A public welcome to the RRS Sir David Attenborough


The public is warmly invited to welcome the RRS Sir David Attenborough as it makes its maiden voyage into the Falkland Islands on Thursday 9 December 2021. The plan is for the vessel to cross the reporting line into Port William at 7am, followed by a slow run through Port William, where it will anchor north of the Narrows at 8am. There will be good opportunities for people to view the vessel’s arrival from the coastline, in particular from Cape Pembroke, Yorke Bay, Gypsy Cove and Ordinance Point. The ship will then remain in Port William until its departure on 10 Decembe


Due to Covid-19 measures, it will not be possible for anybody to board the vessel. Local mariners wishing to view the vessel from afloat must ensure that they do not obstruct her inward passage. Any vessel approaching, once she is anchored, is requested to keep a minimum of 20m distance.


The RRS Sir David Attenborough is one of the most advanced polar vessels in the world and provides a modern and multidisciplinary research platform which will transform how ship-based science is conducted in the polar regions, providing state-of-the-art facilities to research the oceans, seafloor, ice and atmosphere. Marine robotics and remotely operated vehicles – including Boaty McBoatface – will capture data from the deep ocean and previously inaccessible locations under the ice.


MLA Ian Hansen, Chair of the Legislative Assembly, said: “I know that the community is very excited to welcome the Falklands-flagged RRS Sir David Attenborough to the Islands, having bid a fond farewell to the RRS James Clark Ross which left the Falkland Islands in February this year. As a government, we have worked closely with the British Antarctic Survey during the pandemic, in order to ensure that they have been able to continue their vital scientific research to understand the true nature of the challenges facing the environment. Through careful planning we have been able to operate as the gateway for exciting and important Antarctic science throughout the past season.”


Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey, added: “This arrival marks the first of many calls by the RRS Sir David Attenborough to the Falkland Islands over the next three decades, as Britain’s new polar ship carries out critical science and logistics missions in the Overseas Territories. It’s a very special moment indeed.”


During its first mission, the state-of-the-art research vessel will transfer teams, food, cargo and fuel to British Antarctic Survey’s five research stations, and will deploy robotic instruments that drift with the Southern Ocean currents (Argo floats) as part of an international oceanography programme.

The ship will also transport essential science equipment to support the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a collaboration between UK and US scientists to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica.


Will Whatley, Captain of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, stated: “To have sailed the ship from the UK to the Falkland Islands is a huge milestone. Everyone on board recognises the strong connection between RRS Sir David Attenborough and the Falkland Islands; there is huge excitement on board about our first arrival. RRS Sir David Attenborough will be wearing her Falklands ensign with pride!”


The vessel will operate year-round, spending the boreal summer supporting Arctic research cruises, and the austral summer in Antarctica, carrying out research programmes and bringing people and supplies to BAS research stations. Its ice-strengthened hull can break through ice up to one metre thick, and its ability to spend up to 60 days at sea means it can undertake extensive voyages.


For more information on the vessel’s technical features and operational capability, please visit: https://www.bas.ac.uk/rrs-sir-david-attenborough/