The British Antarctic Survey (or BAS) is an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council. The head offices are based in Cambridge in the UK, but the main work is carried out at their reseach stations based on the Antarctic Continent and surrounding islands. The BAS conduct research in areas such as meteorology, glaciology, ecology, biology, geospce science and seismology, with a mission to address global and local environmental issues. The Antarctic offers a unique environment to be studied, one of the harshest landscapes on earth, and one with enormous rammifications for issues such as global warming and sea level cahnge, as well as rather sillier issues such as whether penguins fall over when planes fly over them.
Britains involvment with the continent of Antarctica began in the late 1800's with Captain Cook's expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, and have continued up to the present day. The BAS became recognised in the 1943 during the Second World War, when military ships were sent out into Antarctic waters to dissuade enemy boats from using the whaling stations for shelter. They set up three bases at Port Lockroy, Deception Island and Hope Bay, and Port Lockroy is now a historic site in memory of these early scientific achievements. This initiative was known as FIDS, (Faulkland Island Dependancies Survey) until 1962 when became formally recognised as the BAS.
Today the BAS runs four research stations in the Antarctic. These are:
These bases are run all year round, meaning a few intrepid
people are left out in these inhospitable places during the Antarctic Winter, when the sun sets below the horizon for several months. In addition to the four bases above, the BAS run three other research stations during the summer months. These are Signy
, Fossil Bluff
, the latter two mainly being fuel depots to supply the other bases. At the peak of the BAS's involvement in Antarctica, there were 19 stations operational. These are now only used periodically, if at all and some, such as Port Lockroy are Heritage Sites
for those tourist
s brave enough to face the polar conditions.
The BAS employ over 400 staff, mainly meteorologists and biologists, along with workers from other scientific disciplines. In addition to this there is a huge team of doctors, dentists, mechanics and engineers who are employed year round to keep the bases operational and the staff fit. The bases are supplied by two icebreakers, the RRS Ernest Shackleton and the RRS James Clark Ross, along with helicoptor support based on HMS Endurance, a ship supplied by the Royal Navy.
The BAS provide a unique service, studying a landscape about which very little is known. Research is shared by over thirty countries who send scientists out to the different stations. There are frequently jobs available, either as a scientist, or as a member of the support team. Work is varied and according to inside information, the food is very good! The only drawback is that it takes several months to reach the research stations aboard the icebreakers, and all work depends on the weather conditions at the time. This years research has been badly held up due to the faliure of one of the icebreakers to reach the bases due to being trapped in the ice.
For more information about the BAS, the research stations and possible job oportunities see: