RRS James Clark Ross

1 December 1990 to present

RRS James Clark Ross (JCR), launched by HM the Queen in 1990, is primarily a marine research vessel for biological, oceanographic and geophysical cruises. It is equipped with a suite of laboratories and winch systems that allows scientific equipment to be deployed astern or amidships. The ship has an extremely low noise signature, allowing the deployment of sensitive acoustic equipment. A swath bathymetry system was fitted in 2000. The JCR also carries out some cargo and logistical work. During the northern summer the JCR supports NERC research, largely in the Arctic.

RRS James Clark Ross (named after Admiral Sir James Clark Ross, R.N.) was built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders, Wallsend, UK. The vessel can steam at a steady two knots through level sea ice one metre thick. To assist passage through heavy pack ice a compressed air system rolls the ship from side to side freeing the passage.


Researchers describe how they use robotic technologies to measure ice shelves and sea ice.

RRS James Clark Ross in Ryder Bay
RRS James Clark Ross in Ryder Bay

Useful documents


RRS James Clark Ross contains some of Britain’s most advanced facilities for oceanographic research.

The ship is equipped for geophysical studies, with a compressor bank to power a seismic air gun array, and large aft and starboard decks for scientific equipment deployed by aft and midships gantries.

For biological studies, the vessel can deploy a wide range of sampling gear and benefits from modern underway instrumentation.

The ship is designed with an extremely low noise signature to allow sensitive underwater acoustic equipment to operate effectively.

Sea and hear what it’s like to study sea ice from RRS James Clark Ross

Useful documents

Technical data and scientific specification

Some scientific equipment may be installed on board for the duration of a particular scientific cruise and removed at the end. This equipment is not listed here.


  • Port of Registry: Stanley, Falkland Islands
  • Call Sign: ZDLP
  • INMARSAT-B: 374033924 (Fax)
  • MMSI No: 740339000
  • Class: Lloyds +100A1 Ice Class IAS +LMS UMS (DP-AM pending)
  • Length overall: 99.04 metres
  • Breadth: 18.85 metres
  • Full load draft: 6.40 metres
  • Freeboard: 3.308 metres
  • Endurance: 12 knots cruising speed: 57 days
  • Propulsion: Diesel Electric, single fixed propeller, 8500 SHP
  • Bow thruster: White Gill 360° Controllable, 10 tonnes thrust
  • Stern thruster: White Gill 360° Controllable, 4 tonnes thrust
  • Stabilisation: Intering Active/Passive, incorporating ice heeling and overside load compensation
  • Manning: Officers 12 (+1 on science cruises); Ratings 15; Doctor 1

Scientific/expedition accommodation

  • 15 single berth (with Pullman berth) (14 available on science cruises)
  • Four x four-berth
  • Chief Scientist’s suite (two single berths available)
  • Maximum science complement: 31 berths

Ship’s navigation outfit

Sperry Marine Integrated Bridge System, incorporating:

  • Sperry Mk37 Mod E Dual Gyro Compasses
  • Sperry Autopilot Model ADG
  • Sperry Nav System incorporating Decca Navigator
  • LORAN ‘C’

Electronic Positioning

  • Leica MX 400 DGPS
  • Ashtech G12 DGPS
  • Furuno Loran C (Note: differential correction data via Racal Skyfix


  • Standard magnetic Cook NSK1977 electric repeater

Electronic charting and plotting

  • Sea Information System Microplot 6 Version Survey MR
  • ARCS chart display
  • World grid (Fleming Sinusoidal
  • UTM projections
  • Myriad
  • Sperry Chart Digitiser ‘E’ size, interfaced with navigation system



Echo sounders

  • Marconi Marine Seachart 3 Navigational Sounder
  • Marconi Marine Seachart 3 Manoeuvering Sounder (Stern Transducer)
  • Simrad EA500 Hydrographic Sounder
  • Furuno CSH50 Directional Sounder
  • Simrad EK500 200 Hz Transducer


  • Sperry SRD 421S Dual Axis Doppler Log
  • Chernikeef Aquaprobe Mk 5 EM Log


  • Space Technology MSGS-30 Satellite Picture Receiver, with printer

Working deck areas

  • After Deck 20 metres long, full deck width (370 m²)
  • Starboard: 5 metres wide to midship (150 m²)
  • Forward: Starboard side main deck (130 m&’178;)
  • All working deck areas covered by matrix of 1-tonne capacity bolt-down points at 1 metre centres (0.5 metres in some areas)
  • Facilities for five laboratory containers (ISO 20 ft, 4 aft, 1 fwd)



