Aside from all of the usual maintenance going on around the base this season, there has been a team busy putting together a new science building for Rothera. As with any build down here this is a major logistical challenge, since every single item required must be considered and planned for back in Cambridge before being shipped South – there’s no option for an emergency trip to B & Q if you run out of nails!
However, this has been a particularly interesting project. The new facility is going to be used by a team from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), rather than the usual BAS staff. This is the first such collaboration for BAS, and means that the Dutch scientists will be heading out to join us for a few months next summer.
The building itself is also a pretty nifty design. In the long-run, the Dutch team will be working on various strands of research, each of which will require different laboratory facilities. Rather than committing themselves to a single inflexible design, the building is simply a housing for lab containers that can be slotted in and out of four different bays. Once some new facilities are needed, the old containers can be removed, with new ones brought in on the ship and easily dropped in place.
The initial focus is on marine science, so part of the function of the first labs is to provide equipment for analysing water samples. These containers arrived on the Ernest Shackleton last week, and it was a relatively simple job for the Rothera team to hoist them onto the wharf with the crane and transfer them to the new building, where they are winched into place. Impressive stuff!