Britain’s new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, has departed on its maiden voyage to Antarctica.
The vessel left Harwich in Essex yesterday (November 16) with 66 crew and personnel on board. It will make a short stop at Portsmouth to take on fuel before departing the UK by November 18. Its first point of call will be Stanley in the Falkland Islands, three-and-a-half weeks later. From there, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will continue its voyage to Antarctica.
During its first mission south, the state-of-the-art research vessel will transfer station teams, food, cargo and fuel to British Antarctic Survey’s five research stations. Robotic instruments that drift with the Southern Ocean currents will be deployed as part of the Argo international oceanography program.
The ship will also transport essential science equipment to support the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a cooperative project between UK and US scientists to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica.
Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of British Antarctic Survey, said, “We are so excited to be waving off the RRS Sir David Attenborough on its first Antarctic mission. This historic moment marks the next chapter of ship-borne research for British Antarctic Survey. I was there when the first piece of steel was laid, so to watch the ship sail away to Antarctica for the first time is an incredibly poignant and emotional moment for me, and for all those who have been involved in the ship’s story so far. Following COP26 in Glasgow, the world is more aware than ever of the urgent need to understand our changing world, and the RRS Sir David Attenborough has a vital role to play in that.”
Will Whatley, captain of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, said, “This is such a proud moment for the crew of RRS Sir David Attenborough. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, and to finally be sailing the ship to Antarctica is an incredible feeling.”
The ship was commissioned by UKRI-NERC and built by Cammell Laird for operation by British Antarctic Survey. This new research platform will transform how ship-borne science is conducted in the polar regions. It will return to the UK in June 2022 at the end of the Antarctic season.