  • Main cargo crane 20 tonne x 20 metres
  • Stores crane 2.5 tonne x 10 metres
  • Science crane 2 tonne x 4 metres, fitted winch and slip rings


  • 10 tonne x 17 metres, 3 tonne x 22 metres
  • 2 x 2.5 tonne capacity science cranes (with winches), pt 13 m, stb 10 m



  • Articulated ‘A’ frame SWL 20 T (static) (7.5 T SWL ArtArm.)
  • 2×2 tonne handling winches on gantry frame


  • Articulated ‘A’ frame SWL 30 T (static)
  • 2×2 tonne handling winches adjacent

Winch systems

Main traction winch 30 T SWL (serving aft and midship gantries)

  • Storage Drums – Superaramid Deep Coring Warp – 8,000 metres
  • Standard Coring Warp – 8,000 m
  • Tapered Trawl Warp – 15,000 m
  • Conducting Cable – 10,000 m

CTD/hydrographic traction winch 10 T SWL

  • Storage Drums – Hydrographic Wire – 9000 metres
  • Conducting Cable – 8000 m
  • Spare Drum
  • (Inboard and outboard motion compensator systems are fitted to both winches)
  • Biological Drum Winch: 3000 m 5 T SWL

Twin warp trawling system

  • 3000 metres x 2 x 35.8 T
  • (A net drum winch is available for mounting on the main deck)
  • Gilson Winches: 2 x 5 T


  • Wet Laboratory (23.5 m²)
  • Main Laboratory (44.2 m²)
  • Rough Workshop (25.9 m²)
  • Scientific Workshop (19.6 m²)
  • Waterbottle Annex (18.1 m²
  • Chemistry Laboratory (18.1 m²)
  • Preparation Laboratory: (16.3 m²)
  • Biochemistry Laboratory (10.6 m²)
  • Microbiology/Radioactive Laboratory (10.7 m²)

Computer/electronic/control spaces

  • Underway instrumentation and control room (66.8 m²)
    (incorporating winch control room)
  • Electronics workshop (7.2 m²)
  • Data preparation room (16.5 m²)
  • Computer room (19.2 m²)
  • Paper and magnetic tape ready-use store (4.6 m²)
  • Darkroom (7.4 m²)

Other scientific spaces

  • Gravity meter room (5.2 m²)
  • Cool specimen room (13 m²)
  • Scientific freezer (12.4 m²)
  • -80°C scientific chest freezers x2
  • Scientific hold (118 m²)
  • Explosives magazine (15 T)
  • Hazardous chemicals lockers (main deck)
  • Storm clothing annex

Scientific data acquisition

Local Area Network system with back-up is installed for cruise instrumentation and equipment. Instrumentation continuously logged on the central computing systems. Facilities are available for data transmission via satellite to and from the ship.

Echo sounders and logs

  • Simrad EA 500 navigational sounders
  • Simrad EK 500, 38 kHz, 200 kHz and 120 kHz transducers
  • Sub-bottom profiler, 3.5 kHz
  • Precision echo sounder, 10 kHz
  • Furuno CSH50 directional sounder
  • Acoustic doppler current profiler (RDI type RD-VDM150)
  • Pitch, roll, heave monitor/compensator
  • Dual-axis doppler log (Sperry SRD 421 S)
  • Electro-mechanical log (Chernikeef Aquaprobe Mk5)

Navigation and oceanography

  • Ship’s navigation system repeated in UIC Room
  • Trimble 4000 surveyor DGPS (Racal Skyfix)
  • PC-based Oceanlogger
  • Ashtec GPS3DF – linked to ADCP
  • Dynamic positioning system: Simrad Kongsberg SDPI 1

Scientific services

Seismic air compressors

  • Hamworthy 4TH565W100 x 4 – capacity 555m³/hr at 136 bar

Non-contaminated sea water system

  • Retractable sampling probe 7.2/14 m³/hr

Distilled/UHP water system

  • Elgastat polishing unit (ultra high purity) in chemistry laboratory

Hydraulic power supplies

  • Three pump system providing flow rates of 26, 52 and 78 ltrs/min at 200 bar to three deck manifolds (port/stb aft and midships)
  • Fwd deck manifold 50 ltrs at 200 bar
  • Hansen (female required) connections 1.25/1″ BSP
  • Separate supplies for ‘Gloria, MCS and Net Drum Winch’

