Divers completed the final part of the wharf deconstruction along the sea bed, making way for the first 55t frame to be installed. During a 12-hour operation, it was lowered carefully into position onto temporary guides from a 300t-capacity crane.
The project team had to fine tune the frame, setting it to within the 40mm tolerance. This precision engineering was critical to ensuring the alignment for the new wharf, which will provide safe berthing and efficient operations for the new RRS Sir David Attenborough.
In total, 20 frames will make up the wharf’s skeleton, with seven due for installation during this season by construction partner BAM and technical advisor Ramboll.
BAM Project Engineer Ian Wenkenbach said: “Two years of planning has come to bear fruit with the successful installation of the critical first frame. The full-scale trial assembly and lift undertaken back in September in the UK ensured that the operation here in Antarctica went according to plan.
“To install the frames, which form the skeleton of the new structure, we are using a hydraulic jacking system, a concept developed in-house to allow accurate levelling of the frames after installation, as well as specially designed lifting frames, support structures and access platforms.”
The commissioning of the RRS Sir David Attenborough is part of a major government polar infrastructure investment programme designed to keep Britain at the forefront of world-leading research in Antarctica and the Arctic.
This £200m commitment represents the UK government’s largest investment in polar science since the 1980s. It includes a range of modernisation across the BAS estate.