The UK does not possess ice-breakers but does have two ice strengthened research/resupply vessels (RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton) that operate primarily in the Antarctic in support of British Antarctic Survey research activities, though the James Clark Ross now also operates most summer seasons in the Arctic Ocean.
In addition NERC has two further large research vessels, the RRS Discovery and the more recently acquired RRS James Cook, both of which can work in polar waters but not in the presence of sea-ice.
RRS James Clark Ross (named after Admiral Sir James Clark Ross, R.N. ) was built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders, Wallsend, UK and launched by H.M. The Queen on the 1st December 1990.
- The vessel can steam at a steady two knots through level sea ice one metre thick.
- To assist passage through heavy pack ice a compressed air system rolls the ship from side to side freeing the passage.
- RRS James Clark Ross is equipped for geophysical studies, with a compressor bank to power a seismic air gun array, and large aft and starboard decks for scientific equipment deployed by aft and midships gantries.
- For biological studies, the vessel can deploy a wide range of sampling gear and benefits from modern underway instrumentation.
- The ship is designed with an extremely low noise signature to allow sensitive underwater acoustic equipment to operate effectively.
RRS Ernest Shackleton was built by Kverner Klevin Leirvik A/S, Norway as the MV Polar Queen for the Rieber Shipping of Bergen in 1995. She was deployed in the Antarctic by other national programmes before being aquired by The British Antarctic Survey in August 1999. The vessel was renamed RRS Ernest Shackleton after Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famed Polar Explorer.
- The vessel is ice strengthened and capable of a wide range of logistic tasks as well as having a scientific capability.
- She has a cargo tender “Tula” on deck for ship to shore transfer of equipment for those occasions when the ship cannot berth alongside.
Find out more at www.arctic.ac.uk