Electrical power aupplies

  • There are two standards of supply – general purpose which may at times have high harmonic content due to the thyristor-controlled propulsion system and clean which is provided by dedicated generators and is suitable for sensitive electronic equipment
  • 415 v AC x 500 amo (scientific rough workshop) serving aft deck
  • 415 v 50 Hz 3 Ph general-purpose supply with eight outlets (main deck)
  • 240 v 50 Hz 3 Ph general-purpose supply (PES pt and stb)
  • 240 v 50 Hz 1 Ph general-purpose supply with five outlets (various)
  • 110 v 50 Hz 1 Ph general-purpose supply to all working areas
  • 240 v 50 Hz 1 Ph clean supply to most areas – i.e. labs, cabins, workshops etc.
  • 110 v 60 Hz 1 Ph clean supply to limited areas – 10 outlets

Container laboratories

Facilities and services for four containers on aft deck and one container on the fwd deck.

RRS James Clark Ross computer operations room

RRS James Clark Ross computing facilities

Hardware for general use 4 x public use PC workstations with minimum i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 19″ screen Principle Scientist cabin: i5 PC with 24″ screen Local area network …

scientific mooring winch

The RRS James Clark Ross has a purpose build scientific mooring winch, which is capable of deploying mooring of up to 4000m length of 14mm rope diameter. The winch has a …

Krill swimming under water

Underwater camera systems

Shallow UW Camera System can work to depth up to 1000m, showing a black and white live low resolution video stream and can take colour high resolution stills. The system consists …

SCIENCE IN THE SEA: You study what?

28 February, 2018 by Mel Mackenzie

Dr Mel Mackenzie, a Collection Manager of Marine Invertebrates at Museums Victoria in Melbourne, is living and working on board the BAS research ship RRS James Clark Ross for the …

Shedding light on lanternfish

25 January, 2017 by Geraint Tarling

By Dr Geraint Tarling Lanternfish are found in many of the world’s oceans and get their name from the numerous photophores (light organs) that occur all over their bodies. Also …

Drake Passage Blog

24 November, 2016 by Yvonne Firing

Follow ORCHESTRA project scientist Yvonne Firing’s amazing fieldwork blog from the Southern Ocean here. On the 2016/2017 Drake Passage cruise on the RRS James Clark Ross, we sail south from …

Diary of a doctor at sea

16 November, 2016 by Helen Jones

New blog from ship’s doctor Helen Jones as RRS James Clark Ross arrives at Signy research station in the South Orkney Islands Well, and what a wonderful couple of days …

SHIP BLOG: Heading for home

31 March, 2016 by Susie Grant

The ship’s science labs have all been packed up and cleaned, kit boxes stowed in the container, cargo paperwork finished and cruise reports written. The SO-AntEco team is ready to …

SHIP BLOG: Rhythm of the night

25 March, 2016 by Hilary Blagbrough

Oh look it’s snowing/raining and getting dark… it must be time for the Night Shift. I’m Hilary, the night shift leader on the SO-AntEco scientific cruise to the South Orkney …

SHIP BLOG: Lost in a Sea of Biology

16 March, 2016 by Laura Robinson

Lost in a Sea of Biology! Dr  Laura Robinson is interested in documenting and understanding the processes that govern climate on time scales ranging from the modern day back through hundreds of …

SHIP BLOG: New Buoy at Sea!

5 March, 2016 by Oliver Ashford

New ‘buoy’ at sea Oliver Ashford – a PhD student from Oxford University – is the youngest member of the SO-AntEco research cruise onboard the RRS James Clark Ross. He’s working with …

RRS James Clark Ross sold

19 August, 2021

After 30 years of service with British Antarctic Survey the RRS James Clark Ross has been sold to the Ukrainian National Antarctic Scientific Centre. This is the second time that …

RRS James Clark Ross makes final call to Falkland Islands

1 March, 2021

Today (Monday 1 March 2021) the RRS James Clark Ross (JCR) makes her final call to her home port of the Falkland Islands. After 30 years of service, the JCR will be sold at the end of her 20/21 Antarctic season.  …

BAS field season underway

8 January, 2021

The BAS field season is underway. Since the RRS James Clark Ross departed the UK in November last year, it has safely delivered summer and wintering staff and essential cargo …

Festive Greetings from BAS!

