Building one of the world’s most advanced polar research ships, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, marks a renaissance in the UK’s shipbuilding capability, according to Captain Tim Stockings, who will tell an audience at the Royal Academy of Engineering about the £200 million project, funded by the UK government’s largest investment in polar science for 30 years.

Captain Stockings, former Director of Operations at the British Antarctic Survey, will explain how world-leading UK engineering design and construction has enabled the RRS Sir David Attenborough to be built in Liverpool – it was commissioned by NERC, designed by Rolls-Royce and built by Cammell Laird for BAS. From 2019 onwards, up to 60 researchers at a time studying oceans, ice and atmosphere will have access to state-of-the-art facilities on board the vessel, which will be able to stay at sea for up to 60 days.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough - and its famous submersible craft Boaty McBoatface - are part of a major project to keep the UK at the forefront of polar research. The ship takes a new approach to ‘plug and play’ science with a series of containers fitted out as science labs giving a new flexibility to both planning research cruises and adapting to new lab technologies in the future.

In Conversation at the Academy, Captain Stockings will explain how the ship has been built and the role of some of its special features. In July the hull was launched into the Mersey and in the following days the superstructure was craned on to the top and the ship went into dry dock for painting and further works. The internal fit out is currently nearing completion.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough is the first British polar research ship to feature a moon pool – a 4 x 4 metre square vertical shaft through the middle of the vessel open to both the sky and the sea. This will facilitate easier and safer deployment of equipment and experiments in rough polar seas.

Captain Stockings, an engineering graduate and former Royal Navy helicopter pilot, will also talk about the wider engineering and logistics operation required to support teams of researchers on polar research ships and research stations like Halley VI in Antarctica.

He says: “The rapid melting of the polar ice caps could have catastrophic consequences for oceans and wildlife across the globe. The teams that conduct research on these delicate ecosystems work in some of the most remote and inhospitable regions on Earth need the best technological and logistics support available. The RRS Sir David Attenborough will enable a step change in the UK’s research capability, replacing two ageing polar research ships and enabling world-leading research in the Arctic and Antarctic for the next 25 years.”

Speaking at the launch of the hull of the vessel into the Mersey in July, Sir David Attenborough, whose name the ship bears, said: “As far as I am concerned, to see this magnificent hull with my name on it is the greatest possible honour and I thank everyone who has been involved in this wonderful enterprise and wish them huge success when this marvellous ship gets down there in the Antarctic which we thought was so remote but which we realise now is absolutely crucial to the future of all of us.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Captain Tim Stockings, British Antarctic Survey's former Director of Operations, will be in conversation with Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent at the Guardian, at 6pm for 6.30 on Tuesday 30 October 2018 at the Royal Academy of Engineering, 3 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DG.

    Tickets cost £10/students go free: https://www.raeng.org.uk/events/events-programme/2018/october/extreme-engineering-antarctica
  1. British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (UKRI-NERC), delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth and our impact on it.

Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure, help sustain a world-leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs. The UK is one of over thirty countries operating scientific research facilities in Antarctica.

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering

As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society. We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession. We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of our three strategic priorities:

  • To make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • To address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • To position engineering at the heart of society

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

For more information please contact:

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering

T: 020 7766 0636

E:  Jane Sutton