RRS Sir David Attenborough getting ready for next phase of sea trials

British Antarctic Survey

The RRS Sir David Attenborough (SDA) is getting ready for its next round of sea trials. This is an important part of the preparations for the ship’s first Antarctic mission.

The ship has been in dry dock at Cammell Laird shipyard since March to enable engineers to carry out technical fixes and refinements identified during the first round of trials, as well as commissioning new scientific equipment in the ship’s hull and laboratories.

The SDA is operated by two crews who alternate every two and a half months. A change of crew this week will ensure that all SDA mariners are able to complete on board training and gain experience in operating the state-of-the-art ship before the ship begins her first mission.

A large ship in a body of water
The RRS Sir David Attenborough has been in dry dock at Cammell Laird. The dock was flooded up last week ahead of the ship’s departure for further trials. Credit: Steven Sproul.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough has state-of-the-art acoustic systems to map and create images of the depth and shape of large areas of the seafloor. Nine scientific winches, with a combined 61,000m of cable, are used to deploy scientific equipment to investigate the Southern Ocean’s unique ecosystems.

A crane next to a body of water
The RRS Sir David Attenborough is getting ready for its next round of sea trials. Credit: Steven Sproul.

Captained by John Harper, the SDA will carry out Harbour Acceptance trials on acoustic systems and ship trials around the local Merseyside area and then return to the shipyard for inspection and technical reviews. This will be followed by Sea Acceptance trials on some winches and training enroute to the ship’s home port of Harwich.

The ship will then sail to a specialist shipyard in Denmark for final technical checks and fitting out in readiness for the first mission to Antarctica.

Captain Harper said,

“The SDA is an incredible piece of engineering. There are literally thousands of pieces of equipment, electrical cabling, and science gear that need to be commissioned and tested. Both crews need to be thoroughly familiar and trained to operate the ship in calm and rough seas. The excitement is mounting as we approach the time when the ship will be fully operational and ready for polar missions.”

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