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Construction begins on Antarctic wharf

rothera wharf

Construction of the new 74-metre long wharf at the Rothera Research Station in the Antarctic has begun.

The redevelopment of the Rothera Research Station wharf is part of Bam Nuttal’s programme of works to help modernise British polar research facilities during a £100M partnership with research group British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

The new wharf is set to provide berthing and unloading for a new polar research vessel called the RRS Sir David Attenborough - which famously was almost named Boaty McBoat Face after a public vote. 

Deconstruction of the old wharf has started. Two 35t excavators, operated by Bam Nuttal, broke through the surface of the old wharf in mid-January and two 90t long reach machines are in place for deep excavation and dismantling works.

BAS engineer and project manager David Seaton said: “Construction work in Antarctica is like nothing else, and it has taken a vast amount of planning, practising and preparation to get us this far.

“The next few weeks will be critical to the success of the project and we hope to make good progress whilst we have long hours of daylight and relatively favourable weather conditions, knowing that in a few months when winter approaches, things are likely to get a lot more difficult.”

Bam Nuttal project manager Martha McGowan added: “Because of the practical restrictions of working in one of the most remote construction sites in the world, the construction team practised full-scale assembly of the 30t steel rigs, that will form the skeleton of the new wharf, prior to leaving for Rothera. In doing this, we were able to identify unexpected challenges or additional pieces of equipment needed whilst still in the UK, rather than once everything had been shipped 11,000km to Rothera.”

A ship loaded with 4,500t of equipment by Bam Nuttall was sent on a month-long journey to Antarctica in December last year to be used for building the new wharf.

The seven to 10-year partnership to redevelop the Rothera Research Station wharf was commissioned by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and sees Bam Nuttall team up with European design consultants Sweco on project delivery. It is hoped the modernisation programme will help Britain remain at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in the Polar regions.

Other Antarctic development projects will include modernising buildings and facilities at BAS stations in Signy (South Orkney Islands), Bird Island (South Georgia) and King Edward Point (South Georgia).

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