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Bird Island Research Station Modernisation

Bird Island Research Station Modernisation

Start date
5 February, 2018
End date
30 May, 2018

Enabling frontier science at Bird Island

The modernisation of Bird Island Research Station was successfully completed in June 2018 following a 17 week programme of works throughout the Antarctic summer.

Beck House storage building was replaced, a new fuel storage tank installed along with improved energy monitoring, new walkways constructed and the jetty extended. This logistically complex project was delivered after many months of planning and preparation in order not to disrupt the delivery of frontier science at this important bird and seal breeding location in South Georgia.

BAS and BAM staff at Bird Island celebrate the first foundation stone to be laid

The modernisation of the station has improved the facility and working conditions for research teams through increased storage, more efficient energy use, improved biosecurity capability for cargo handling, and modernised the operational requirements of the station to ensure safe people and cargo discharge from the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

New Beck House near completion May 2018

British Antarctic Survey worked with construction partners BAM, with support from our Technical Advisors Ramboll, on the modernisation which began on location in February 2018 and was completed before the Antarctic winter set in. All work was being carried out in accordance with permission granted by the GSGSSI following submission of an Enviromental Impact Assessment.

Artist’s impression of Bird Island modernised facilities – illustrated in dark green.

Bird Island research station is an important research centre for long-term studies of bird and seal biology and one of the richest wildlife sites in the world. Tens of thousands of albatrosses, penguins and seals live on the island, which is a Specially Protected Area (SPA), during summer. The construction programme is designed to minimise any impact on research projects and wildlife.


The site was painstakingly prepared before the first foundation pad for the new Beck House was laid. This slab was the first of 55 foundation pads, and putting these in place was the task for early March.

The first foundation block is laid

The first pieces of equipment for the modernisation at Bird Island arrived on site in mid-November, with the arrival of a Telehandler, seven fuel tanks, fuel and food supplies for construction staff, via the RRS James Clark Ross.

Telehandler being unloaded from RRS James Clark Ross before being taken ashore to Bird Island


Telehandler being taken ashore to Bird Island on board cargo tender
Resident of Bird Island keeps an eye on arrival of construction equipment

Improving science and operational storage facilities

  • Replacement of the existing storage facility, Beck House with a larger facility
  • Enhancement of workshop facilities.
  • New facilities for food, science, field and technical storage
  • Larger storage facilities to reduce frequency of cargo drops, save ship time and fuel burn

Reducing waste and improving our environmental impact

  • New waste management facilities to help us reduce and recycle effectively
  • New biosecurity facilities to comply with BAS and the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands environmental protocols effectively
  • Rainwater harvesting to allow water transfer to Prince House for human consumption
  • Improved energy monitoring across the whole site
  • Installation of a new bulk-fuel tank to add station resilience and reduce the frequency of resupply

Improving our working environment for science and operational team

  • New gym facilities
  • New walkways between Prince House (accommodation and laboratory facility) and Beck House (workshop and storage facilities) for improved access and logistics handling

Improving ship cargo operation

People, supplies and equipment are brought ashore by a ship’s cargo tender (small vessel) which moors at the research station jetty.  To accommodate the RRS Sir David Attenborough cargo tender, and reduce the need for heavy manual lifting, a new longer L-shaped jetty will be contructed.  At 5.5m wide and (compared to the existing jetty’s width of 3m) cargo tender will be able to berth with either side facing the jetty.  The new jetty will also  facilitate the deeper draught of the RRS Sir David Attenborough’s larger tender vessel and will be functional in all tidal conditions.

Bird Island research station panorama with Antarctic fur seals

Bird Island Research Station.  View on Google StreetView here

About the construction programme

The new Beck House has been built on the existing Beck House footprint between Prince House and the Generator Shed.  It is constructed from pre-fabricated modular elements.  A timber store and waste storage is incorporated into the design.  The old building and adjacent timber and waste stores were removed.

Living and working at Bird Island

The research station is home to a small and dedicated science and support team.  Watch these videos find out more about what it’s like.



Our aims are to enable the continuation of globally important frontier science and to to enhance our operational efficiency at Bird Island.  The modernisation of Bird Island will achieve:

  • Improvement of our working environment for science and operational teams
  • Improved science and operational storage facilities
  • Reduction of waste to improve our environmental impact
  • Improved ship cargo operation

Research studies at Bird Island are critical for informing international policies on biodiversity and conservation

Industry project delivery partners

Our in-house project management, operational and logistics teams are working closely with external partners to deliver the modernisation projects at BAS’s Antarctic research stations.

BAM Nuttall

BAM Nuttall is British Antarctic Survey’s construction partner for the Rothera & Islands modernisation projects.

Graham Hopper

Partnership Operations Director

Lloyd Wickens

Construction Manager

Stewart Craigie

Design Team Leader

Neil Goulding

Procedures Controller

Daan Aldenberg

Project Manager


Ramboll is British Antarctic Survey’s technical advisor, supporting a number of projects in the Antarctic.

Dave Grove

Contract Director

Bruce Wulff

Contract Lead

Kate Bunting

Project Manager – Buildings

Luke Bradley

Discipline Leader – Marine

Tony McGlory

Discipline Leader – MEP

Ben Rowe

Discipline Leader – Structures

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