RRS Sir David Attenborough has completed the first leg of its journey to Antarctica, arriving in the Falkland Islands on 9 December. Since the draft of Britain’s new polar ship is too large for it to berth in Stanley harbor, so the ship will anchor north of the Narrows at Port William. However, the ship is visible from vantage points around the coastline.
During its first mission the Falklands flagged state-of-the-art research vessel will transfer station teams, food, cargo and fuel to British Antarctic Survey’s five research stations. The RRS Sir David Attenborough will also deploy robotic instruments that drift with the Southern Ocean currents (Argo floats), as part of an international oceanography program.
The ship will also transport essential science equipment to support the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a collaboration between UK and US scientists to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica.
Falklands' lawmaker MLA Ian Hansen, Chair of the Legislative Assembly, said: “I know that the community is very excited to welcome the Falklands-flagged RRS Sir David Attenborough to the Islands, having bid a fond farewell to the RRS James Clark Ross in February this year. As a government, we have worked closely with the British Antarctic Survey during the pandemic, ensuring that they’ve been able to continue their vital scientific research to understand the true nature of the challenges facing the environment. Through careful planning we have been able to operate as the gateway for exciting and important Antarctic science throughout the past season.”
Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey, said the arrival marks the first of many calls by the RRS Sir David Attenborough to the Falkland Islands over the next three decades, as Britain’s new polar ship carries out critical science and logistics missions in the Overseas Territories. It’s a very special moment indeed.”
Captain Will Whatley of RRS Sir David Attenborough pointed out that to have sailed the ship from the UK to the Falkland Islands is a huge milestone. Everyone on board recognizes the strong connection between RRS Sir David Attenborough and the Falkland Islands, there is huge excitement on board about our first arrival. RRS Sir David Attenborough is wearing her Falklands ensign with pride!”
The vessel will operate year-round, spending the boreal summer supporting Arctic research cruises, and the austral summer in Antarctica, carrying out research programs and bringing people and supplies to BAS research stations. Its ice-strengthened hull can break through ice up to one meter thick, and its ability to spend up to 60 days at sea means it can undertake extensive voyages.