18 December, 2020

Staff at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ships and research stations prepare to celebrate the festive season. It’s been a year like no other, with extraordinary arrangements made to keep facilities …

RRS James Clark Ross on route to Antarctica

15 December, 2020

UPDATE 15/12/2020: Opening Signy Research Station RRS James Clark Ross arrived at Signy Island on 15 December. Signy Island is one of the remote South Orkney Islands, which lie more …

Boaty McBoatface sheds light on warming ocean abyss

18 June, 2019

The debut mission involving the autonomous submarine Autosub Long Range – affectionately  known as Boaty McBoatface –  has for the first time shed light on a key process linking increasing …

Success in the South Atlantic

26 April, 2018

A team of scientists on board the RRS James Clark Ross (JCR) has conducted marine biodiversity research around the Island of St Helena with a team of UK based and …

First expedition to newly exposed Antarctic ecosystem

12 February, 2018

A team of scientists, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), heads to Antarctica this week (14 February) to investigate a mysterious marine ecosystem that’s been hidden beneath an Antarctic ice …

New field season begins

29 November, 2016

As spring returns to the southern hemisphere British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has started another research season which will take them over land, sea and ice in search of answers to …

Ship assists satellite missions

26 September, 2016

On 20 September 2016 the British Antarctic Survey ship, the RRS James Clark Ross, set sail on its long voyage from Immingham in the UK to Stanley in the Falkland …

Nature’s ocean fertiliser

20 September, 2016

Scientists have discovered that Antarctic krill – a tiny shrimp-like crustacean – plays a key role in fertilising the Southern Ocean with iron, which stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, the …

Subantarctic seabed creatures and past climate

1 September, 2016

A new marine biodiversity study in one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world reveals the impact of environmental change on subantarctic seabed animals and answers big questions …

Ocean warming primary cause of glacier retreat

14 July, 2016

A new study has found for the first time that ocean warming is the primary cause of retreat of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. The Peninsula is one of the largest current contributors to sea-level rise and this new finding will enable researchers to make better predictions of ice loss from this region.

NEWS STORY: New polar ship contract signed

23 November, 2015

The contract for the UK’s new polar research ship was signed NERC’s Chief Operating Office Paul Fox and Cammell Laird Chief Executive, John Syvret CBE on Friday 19 November 2015 …

NEWS STORY: New polar ship bidder selected

12 October, 2015

Government announces preferred bidder to build new polar ship Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson announced today that the preferred bidder to build a new polar research …

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: Glacier project on stamps

25 November, 2014

Stamp of approval for iSTAR The iSTAR programme, which is looking at the stability of Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, is featured in a new set of British Antarctic Territory …

PRESS RELEASE: Mapping the ice from below

24 November, 2014

Underwater robot sheds new light on Antarctic sea ice The first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice have been developed using an underwater robot. Scientists from the UK, …

NEWS STORY: First phase of glacier mission ends

10 February, 2014

First leg of Antarctic iSTAR mission accomplished A team of British scientists has returned from a gruelling 1500km journey across the ice of West Antarctica after successfully completing the first …

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: New marine species identified

3 December, 2013

New species recovered from Amundsen Sea More than thirty new, and, as yet unclassified, species of marine life were discovered during a science expedition to the Amundsen Sea off Pine …

NEWS STORY: Earthquakes strike Scotia Sea

18 November, 2013

Series of large earthquakes in Scotia Sea close to South Orkney Islands A series of earthquakes has been detected in the Scotia Sea region close to the British Antarctic Survey’s …

NEWS STORY: UK policy document on Arctic

17 October, 2013

New UK report shows that respect for Arctic states, local people and the environment is fundamental to Arctic engagement Today, for the first time, the UK Government has set out …

PRESS RELEASE: Effects of ocean acidification

25 November, 2012

First evidence of ocean acidification affecting live marine creatures in the Southern Ocean The shells of marine snails – known as pteropods – living in the seas around Antarctica are …

RRS James Clark Ross cruises Arctic waters

3 August, 2012

An international team of scientists from the US, Norway, Germany and Holland are currently on the British Antarctic Survey’s RRS James Clark Ross trying to understand more about the behaviour …

‘Lost world’ discovered around Antarctic vents

4 January, 2012

Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents. The discoveries, made by teams led …

