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Antarctic homecoming – responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

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The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research and support teams have returned from Antarctica to the UK after a 20-day sea voyage onboard a charter ship and the Royal Research Ship (RRS) James Clark Ross.
This homecoming is the end of an exceptional mission to repatriate scientists, support teams and construction workers who completed their Antarctic summer field season work in April and May.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all international air travel, including BAS normal routes through the Falklands and South America. The only safe alternative was to bring staff and colleagues home by sea.
The Hebridean Sky arrived at Portsmouth International Port on Saturday 6 June and the BAS ship RRS James Clark Ross arrived in Harwich Port on Tuesday 9 June.
BAS staff and construction teams, who worked at Rothera and King Edward Point Research Stations, will now be reunited with families and friends – albeit under social distancing rules.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation Amanda Solloway says: “I am thrilled that British Antarctic Survey scientists, support teams and construction workers have arrived safely back in the UK and can reunite with their families and loved ones. Their work is remarkable in furthering our understanding and helping us tackle global warming.
“I would also like to thank BAS, the Falklands authorities, Noble Caledonia and the crew of Hebridean Sky who helped to repatriate BAS employees – a massive undertaking at an exceptional time.”
BAS Director Professor Dame Jane Francis says: “This has been a huge logistical challenge for our operations experts. I am so pleased that our people and colleagues can now return to their families. I thank the Falkland Islands authorities for their assistance, and I am grateful to Noble Caledonia and the crew of  Hebridean Sky for looking after our staff during their extended voyage home. Well done to all BAS staff who have worked so hard in these exceptional conditions to bring everyone home safely.”
Noble Caledonia Head of Fleet Operations Mike Deegan says: “We are delighted to have been able to assist British Antarctic Survey with the repatriation of their staff members who have been involved with vital scientific and research work down south. We were pleased to provide this service at no profit to ourselves in view of the extraordinary challenges faced by BAS. Whilst the journey home this year was undoubtedly longer than usual, our crew members have worked hard to ensure a safe, healthy and comfortable transfer back to the UK”.

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