New UK polar research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough departed from the Falkland Islands in November 2023, for its first Antarctic science mission, with 12 researchers plus Nautilus International members and other seafarers living and working onboard.
The vessel will complete a cruise of the Weddell Sea in early December 2023, during which the physicists, ecologists and biogeochemists onboard will investigate how the upper ocean changes in response to the annual melt of sea ice – a subject of vital importance given the low sea ice extent during the last Southern winter.
The ship's ability to break through sea ice meant the experts could collect samples both from the open ocean and deep within the sea ice zone, traditionally a difficult place to conduct research. Three autonomous underwater gliders were left behind to continue collecting data in the months to come.
I have a strong interest in what the scientists are doing but my job is to drive the ship, make it function as a reliable science platform...
Master of the RRS Sir David Attenborough Captain Will Whatley
Where is the RRS Sir David Attenborough now?
Learn more at the National Maritime Muesum
Hear a talk by master Captain Will Whatley
On the Royal Museums Greenwich website you can find out how to track the UK's polar research vessel as it carries out important scientific research with the British Antarctic Survey, and hear from master Captain Will Whatley speak about what it's like to take charge of the UK's leading science vessel .
Check out the latest webcam photos from the ship on the British Antarctic Survey website.
Scientists aboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough have so far collected samples of seawater around the A23a mega iceberg, the largest iceberg in the world. A23a hit the headlines worldwide on 24 November 2023 after it moved out of the Weddell Sea sector into the Southern Ocean. The RRS Sir David Attenborough passed the iceberg as part of its planned route towards the Weddell Sea, where the team start an intensive 10-day a project in December 2023 conducting biogeochemical processes and ecosystem function in changing polar systems and their global impacts (known as BIOPOLE).