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Drilling begins for new Antarctic base wharf

Excavation work has started at Rothera Research Station in Antractica with the deconstruction of the old wharf.

Bam Nuttall, Bam Ritchies and Bam International in conjunction with Sweco and Ramboll are constructing a new 74m long wharf, which will be built in two stages over two Antarctic seasons for the new polar research vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

Two 35t excavators broke through the surface of the old ”Biscoe” wharf and began the process of deconstruction, which has to take place before the new bigger and deeper wharf can be built. The excavators will be swapped for two 90t long reach machines for the deep excavation and dismantling works.

The Bam team will contiune to remove the existing wharf, ready for the rear section of the new wharf to be constructed in the first season, then the front section attached during the second season.

In preparation the construction team practiced by building a full-scale assembly of the 30t steel rigs in Southampton before deployment.

This animation shows how the new wharf at Rothera will be constructed over the next two seasons.

British Antarctic Survey (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, practicing 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 set off with a ship loaded with 4,500t of equipment to build a new wharf at Rothera Research Station in Antarctica in November. 

Bam project manager Martha McGowan added: “All the team are really pleased to have begun this exciting and important work. It is great to think that the wharf we are building will berth the world’s most famous research ship – the RRS Sir David Attenborough!”

Bam was chosen to partner with Bas to modernise UK Antarctic and other research facilities back in January 2017. The wharf is the first project to be undertaken in a contract worth an estimated €120M (£100M).

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