Insight to life and work at King Edward Point - a sub-Antarctic island

28 April 2020
Alan Roper is currently Site Supervisor overseeing the construction of the new wharf at King Edward Point Research Station in South Georgia as part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme. Here he shares insights of the engineering challenges and what it is like to live and work in this remote location.
Aerial View of Wharf and Dolphin. Image Alan Roper

Aerial View of Wharf and Dolphin. Image Alan Roper

The new wharf at King Edward Point will enable the new UK polar ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough to berth at King Edward Point Research Station and support world-class science for the next generation. 

As the Antarctic winter approaches and the project nears completion, the team is putting finishing touches to the new loading platform, as focus turns to constructing the new slipway and mooring dolphin (a separate platform that allows longer ships to tie-up alongside). The slipway provides a launching facility for small boats, and divers are needed to precisely position each precast slab under the water. Tom Cameron (Dive Supervisor) from Marine Civil Solutions leads the dive team, with Chris Anderson, Kieron Wright, Dave Wyatt and Nick Hampshire. The colder weather provides a novel challenge with the potential arrival of seals, therefore marine mammal observers are on site to help protect wildlife and ensure safety requirements are met for our divers. The dive team has been involved in a wide range of underwater activities; including inspection and removal of sea bed obstructions and placing precast and burning sheet piles underwater.

Over the last month the construction team has been hard at work driving in the sheet piles that provide a new retaining wall around the existing wharf. The final capping plates, fenders, quay furniture and service trenches are being added.

A big construction project means there are many mouths to feed. Sarah Clark and Vicki Leslie are chefs for the busy station this season. The longevity of fresh produce and the duration between each shipment of fresh produce or ‘freshies’ means that the chefs must be creative yet resourceful in making a nutritious, varied and balanced diet.
The chefs start the day at 7am by preparing the morning break or ‘smoko’, which consists of a meat-filled butty and porridge. After that they bake a sweet treat for the afternoon, before preparing a range of salads, sandwiches, pasties or soups for lunch. In the afternoon they go shopping to replenish stocks from the Food Store and then cook the evening meal and desert.

Curry Night on Wednesday, Fish Friday and Sunday Roast Dinner are staple traditions each week but every other night the cooks can showcase their culinary skills under a variety of different cuisines.

Outside of work, the station remains a hive of social activity. Recently the Gull Lake Regatta took place. Many participants created homemade sailing boats from items around the station. The Erny Duston Regatta Cup was awarded to Sam Voysey with his speedy inflated tyre with BAM flag sail. Other awards were given to Martin Loughran for his most innovative use of materials (a boat made of ice… which sank), Ronald Hardeman for his most elegant vessel entitled ‘The Clog’ and Kelvin for his efforts utilising the same boat from last year.

Last month the station also hosted the annual King Edward Point Half Marathon – the world’s most southern half-marathon and arguably the toughest, with over 1km of ascent over the course. Collectively, the team raised money for the charity, Save the Albatross. BASMU Doctor and organiser Kat Ganly crowned Martin Loughran the winner who completed the course in 02.02hrs.

As winter sets in, the cargo ship MV Billesborg has already set sail from Rothera Research Station to decommission the site and return equipment for the successful completion of the wharf by early summer. Whilst spirits remain high, the pressure is on to complete the mooring dolphin in time for the arrival of the ship so it can berth using the new wharf.

Find out more about the King Edward Point Modernisation and follow #KEPWharf #SGSSIScience on social media for the latest updates.

Ramboll. RRS Sir David Attenborough. Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey

Appointed by NERC as Technical Advisors to BAS (British Antarctic Survey), Ramboll is providing specialist engineering and consultancy services for seven years. Delivering a host of projects within the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP), BAS and its Technical Advisors (including NORR Architects and Turner & Townsend) are preparing for one of the world’s most advanced Polar research ships - the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

King Edward Point. Image: Kate Bunting

King Edward Point

King Edward Point (KEP) Research Station is owned by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) and operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). 

Ramboll. Rothera Research Station Wharf. British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey - Rothera Research Station

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM) programme to support world-class science through an upgrade of British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research stations and infrastructure includes preparations for one of the world’s most advanced Polar research ships - the RRS Sir David Attenborough. 

Image Joe Corner, courtesy of BAS - Aerial view of the completed Bird Island Research Station

Enabling frontier science at Bird Island

Located in South Georgia – one of the richest wildlife sites in the world - the Bird Island Research Station upgrade was the first project to be completed under the ongoing Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation programme, which will transform how British Antarctic Survey (BAS) enables and supports frontier science. 

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