British Antarctic Survey Unveils Plans for New Polar Exploration Ship

Image: BAS
Image: BAS

The UK government announced plans today for the building of a new £200 million polar research vessel for the NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) and operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

This new state-of-the-art vessel is expected to deploy on its first mission by 2019 according to NERC.

“Understanding the polar oceans is absolutely key to understanding the big questions about our global environment,” commented Professor Mike Meredith, Leader of the BAS Polar Oceans science programme. “During the last 100 years British scientists have made incredible discoveries about our planet – for example, we now know that the Southern Ocean is a vast natural sink that absorbs carbon dioxide and regulates our climate. Our long-term studies have helped understand the marine food chain, and have proven to be critical for sustainable management of commercial fisheries.

Surveys of the deep ocean have yielded vital discoveries about marine biodiversity and informed an international census of marine life. With recent advances in technology we’ve been able to combine ship-based science with robotic instruments to investigate what happens when ocean water melts Antarctic ice shelves and how it may influence future sea-level rise.

In the Arctic, our ship-borne studies have shed new light on the consequences of the shrinking sea ice for ocean circulation, climate and the ecosystem. This new ship will build on this legacy of internationally outstanding research, and will, lead to ground-breaking and exciting discoveries that will ultimately generate new knowledge that benefits our society and economy.”

Image: BAS
Image: BAS

Vessel Particulars:

  • LOA: 129.6 meters
  • Beam: 25 meters
  • Draft: 7.5 meters
  • Gross Tonnage: 12,790 tons
  • Icebreaking:  2 meters thick at 3 knots
  • Accommodations: up to 60 researchers and technical support staff
Image: BAS
Image: BAS

NERC notes this vessel will also feature the Autosub III, a highly advanced Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) with a maximum range of 400 kilometers while carrying a multibeam sonar system that builds up a 3D map of the ice above and the seabed below.  The BAS notes this AUV can also measure the salinity, temperature, and oxygen concentrations in the sea water, parameters vital to understanding the flow of water within the ice cavity and the rate of melting.

Autosub III

We do not have details yet on who is designing/building this vessel, but have reached out to the BAS for further comment.