S, Long. 68°7'59"W
Occupied from
25 October 1975 to present
Staff
Summer: 100, Winter: 22

Rothera Research Station, the largest British Antarctic facility, is a centre for biological research and a hub for supporting deep-field and air operations.  Situated on Adelaide Island to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula the site includes the Bonner research laboratory, offices and workshops and a crushed rock runway, hanger and wharf.  Rothera supports a wide range of BAS, UK university and international collaborative science programmes including the Dirck Gerritsz laboratory that is operated by the Netherlands polar research programme.

Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica
Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica

Location

Built on a rock promontory at the southern tip of the Wormald Ice Piedmont, Rothera Research Station is situated on Adelaide Island to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Adelaide Island is 1,860km south of the Falkland Islands and 1,630km south-east of Punta Arenas, Chile. The island, which is 140km long, is mountainous and heavily glaciated. Its highest peak is 2,565 metres.

Rothera Station can be found towards the top right of this image , see it?
Rothera Station can be found towards the top right of this image, see it?

Personnel

The station operates throughout the year. In summer, the population peaks at just over 100 people, while during the winter months, from April to mid-October, a 22-strong team continues the science work and maintains Rothera’s infrastructure.

Staff on station include marine and terrestrial biologists, meteorologists, electronics engineers, a dive officer and a boating officer, a chef, a doctor, vehicle and generator mechanics, electricians, plumbers, builders, field assistants, communications managers and a station management team.

The new Bransfield House balcony at Rothera Research Station, Antarctica.
The new Bransfield House balcony at Rothera Research Station, Antarctica.

Climate

Summer temperatures are typically between 0 and +5°C, and in winter range from –5°C to – 20°C, but because of its coastal location and the Southern Ocean low-pressure weather systems, temperatures can vary widely at any time of year.

You can find sea ice at Rothera from late May to late November, although it takes prolonged periods of calm conditions for ice to form and become fast.

Prevailing winds are northerlies, reaching gale force on around 70 days a year. While it can snow at any time of year, in recent years the main snow fall has come at the end of winter. Rain occasionally falls at Rothera.

Because the station is just south of the Antarctic circle, it is light for 24 hours a day during summer, and for a few weeks in winter the sun never rises above the horizon.

Rothera Research Station in the winter
Rothera Research Station in the winter

Wildlife

The station’s coastal location means that staff see a good range of Antarctic birds and mammals. Adélies are the most numerous penguin species around Rothera, with chinstrap and gentoos occasionally present in the summer. The emperor penguin is seen infrequently, with sightings most likely between September and November.

There are breeding populations of Dominican gull (three pairs) and South Polar skua (15 pairs or more). Antarctic terns and Wilson’s petrels are present offshore through the summer months but nest on higher mountain ridges. The blue-eyed shag, which breeds on several offshore islands, can be seen whenever the sea is not frozen.

More information on birds at Rothera is available here.

Weddell seals, which are present year-round, are the most obvious mammal around the station. Pups are born on the sea ice in late September. Crabeater and elephant seals are also present, fur seals arrive in varying numbers at the end of summer, and although leopard seals are present all year round, they are seen only infrequently.

Small numbers of minke and humpback whales are seen in Ryder Bay each summer, and in some years minke are spotted almost every day. A family of orcas, which lives in the Marguerite Bay area, is usually seen from the station several times during the summer.

More information on whales and seals is available here.

Station life

The station is reached by air or sea. Today, most people fly to Rothera on the BAS Dash 7 aircraft, either from Stanley in the Falkland Islands (about five hours) or Punta Arenas, Chile (about four and a half hours). BAS ships bring passengers and cargo to Rothera at least twice each summer, and sailing time from Stanley is around four days.

Ship visits are vital because they bring essential supplies, from food, fuel and scientific equipment to vehicles, building supplies and personal possessions. Biscoe Wharf, built in 1992, means shipping containers can now be used to transport cargo.

Staff eat meals together in the central dining room; lunch and dinner are made by the chefs. On Saturdays, there is a more formal dinner: dress is smart casual and everyone enjoys a multi-course meal. And although the chefs do not have access to fresh ingredients, they prepare nutritious, high quality food every day.

Station life is busy, and often dictated by the weather. As a result, a traditional UK-style working week is impractical at Rothera.

 

Dining area at Bransfield House, Rothera Research Station, Antarctica.
Dining area at Bransfield House, Rothera Research Station, Antarctica.

