The UK government has announced that it will be investing in a new state-of-the-art polar research vessel. The announcement was made by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne this Friday.
The UK government will be spending a total of £200 million into the project. The 130 meter long ship will come with everything a polar research vessel will need including heavy duty cranes, cutting edge laboratory and scientific equipment and a helipad. The new vessel will also have the capability to deploy and retrieve both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles. The UK government expects that the vessel will be completed by the year 2019.
"This an exciting time for UK polar science and I am delighted with this announcement," said Jane Francis, the director of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "It signals a firm commitment by Government and NERC to sustain and promote the UK's world-leading capability for UK research in both polar regions."
The vessel was commissioned in an effort to bolster the capabilities of scientists working in the Polar Regions. British scientists continually monitor the conditions in both the Arctic and the Antarctic regions of the planet. Due to the harsh conditions in the Polar Regions, conducting research and experiments can be dangerous, time-consuming, and very difficult. The difficulties of operating in the Polar Regions can get even more difficult during the winter where conditions can take a turn for the worst in a matter of minutes.
"Understanding the polar oceans is absolutely key to understanding the big questions about our global environment," said BAS Polar Oceans science program head Mike Meredith. "During the last 100 years British scientists have made incredible discoveries about our planet - for example, we now know that the Southern Ocean is a vast natural sink that absorbs carbon dioxide and regulates our climate."
Thick ice sheets are some of the major obstacles that ships travelling in the Polar Regions regularly encounter. The new British science ship will come with a strengthen hull that will allow it to break through the ice to reach key areas of interest. The ship has been designed to handle two-meter thick ice sheets even when travelling at a speed of three knots. The new ship will be added to the UK's current fleet of polar science vessels. The country is already operating two other polar ships including the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Ernest Shackleton and the RRS James Clark Ross.
"This new ship will build on this legacy of internationally outstanding research, and will, lead to ground-breaking and exciting discoveries that will ultimately generate new knowledge that benefits our society and economy."