Antarctica: Getting Ready for RRS Sir David Attenborough

Antarctica: Getting Ready for RRS Sir David Attenborough

19 December 2019 - A major modernisation programme at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Rothera Research Station begins its second ‘summer season’ this month with the arrival of a 40-plus person team from BAM. Construction work on a new 74m long wharf resumes, and initial groundworks for a new science and operations building begins. The works will improve operational efficiency and ensure that BAS is fit for the future.

Getting the research station ready to berth the RRS Sir David Attenborough requires ambitious and complex engineering. This season the remaining 14 of the 20 steel frames that form the wharf’s skeleton will be put in place and backfilled with rock, completing the wharf.

Wharf enhancements include a crane for easier launching of small science boats, a personnel gangway and a floating pontoon for the deployment of scientific instruments.

Antarctica is the highest, driest, coldest and windiest place on Earth. Construction is challenging and can take place during a short period in the austral summer (November to May). It is an exciting project for BAM, the BAS project team and Technical Advisors Ramboll. Around 80% of the construction team are returners from the previous season.

A key feature of the modernisation programme is to reduce fossil fuel consumption at the station and to introduce more energy efficient systems including heat recovery generators, photovoltaic solar panels and enhanced insulation. Work has already begun on the preparations for a new 2700m2 science and operations building.

Martha McGowan, Project Manager at BAM said:

‘Having been to the naming ceremony for the RRS Sir David Attenborough earlier this year, it helped put our second build season into perspective. It will be a busy season but we recognise the importance of our projects in helping BAS continue to deliver frontier science.’

David Seaton, Senior Infrastructure Programme Manager at British Antarctic Survey said: ‘After many months of planning we are looking forward to achieving two key milestones at Rothera. These two projects; the wharf and modernisation are critical to reducing operating costs, improving efficiency and keep the research stations meeting the needs of BAS personnel to facilitate world-leading research for the future.’

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM) programme is commissioned by UKRI-NERC (Natural Environment Research Council). It aims to keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research and will last between 7-10 years and is worth an estimated £100m.

The AIM programme operates through a partnership model providing key engineering, scientific and construction expertise, this includes technical advisor Ramboll, working alongside BAS’s construction partners BAM and their designers, Sweco.

More information on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation project is available on British Antarctic Survey’s website: 

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs. British Antarctic Survey is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit:

Ramboll is a leading engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945. The company employs more than 15,500 people globally and has especially strong representation in the Nordics, UK, North America, Continental Europe, Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

With 300 offices in 35 countries, Ramboll combines local experience with a global knowledgebase constantly striving to achieve inspiring and exacting solutions that make a genuine difference to our clients, the end-users, and society at large. Ramboll works across the following markets: Buildings, Transport, Planning & Urban Design, Water, Environment & Health, Energy and Management Consulting. More information is available at and Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Royal BAM Group nv is one of Europe’s largest contractors, delivering exceptional engineering, design, construction, property management and investment services. BAM’s ten operating companies work globally in five European home markets and in niche markets worldwide. The Group turnover £7billion annually and is listed on Euronext, Amsterdam. BAM employs approximately 20,000 people, who collaborate to support a diverse range of public and private sector customers, BAM has a worldwide reputation for building sustainable environments that enhance people’s lives - including rail, marine, tunnelling, highways, energy and water schemes. BAM enables the right people to capitalise on state-of-the-art knowledge, resources and digital technologies, providing solutions across the total construction life cycle.

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