Purpose

Rothera Research Station provides UK polar researchers and their international collaborators with state-of-the-art laboratory and diving facilities for research into marine and terrestrial biology, geology, glaciology, meteorology and upper atmospherics.

Rothera is also the principal BAS logistics centre. Its runway and aircraft provide an air bridge to the Falkland Islands and South America, as well as vital support for Antarctic field science.

Research

Science at Rothera provides vital information on climate change, improving our understanding of how marine and terrestrial species are responding to climate change, and improving our ability to model climate change and predict sea level rise.

Because the western Antarctic Peninsula is the most rapidly-warming region in the Southern Hemisphere, Rothera is ideally suited for real time climate change research. It is also vital for climate change research because of its long-term datasets, which are helping untangle seasonal and inter-annual variation from longer-term climate change.

Daily meteorological records have been collected at Rothera since the station was established. Helium-filled balloons are launched regularly to record temperature, humidity and winds up to 25km above the ground. Today, these are fed directly to the Met Office, which uses the data for global weather forecasting.

As well as collecting unique long-term data, scientists at Rothera are developing new technology that is changing the face of Antarctic research. Here, they are using Remotely Operated Vehicles for long-term biodiversity monitoring, trialling new methods of dating ocean sediments, using autonomous ocean gliders and smart moorings to record physical, chemical and biological data in the Southern Ocean, and pioneering the tractor train traverse – an innovative way to support deep-field research.

Accurately quantifying the contribution of polar ice sheets to global sea-level rise is a key international question. Currently, however, it is also the major uncertainty in predicting sea-level rise. Rothera is an important centre for this research, which includes using ocean sediments to see how ice sheets have responded to past climate change and iSTAR, a six-year, £7.4 million programme involving BAS and 11 UK universities.

The Bonner Laboratory, Rothera’s dive facility, opened in the austral summer of 1996/97. It enables year-round study of both the marine and terrestrial environment around the station, divers accessing the water through holes cut in sea ice during the winter.

Physical scientists use medium frequency radar and meteor radar to study wind and temperature in the upper atmosphere above Antarctica, and a low-power magnetometer at Rothera – one of a chain of instruments that BAS has installed across Antarctica – records variations in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Together with its 900 metre runway, two ski-equipped Twin Otter aircraft and a Dash 7 make Rothera a hub for field Antarctic operations. Between October and March, the aircraft ferry fuel, scientists and equipment to deep-field locations, often via Sky Blu Research Station in Eastern Ellsworth Land and a forward facility at Fossil Bluff on Alexander Island.

Current field science includes glacial retreat, ice coring for amospheric chemistry and climate studies, and collecting geological data to support computer modelling of historic movement of ice sheets.

As well as being a logistics hub for Antarctic field science, Rothera is a also a hub for international scientific collaboration. International partnerships include the Dirck Gerritsz Laboratory – funded by the Netherlands Polar Programme – and research into future stability of the Filchner Ice Shelf System with UK universities and Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

 

Meteorological Forecaster Steve Wattam looks at Antarctic Reception Imagery for Environmental Studies (ARIES) satellite images recieved at Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctica

Rothera computing facilities

Bransfield House Hardware for general use 6 x Windows XP PCs Colour and black and white printers HP ScanJet scanner. Canon Pro9000 Mark II photo printer (requires user’s own photo-grade …

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30 May, 2009 by BAS Bloggers

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30 April, 2009 by BAS Bloggers

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30 June, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

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30 April, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

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28 April, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

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20 March, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

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15 March, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

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Feb

28 February, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

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30 August, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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28 August, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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15 August, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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30 June, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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20 June, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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15 June, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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15 June, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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30 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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30 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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28 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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20 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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May – Sun Visions

15 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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15 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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May – Fondue Night

15 May, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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Apr – Isolation

30 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

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Apr – Diving

30 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

Diving for Science Rothera Station Diary – April 2003 There was a crisp feeling to the air as it blew over my face. I could feel the start of an …


Apr – Sledge

30 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

Manhauling Madness’ Preparations for this trip started almost two months prior to departure. One mistimed remark too many about the demonic nature of skidoos and a man-hauling trip was born. …


Apr – Winter

28 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

Winter Begins. As I’m sure everyone connected to BAS is aware, winter here at Rothera started a little later than usual this year. April the 15th proved to be long …


Apr – Visit

20 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

Visit by the Almirante Iriza On the 17th April, two days into winter, Rothera received a visit form the Argentinean icebreaker Almirante Iriza. Seventeen personnel came ashore in the Sea …


