Members of the Bam Nuttall team who built the wharf to accommodate the new Antarctic research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough with Ramboll, have revealed the challenges of working in the uncompromising environment.
Some 60 Bam Nuttall workers were in the South Pole on phase 1 of the project for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) between November 2018 and April 2019.
Speaking to Construction News at an event ahead of the official naming of the boat, Bam Nuttall operations director Graham Hopper revealed his team worked from 7am-7pm, six days per week, to make the most of the time they had.
Those selected for the project were required to undergo psychological evaluations to make sure that they would be prepared for the lengthy and isolated stint on the project, working in temperatures which regularly dropped to -10 deg C.
But Mr Hopper said that many of the workers were keen to go back. “To be honest, an Antarctic summer is probably a far better place to be in the Scottish winter. It’s cold but a dry cold," he said.
Some 4,500 tonnes of equipment and parts of the steel frame of the wharf were transported to Antarctica by ship. The steel frame had been constructed offsite in the UK using modular techniques and was ‘flat-packed’ during transit to maximise the usage of space. Mr Hopper said it took a month and cost £2m to transport all that was necessary for the project.
Tailored contingency plans are also needed for such a remote project. “You’re going to Antarctica, you need contingency. Whereas your construction methodology requires a 300 tonne crane and say a 150 tonne crane, you have to take two 300 tonne cranes, because if your large crane breaks down, your 150 tonne model won’t be able to support that," he said.
Diggers used on the project needed to be fitted with long-reach attachments due to the requirements of the terrain, which operatives were trained to use via an Xbox simulation before they left the UK.
The wharf and research vessel are part of a £200m UK government investment into polar science.
Construction is due for completion in April 2020.