Oceanographic and atmospheric science facilities

RRS Sir David Attenborough

A new polar ship for Britain

The Southern Ocean is the least studied of the Earth’s oceans, with sparser data coverage than anywhere else. The use of research ships with ice-breaking capabilities allows researchers to undertake research cruises in this remote and inhospitable region. The ocean and the atmosphere above it are inextricably linked, and gathering data from both above and below the ship helps make sense of atmosphere-ocean interactions.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough will be equipped with air and aerosol sampling facilities, drawing air from at least 2m in front of the vessel’s bow and above the crow’s nest to ensure undisturbed samples of ambient air. Scientific meteorological equipment will be mounted in the same locations, with connections to the relevant laboratory space.

Within the water column, a range of CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) probes and acoustic Doppler current profilers will be on board to study vertical and horizontal current velocities. Passive remote systems include a range of mooring systems – some of them bespoke in-house constructions – that can support one or more instruments and can be deployed at depths of up to 3,000m.

Furthermore, her increased capability to support unmanned and remotely operated technologies will enable studies of the ocean in previously very inaccessible locations, such as underneath ice shelves and in front of glacier calving faces.




The Arctic and Southern Oceans can be subdivided into the open ocean and shelf seas, which are in direct contact with the regions' ice caps and outlet glaciers. Here, complex interactions between ice, freshwater and salty water exert control over ocean circulation and regional climate.

Adrian Jenkins

Science Programme Coordinator

Polar Oceans team

Emily Shuckburgh

Dynamical Oceanographer

Polar Oceans team