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See the ships stopping in Harwich that are carrying out groundbreaking research into climate change in Antarctica

PUBLISHED: 12:54 21 September 2018

The Ernest Shackleton ship in Antarctica. Picture: BAS

The Ernest Shackleton ship in Antarctica. Picture: BAS

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Harwich Port has become a new base for two polar ice ships en route for Antarctica, where they will help us to better understand the changes that we are making to the earth’s climate.

The RSS James Clark Ross ship in Harwich. Picture: Hutchison PortsThe RSS James Clark Ross ship in Harwich. Picture: Hutchison Ports

The British Antarctic Survey’s two ice-strengthened Royal Research Ships - the RRS James Clark Ross (JCR), which stopped at Harwich International Port last week, and the RRS Ernest Shackleton (ES), which arrives next week, will remain in Antarctica throughout the freezing winter, when temperatures plunge to as low as -89.6°C. The ships will not return to the UK until next summer.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton transports mainly people and equipment, but also undertakes vital research work.

While in Harwich, the vessel will be loading supplies, from snow mobiles and foodstuffs to construction materials and bonded goods, all destined for the UK’s numerous Antarctic bases. The vessels will also completed a full crew change.

Commenting on the calls, Mark Seaman, Finance Director, Hutchison Ports (UK), said:“The British Antarctic Survey undertakes research in the Polar Regions to aid our understanding of the impact of human activity on the environment. We are pleased to be able to help them, albeit in a very small way, with their very important work.”

The RRS James Clark Ross ship in Antarctica. Picture: BASThe RRS James Clark Ross ship in Antarctica. Picture: BAS

Last week, people in Harwich looking out to sea may have spotted the other Antarctica-bound ship, The JCR, which is one of the world’s largest polar research vessels. A spokesperson for the British Antarctic Survey explained that the science done at sea happens on the JCR. “It takes scientists to the Southern Ocean which surrounds Antarctica, which absorbs massive amounts of CO2 to the bottom of the ocean which is sinked as the carbon is absorbed into the ocean. We don’t yet understand much about that process but if it was to stop, it would have a massive impact on our climate.”

More facts about the ships in Harwich:

The RRS Ernest Shackleton

The vessel also has a cargo tender, ‘Tula’, on deck for ship-to-shore transfer of equipment for those occasions when the ship cannot berth alongside. During the northern summer, the ES is commercially chartered and usually works in the North Sea. She was deployed in the Antarctic by other national programmes before being acquired by The British Antarctic Survey in 1999.

The RRS James Clark Ross

Launched by Her Majesty the Queen in 1990, it is primarily a marine research vessel for biological, oceanographic and geophysical operations. It is equipped with a suite of laboratories and winch systems that allow scientific equipment to be deployed astern or amidships. The ship has an extremely low noise signature, allowing the deployment of sensitive acoustic equipment.

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