RRS Sir David Attenborough on maiden voyage | Polarjournal
RRS Sir David Attenborough, photographed during sea trials earlier this year. (Photo: David Ferguson)

Britain’s new research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, left Harwich on November 16 with 66 crew and staff on board. After a short stopover in Portsmouth to refuel, the ship has now left the UK for good. Her first port of call will be Stanley in the Falkland Islands in three and a half weeks. From there, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will continue her voyage to Antarctica.

During its mission south, the state-of-the-art research vessel will carry station teams, food, cargo and fuel to the five British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research stations. As part of an international oceanography program, robotic instruments are used to drift with the currents of the Southern Ocean.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough visited Greenwich, London to celebrate the UK’s presidency of COP26 in October 2021. (Photo: BAS)

The ship will also carry vital scientific equipment to support the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a cooperation between British and US scientists to study one of Antarctica’s most unstable glaciers.

Last month, visitors to London had the rare opportunity to see the ship before its maiden voyage during a three-day pre-COP26 event in Greenwich in association with the National Maritime Museum.

Professor Dame Jane Francis is director of the British Antarctic Survey. In 2017 she was made a Dame Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (DCMG) in recognition of her services to British polar science and diplomacy. (Photo: BAS)

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, says: “We are delighted to see off the RRS Sir David Attenborough on her first Antarctic mission. This historic moment marks the next chapter in ship-based research for the British Antarctic Survey. I was there when the first piece of steel was laid, so seeing the ship sail into Antarctica for the first time is an incredibly poignant and emotional moment for me and everyone involved in the ship’s history 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 is playing a crucial role in this.”

William Whatley, Captain of RRS Sir David Attenborough, said, “This is such a proud moment for the crew of RRS Sir David Attenborough. The maiden voyage is the moment we’ve all been waiting for and to finally see the ship sail to Antarctica is an incredible feeling.” (Photo: BAS)

The new polar vessel was commissioned by UKRI-NERC and built by Cammell Laird for operation by British Antarctic Survey. This new research platform will transform ship-based science in the polar regions. It is part of a major government investment programme in polar infrastructure aimed at keeping the UK at the forefront of world-leading research in Antarctica and the Arctic.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough will return to the UK in June 2022 at the end of the Antarctic season.

Press release: British Antarctic Survey

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