Apr – Training

15 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

April Winter Field Training Trips One of the best things about being posted down south is the Winter Field Training Trip. These superb trips offer the opportunity for base members …


Apr – Cooking

15 April, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook So, what is the most important job on base? Well, some would argue that it is the science that we are here for and so the …


Rothera Diary July 2001

30 July, 2001 by Peter Milner

Rothera Diary – July 2001 written by Pete Milner The Sun Returns With our limited access to email facilities I try and write regularly to friends at home and strangely …



Medical evacuation successfully completed

20 June, 2016

The medical evacuation from the US South Pole station via British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station has been completed successfully. A Twin Otter arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile in the …



PRESS RELEASE: Cool Antarctic jobs

12 January, 2016

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is recruiting now. The smooth operation and maintenance of our research stations depends on skilled technical support teams. Check out our latest vacancies!


NEWS STORY: Polar Medal awards

8 January, 2016

Two British Antarctic Survey (BAS) personnel, and one former member of staff, have been awarded the Polar Medal. The announcement was made today (Fri. 8th Jan 2016) in the London …


NEWS STORY: Rothera participates in Live Earth 2015

12 November, 2015

British Antarctic Survey participates in Live Earth 2015 Rothera Research Station band ‘The Skadoos’ has written and performed a song called ‘Holding up the World’ which will be premiered online …


NEWS STORY: Christmas in Antarctica

19 December, 2014

British Antarctic Survey staff prepare to celebrate Christmas far away from home As you make the last preparations for the festive period, spare a thought for those who will be …


NEWS STORY: Commemorating Antarctica Day

1 December, 2014

Antarctica Day 2014: 55 years since the signing of the Antarctic Treaty Today, 1 December, is Antarctica Day and people across the globe are celebrating! The Day was inaugurated in …


NEWS STORY: Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica

20 June, 2014

Midwinter’s Day celebrations take place at Antarctic Research Stations Staff at the British Antarctic Survey are celebrating Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica. In a tradition which began in the days of …


NEWS STORY: Icebergs leave their mark

16 June, 2014

Climate related iceberg activity has massively altered life on the seabed Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey have found evidence that climate change has fundamentally altered the way that life …


BLOG: Bird Island Station Leader

28 May, 2014

We caught up with Bird Island Research Station Leader Adam Bradley who was living and working on the island when the BBC crew came to film Deadly Pole to Pole. …


NEWS STORY: Pass the panda for Earth Hour

28 March, 2014

BAS staff support WWF’s Earth Hour with cuddly friend! This Saturday, 29 March, is WWF’s Earth Hour. Earth Hour aims to focus the world’s attention on the planet and the …


NEWS STORY: Glacier thinning at point of no return

14 January, 2014

Focus on Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica Pine Island Glacier, on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is the largest single contributor to sea-level rise in Antarctica.  The stability of the …


NEWS STORY: Greetings from Antarctica

24 December, 2013

Christmas messages from Antarctic staff Many British Antarctic Survey scientists and support staff will be spending this Christmas thousands of miles from home on the frozen continent. BAS has five …


NEWS STORY: Staff head into deep Antarctica

20 December, 2013

British Antarctic Survey field season is underway On the eve of the centenary year of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition the ship which bears his name is playing a crucial role …


NEWS STORY: More moss growing in Antarctica

29 August, 2013

Moss growth in Antarctica linked to climate change Increases in temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula during the latter part of the 20th century were accompanied by an acceleration in moss …


NEWS STORY: Midwinter’s Day celebrations

21 June, 2013

  Celebrating Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica Staff at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) celebrate Midwinter’s Day today (21 June , 2013). Celebrated as the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, …


PRESS RELEASE Age and Antarctic clams

18 April, 2013

Age matters to Antarctic clams A new study of Antarctic clams reveals that age matters when it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change. The research provides new …


NEWS STORY: Dutch research lab opened

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 …


NEWS STORY: Ocean sampling at Rothera

20 August, 2012

Ocean sampling: Rothera, Antarctic Peninsula: last but not least! Are the World’s oceans all the same, or are they different? OK at the most basic level, we all know that …


PRESS RELEASE: Shellfish and changing oceans

5 August, 2012

New study helps predict impact of ocean acidification on shellfish An international study to understand and predict the likely impact of ocean acidification on shellfish and other marine organisms living …


