Rothera Research Station is the UK Antarctic hub for frontier science. Over the next decade, Rothera Research Station will be upgraded to ensure its facilities keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research. This comprehensive modernisation includes a new wharf for the RRS Sir David Attenborough and a new science and operations facility, the Discovery Building.
Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (UKRI-NERC), the modernisation programme represents the largest Government investment in polar science infrastructure since the 1980s.
The first phase of Rothera Research Station Modernisation was to rebuild and extend Rothera Wharf to accommodate the new and larger polar ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
Construction on the new £40m Rothera Wharf began in November 2018 and was completed by April 2020. A specialist team built the 74 metre wharf over 18 months through during the Antarctic summers (November to May).
The 50-strong team from construction partners and designers of the wharf, BAM, with the support of Sweco and technical advisors, Ramboll, completed the project. Turner & Townsend also provided cost management.
Rothera Wharf Benefits
Accommodate and moor the new polar ship for Great Britain, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
Bigger, deeper and stronger than the previous wharf.
Launching small boats with a larger crane.
A personnel gangway and a floating pontoon for the deployment of scientific instruments.
Rothera Wharf Final Season (2019-2020)
The season started in November 2019 with the team clearing 2000 tonnes of snow as the site was not operational during the dark Antarctic Winter. The wharf’s remaining 14 out of 20 steel frames that form the wharf’s skeleton were put in place and backfilled with rock, securing the structure.
The first ships, including the RRS James Clark Ross, moored at the new wharf in April 2020.
Rothera Wharf First Season (2018-2019)
During the first season, the old Biscoe wharf was taken apart in January 2019. Temporary cargo unloading and boat launch facilities were set-up. The first steel frames of the new wharf were lowered into place.
Building a new wharf in one of the world’s most remote locations presented a number of challenges. Every nut and bolt needed to be accounted for and the 4,500 tonnes of equipment was shipped 11,000 km from the UK to Antarctica.
The construction team practiced full-scale assembly of the 45 tonne steel frames in Southampton to identify unexpected challenges or additional pieces of equipment needed whilst still in the UK.
Modernisation programme aims:
Enable frontier science to satisfy the current and predictable future demand of research communities in the UK
Maintain the UK Antarctic regional presence in the Southern Atlantic
Invest now to constrain future running costs of Antarctic Logistics and Infrastructure
rationalise site layout and use for optimal efficiency
upgrade our facilities and technologies so that the research station is energy efficient and sustainable into the future
enable efficient station relief and cargo operations with faster turnaround times, to allow both the station and the ship to maximise the time spent undertaking research and supporting UK polar science and logistics as effectively and efficiently as possible
Reducing waste and enhancing biosecurity
improved waste management facilities to help us reduce and recycle effectively
enhanced management of environmental biosecurity facilities to comply with the Antarctic Treaty environmental protocols effectively
Improving ship and boating operations
rebuilding the wharf to accommodate the RRS Sir David Attenborough and reduce manual handling cargo loading/unloading time during station relief to allow the ship to spend more time on research cruises
improve small boating facilities for marine research, including a larger crane for launching small boats, a personnel gangway and a floating pontoon for the deployment of scientific instruments such as gliders
Sustainability and environmental impact
all new infrastructure to comply with the BREEAM tailored scheme that BAS has agreed with the Building Research Establishment and is targeting an Excellent rating
improved energy monitoring across the whole site and strong focus on demand management to reduce energy use
new buildings will have the highest levels of energy efficiency and thermal performance
energy-efficient generators incorporating heat recovery to minimise our environmental impact and reduce fuel costs
Christopher Robert Lloyd, Site Supervisor for Ramboll, is currently working in Antarctica constructing the new scientific support facility at Rothera, the Discovery Building. He travelled to Antarctica in December 2020 …
Billy Thursfield, Sub-Agent for BAM, is currently working on the construction of the new science and operations facility at Rothera Research Station, the Discovery Building. Here he reflects on working …
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