Summer construction season begins at British research station in Antarctica

Crowds gather for the naming ceremony of the polar research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, Britain in September 2019. The wharf at the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station is being redone to accommodate the new vessel. (Peter Byrne/Pool/Reuters)
The summer construction season is underway at the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station in Antarctica, with a crew resuming work on modernizing infrastructure. 

Projects underway include a new science and operations building and a new 74 metre-long wharf that will be able to accommodate the new RRS Sir David Attenborough, a polar research ship, that had its naming ceremony in September. 

Some of the wharf projects planned for this season include installing a crane to facilitate the launch of small science boats, a personnel gangway and setting up a floating pontoon to deploy scientific instruments. Builders will also finish installing the wharf’s skeleton, backfilling it with rock. 

“Having been to the naming ceremony for the RRS Sir David Attenborough earlier this year, it helped put our second build season into perspective,” Martha McGowan, a project manager at BAM, said in a news release.

It will be a busy season but we recognise the importance of our projects in helping BAS continue to deliver frontier science.”

Reducing fossil fuel dependence

Part of the infrastructure overhaul also includes making the station more energy efficient in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Projects include heat recovery generators, photovoltaic solar panels and better insulation.

A rear frame being installed, in an undated photo, for the new wharf at the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. (British Antarctic Survey)

“After many months of planning we are looking forward to achieving two key milestones at Rothera,” David Seaton, a BAS senior infrastructure programme manager said in the news release.

“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 summer construction season in Antarctica runs from November to May. Approximately 60 people from the BAS arrived in December. Eighty per cent of the construction team are returning from the previous construction season.

Construction will also take place at the King Edward Point Research Station on the subantarctic island of South Georgia to accommodate the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

Write to Eilís Quinn at

Related stories from around the North:

Antarctica: Do the extreme conditions of Antarctica change the human brain?, Eye on the Arctic

Germany: MOSAiC international science expedition completes crew transfer in Central Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Documentary will show climate change through eyes of pioneering scientist, Mia Bennett – Blog

Iceland: Geoengineering climate fixes popular at Arctic Circle assembly, Mia Bennett – Blog

Norway: Twin science projects seek to understand impacts of Arctic climate change, Radio Canada International

Russia: Russian icebreaker leaves Tromsø to supply ice-locked German research ship, The Independent Barents Observer

United Kingdom: UK’s new flagship polar research vessel officially named Sir David Attenborough, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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