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 …

PRESS RELEASE: Underwater volcanoes discovered

11 July, 2011

Underwater Antarctic volcanoes discovered in the Southern Ocean Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered previously unknown volcanoes in the ocean waters around the remote South Sandwich Islands. Using …

PRESS RELEASE: Krill’s key role in oceans

4 July, 2011

Antarctic krill help to fertilise Southern Ocean with iron A new discovery reveals that the shrimp-like creature at the heart of the Antarctic food chain could play a key role …

PRESS RELEASE: Glacier’s melt rate quickens

27 June, 2011

Warm ocean speeds melting of Antarctic glacier New results from an investigation into a large glacier in Antarctica and its impact on global sea level rise are published this week …

PRESS RELEASE: Deep sea mystery solved

13 June, 2011

New discovery – Copepods share “diver’s weight belt” technique with whales A deep-sea mystery has been solved with the discovery that the tiny 3 mm long marine animals, eaten by …

PRESS RELEASE: Ridge contributes to melting

20 June, 2010

New research sheds light on Antarctica”s melting Pine Island Glacier New results from an investigation into Antarctica’s potential contribution to sea level rise are reported this week (Sunday 20 June) …

Polar View in the Antarctic

8 February, 2010

As the Antarctic field season continues with the usual mix of exciting research programmes new enhancements to the online satellite image system that improves ship safety and efficiency are launched. …

Vehicles on show before heading to Antarctica

28 August, 2009

Heavy-duty vehicles set to be shipped to the Antarctic went on show in Cambridge this week. British Antarctic Survey showcased its unique fleet of vehicles at its offices in Cambridge. …

PRESS RELEASE: Sonar images reveal seabed

5 May, 2009

New Antarctic seabed sonar images reveal clues to sea-level rise Motorway-sized troughs and channels carved into Antarctica’s continental shelves by glaciers thousands of years ago could help scientists to predict …

PRESS RELEASE: Surveying below the ice

17 March, 2009

Robot submarine searches for signs of melting under Antarctic Ice Shelf A team of British and American scientists has successfully deployed an autonomous robot submarine on six missions beneath an …

First exploration of Antarctica’s vents and seeps

9 January, 2009

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists and colleagues from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), the Zoological Society of London and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA are set to …

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 …


The ASCCC Project  has been funded by ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition) to investigate, quantify and understand the role of polar and subpolar seabeds in the carbon cycle, particularly in response …

Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS)

The project Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS) – A Fisheries and Marine Biodiversity Project Ascension Island harbours globally important marine biodiversity, potentially representing a unique assemblage of western and eastern …

Continuous Plankton Recorder

Contemporary research has shown that the Southern Ocean is warming. Summer surface temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Centigrade in the last 80 years and a strong upper-layer …


Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DynOPO) is a collaboration between BAS, the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC). The project aims to investigate the flow of …

Impact of Plastic in the Polar Regions

An estimated 75% of all the litter in our oceans is plastic, and around 5 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean annually. Scientific observations of a significant concentration …

Krill Hotspots

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are a key component of the food chain throughout much of the Southern Ocean. These small, shrimp-like animals occur in dense swarms, but their distribution is …


KRILLBASE is a data rescue and compilation project which aims to improve the availability of information on two of the Southern Ocean’s most important zooplankton taxa: Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) …

Larsen-C Benthos

On 12 July 2017, the Larsen-C Ice Shelf calved one of the largest iceberg originating from the Antarctic Peninsula ever recorded. As iceberg A68 moves north, it  leaves behind an …

Methane Observations and Yearly Assessments

Methane is one of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and changes in its concentration could have major influences on the Earth’s climate. Measurements made around the world …


Antarctic ice-loss research capability


Understanding the Ocean Regulation of Climate by Heat, Carbon Sequestration and Transports


The main deliverable of the Western Core Box (WCB) is a consistent unique time series of mesoscale distribution and abundance of macro-zooplankton and micronekton, and an understanding of the physical …


The South Orkney Islands is a small archipelago located in the Southern Ocean, 375 miles north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The seafloor around the South Orkney Islands …


The Southern Ocean Network of Acoustics (SONA) represents a group of scientific institutes and industrial partners who have united to measure an under-sampled component of the ecosystem – the mid-trophic …


The Southern Ocean is one of the most important and poorly understood components of the global carbon cycle that profoundly shapes Earth’s climate. It is the primary hot spot for …