Labs and workshops

The laboratory and workshop facilities on board the RRS Sir David Attenborough are key components of the ship’s design. They are essential for conducting science on board a polar research vessel.


The RRS Sir David Attenborough has over 750 m² of built-in laboratory space, significantly more than the space available on RRS James Clark Ross. The ship is designed to also have space for at least 10 scientific containers – standard 20ft ISO containers adapted to support science, two of which can be placed indoors in the hangar, and two which can open directly into the wet lab.

Multifunctional facilities include ‘wet’ labs, ‘dry’ labs and temperature-controlled ‘cold’ labs for biological, chemical and physical analysis, as well as a number of specialist laboratories for trace metal chemistry, atmospheric and sea water analysis. There is also be a scientific walk-in -20°C freezer and several -80°C ultra-low temperature freezer units. Purpose-built containerised facilities include a multi-sensor core logging system, seismic compressor container, radionuclide and ultraclean laboratories and an aquarium.

The reconfigurable space and containerised laboratories makes science on the RRS Sir David Attenborough much more flexible. These innovative solutions will ensure we meet the changing needs of research teams over the lifetime of the vessel, as technologies and techniques evolve.

Additional laboratory equipment on board to assist researchers includes:

  • Uncontaminated seawater sampling systems
  • Water purification systems
  • Fume cabinets, laminar flow cabinets and biological safety cabinet
  • Gravity meter
  • Inertial Navigation Unit outputting position, heading, roll, pitch, depth, velocity and heave.