UK Activity in the Territory

With no native population, our physical presence in the British Antarctic Territory is provided by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Royal Navy and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). 

British Antarctic Survey

The BAS has three research stations and two logistical facilities:

  • Rothera Station, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, this is the hub of UK activity in Antarctica;
  • Halley Station, located on the Brunt Ice Shelf in the eastern Weddell Sea;
  • Signy, a summer-only station, in the South Orkney Islands;
  • Fossil Bluff on Alexander Island; and
  • Sky Blu, deep in Palmer Island

During the austral summer (which runs November to March), the number of people working at the stations is over 250. During the winter, these numbers drop to around 30.

Two Royal Research Ships, the RRS Ernest Shackleton and RRS James Clark Ross support the work of the stations.  They provide resupply and re-staffing logistics as well as carrying out scientific research. The new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, is currently under construction at Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead and will replace the two existing vessels.  The ship’s first Antarctic operation will commence in autumn 2020.

Royal Research Ship Ernest Shackleton in the water next to an icy covered ground with Antarctic fur seals in the foreground
RRS Ernest Shackleton featured with fur seals. [Credit: British Antarctic Survey]
Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross moored next to icy ground with four Emperor Penguins in the foreground
RRS James Clark Ross featured with Emperor penguins. [Credit: British Antarctic Survey]

A fleet of five aircraft, one intercontinental Dash-7 and four Twin Otters, operates at Rothera Research Station during the Antarctic summer.  These aircraft support scientific field parties that work deep field; can be equipped with scientific instruments; and transport people and equipment to and from Antarctica.

Plane being guided into land
The De Havilland Canada Dash-7 aircraft landing. [Credit: British Antarctic Survey]

HMS Protector

The Royal Navy are also present every austral summer. HMS Protector is the Navy’s current ice patrol ship, which, as well as supporting the work of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and BAS, carries out extensive hydrographic survey work and performs work in support of the Antarctic Treaty system and inspects stations, tourist vessels and fishing vessels.

HMS Protector at sea

UK Antarctic Heritage Trust

The summer only team from the UKAHT operate the historic base at Port Lockroy as a living museum and Post Office.  UKAHT also undertake conservation work at a range of other historic British huts in the Territory.

UKAHT Logo

  • Find out more about UKAHT