NEWS STORY: Antarctica celebrates Olympics

25 July, 2012

Rothera Station staff take part in ‘All the Bells’ to celebrate the Olympics Kitchen pots, glasses and a bedpan are just some of the items being used by staff at …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic band reform for one off gig

26 June, 2012

Nunatak reunion at the Sanday Soulka festival on the Orkney Islands Having performed at one of the world’s biggest concerts ‘Live Earth*’ on 7th July 2007, Nunatak** — the British …


NEWS STORY: Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica

20 June, 2012

Antarctica celebrating Midwinter’s Day A hundred years ago Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team celebrated Midwinter in Antarctica (known as Midsummer’s Day in the UK) — a tradition that …


New Laboratories arrive at Rothera Research Station

3 April, 2012

As part of an international collaboration between British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Netherlands Polar Programme — managed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Earth and Life Sciences Division …


Christmas Campers

22 December, 2011

As you get stuck into your turkey on Christmas Day, spare a thought for scientists working in Antarctica for British Antarctic Survey, where Christmas is just another working day. Around …


PRESS RELEASE: Study of largest glacier

5 December, 2011

Scientist on BBC Frozen Planet investigates how world’s largest glacier is contributing to sea-level rise A team of scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is to survey the largest glacier …


Frozen Planet: Autumn arrives

15 November, 2011

This week on Frozen Planet (BBC1 Wednesday 16 November at 21.00, repeated Sunday at 16.10) the programme explores autumn in the polar regions. As life cools down in the Antarctic, …


Frozen Planet: Summer in Antarctica

7 November, 2011

This week on Frozen Planet (BBC1 Wednesday 9 November at 21.00, repeated Sunday at 16.10) the programme explores Summer in the Polar Regions. As life thrives in the Antarctic, viewers …


This week on Frozen Planet

31 October, 2011

This week on Frozen Planet (BBC1 Wednesday 2 November at 21.00, repeated Sunday at 16.10) the programme explores Spring in the Polar Regions and how life begins the race to …





Raising the flag to celebrate the return of the sun

4 August, 2011

Staff at British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station recently raised the Union flag to mark the first sighting of the sun again after several weeks of continual darkness. The sun …



Midwinter’s Day Celebrations

21 June, 2011

Staff at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) celebrate Midwinter’s Day today. Celebrated as the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, Midwinter’s day is the shortest and darkest day for the …



An International Feel to Antarctic Research

16 February, 2010

There is a distinctly cosmopolitan feel around British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station this month (February). Science teams from eight countries enjoyed Rothera’s hospitality as they passed through on their …



PRESS RELEASE: New jobs in Antarctica

12 February, 2009

Antarctic jobs offer opportunity of a lifetime Trades people looking for a career with a difference should check the national press this week. British Antarctic Survey (BAS) launches a recruitment …



Reuters news team visit Rothera Research Station

12 January, 2009

Reuters reporters Alister Doyle and Stuart McDill are visiting Rothera Research Station to file a series of special reports about the research there. Dr Pete Convey is one of the …


PRESS RELEASE: Mission to buried mountain range

13 October, 2008

Challenge to discover Antarctica”s hidden world Later this month teams of scientists, engineers, pilots and support staff from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), USA, Germany, Australia, China and Japan will join …


Scraping the bottom

12 March, 2008

Iceberg scouring is a major factor affecting the diversity and abundance of marine benthic communities in Antarctica’s highly dynamic ecosystem. Reporting in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series biologist Dr …


Antarctica – musical images from the frozen continent

27 September, 2005

Antarctic is a beautiful new DVD/Book that describes through music, sound, film, photography and literature, composer Craig Vear’s three month journey into the mysterious frozen world of Antarctica. Craig Vear …


Antarctic Tragedy

23 July, 2003

Press Statement – 23 July 2003 It is with the deepest sorrow that British Antarctic Survey (BAS) reports the death of a marine biologist at Rothera Research Station on the …




Filchner Ice Shelf System, Antarctica

Understanding the contribution that polar ice sheets make to global sea-level rise is recognised internationally as urgent.  The mission of this five-year project is to capture new observations and data …



Meteorology and Ozone Monitoring

Long-term meteorological and ozone observations and data help determine the causes of climate change in the polar regions. Meteorology Meteorological observations are made regularly throughout the day at Halley and …


Monitoring climate change in action

Long term science We know that our world is changing due to man’s influence. But how is it changing? Some areas, such as the Antarctic Peninsula, are changing more rapidly …