Building blocks for new wharf arrive in Antarctica

DS Wisconsin Image copyright A Cziferszky@BAS
Image caption The RRS Ernest Shackleton guided the DS Wisconsin through sea ice towards Rothera

A cargo ship loaded with 4,500 tonnes of steel and equipment for a new wharf has successfully docked in the Antarctic after a month-long voyage.

The DS Wisconsin left Teesport, near Middlesbrough, at the end of November carrying 83 sea containers of supplies.

It was guided through sea ice towards the Rothera Research Station where work on the new wharf will begin in weeks.

Martha McGowan, from construction firm BAM, described the sailing as a "major logistical undertaking".

The new wharf is part of a £100m upgrade of the British Antarctic Survey research station to accommodate its new, much larger vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

Image copyright Matthew Phillips
Image caption The container ship took a month to sail from Teesport to Antarctic
Image copyright Jenny Symons
Image caption The DS Wisconsin arrives alongside the Rothera Research Station

The mammoth task of unloading the shipment is likely to take around two weeks, a spokeswoman said.

A 50-strong team, from construction giant BAM, will now spend two Antarctic summers - from November to May - dismantling the old 60m (196ft) wharf and building the new 74m (242ft) one.

Rothera is operated by the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and acts as the gateway for deep field research by UK scientists and their international collaborators.

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David Seaton, BAS project manager, described the creation of the new wharf as a "complex, marine civil engineering challenge", akin to "building underwater on the edge of a crumbling ice cliff".

"We are all now very keen to get on with the work of building the new wharf - an integral part of modernising our infrastructure and keeping the UK at the forefront of polar science," he said.

Image copyright Robert Patterson
Image caption The DS Wisconsin cargo ship approaching the Rothera Research Station
Image copyright British Antarctic Survey
Image caption The last container is loaded on to the DS Wisconsin at Teesport before the journey to Antarctica

The shipment, which arrived last week, includes two 300-tonne crawler cranes, 90-tonne long reach excavators, drilling rigs and about 1,000 tonnes of structural steelwork.

BAM project manager, Martha McGowan, added: "It was a major logistical undertaking to get every single thing needed to build a wharf in freezing Antarctic waters loaded onto one ship.

"One month and 11,000km later, it is very good to see all that hard work paying off."

The wharf should be up and running by April 2020.

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