Photos | BAM restores 32-year-old Antarctic runway

Aerial view of the restored runway at Rothera Research Station, Antarctic The restored runway (Image: BAM)

Contractor BAM has completed the restoration of a 32-year-old runway in the Antarctic as construction winds down at the end of the austral summer season.

The work came as part of the modernisation of the Rothera Research Station, the UK’s polar science hub.

Engineering firms Ramboll and Sweco have been working alongside contractor BAM on the project since 2017, with work limited to each summer season when the Antarctic gets up to 24 hours of daylight.

This season, BAM completed a carefully sequenced resurfacing and restoration of the research station’s runway to its original length amid challenging weather conditions. The extreme conditions in the region had taken their toll on the runway over the last 32 years.

Aerial view of Rothera Research Station Aerial view of Rothera Research Station (Image: BAM)

The new runway incorporates existing local rock materials from the previous wharf project as well as energy-efficient lighting, upgraded draining and a new aircraft turning pad.

Completion of a new science and operations facility called the Discovery Building is scheduled for completion in 2025. Work this season included internal work on partitioning for offices, a medical centre, plant room and storage areas. Externally, the construction team completed glazing and solar panel installations.

They also installed new energy-efficient heating systems in four other buildings on the station.

Now that the austral summer season is drawing to a close, modernisation programme team members working on construction will for the first time join the existing on-site winterers who operate the station under extreme conditions and prolonged darkness. These ‘overwintering’ efforts see joiners and electricians focus on the interior fit-out of the Discovery Building, preparing the facility for the next austral summer construction phase beginning in November.

Elen Jones, Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme director, British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said, “At the end of a long, productive and challenging season, these strides forward would not have been possible without our incredibly collaborative team. We have progressed to such an extent that we’re looking forward to completing next season’s work, which will see the Discovery Building being handed over and brought into operational use.”

Huw Jones, executive director, BAM, said: “Upgrading the runway to ensure access to Antarctica for the international science community in one of the world’s harshest and most remote locations is an incredibly complex operation. Our success this season is a result of the collective effort of our team, partners, and suppliers. We’re proud to be part of a project that aligns perfectly with our own values of building a sustainable tomorrow and that will enable important climate research to continue in the region.”

Natalie Wathen, framework manager at Ramboll, added: “It is incredible what the team has achieved this season, it has once again all been down to the collaboration across our partnership. Working to deliver a more sustainable and long-lasting future for Rothera has been extremely rewarding for us all”.

Workers on the roof of the new Discovery Building Workers on the roof of the new Discovery Building (Image: BAM)
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