RRS Sir David Attenborough arrives in Antarctica for the first time

After calling at Rothera, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will continue its mission South, making calls at Signy, King Edward Point and Bird Island research stations, and heading to the Stange Ice Front for its ice trials.

RRS Sir David Attenborough arrives in Antarctica for the first time
Photo: Will Clark

Britain’s new polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, has travelled to Antarctica on its maiden voyage, with its first call today (17 December) at Rothera Research Station – the UK’s largest Antarctic research station on the continent.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough departed the UK in November, arriving in the Falkland Islands three-and-a-half weeks later. From there, the ship continued its voyage, officially entering Antarctica on 13 December. The ship has now arrived at British Antarctic Survey’s largest research facility, transporting station personnel, food, fuel and cargo.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough’s arrival at Rothera Research Station also marks the first time the new purpose-built £40m wharf has been used to berth the ship. The 74-metre wharf was completed in 2020 by the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIMP). It enables Britain’s new polar research ship to berth safely and help the station run more efficiently with a new crane to launch small science boats, a personnel gangway and a floating pontoon to deploy scientific instruments. The wharf achieved the first sustainability CEEQUAL award in Antarctica for construction projects last July, gaining the highest rating available of ‘Excellent’ by BRE.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough’s arrival also marks the start of the new construction season with activity on the Discovery Building for the third year in a row – a new state of the art, science and operations facility for Rothera Research Station. Due to the harsh, cold Antarctic environment, construction can only take place during the Antarctic summer months. Over 50 members of a specialist construction team arrived last month and will work until April on erecting the main steel structure, installation of ground floor pre-cast concrete slabs, ground drainage and site wide services.