Michael Baker provided structural, geotechnical and civil engineering design for a boat launch ramp, gangway and floating dock for Palmer Station in Antarctica. Our team was tasked with designing a new small boat launching facility and floating dock to accommodate inflatable boats ranging in size from 10-feet-long to 24-feet-long.
The new boat launch ramp consists of reinforced concrete planks placed on ground-supported, rolled, structural steel support beams. The planks are reinforced with steel reinforcing bars, epoxy-coated for corrosion protection. The concrete mix included air entrainment to improve freeze-thaw performance and corrosion resistance. One design challenge that we faced was to provide a graded, even surface for plank installation. After considering a variety of alternatives, including concrete walls, bulk fill and steel column supports, we ultimately decided on a steel support system attached directly to the rock, which offered the advantage of prefabrication and conventional steel erection on site.
To account for the steep, slippery terrain and shallow water, our team developed a context-sensitive design that did not require a cost- and labor-intensive effort to reduce the slope via rock excavation or projection into deeper water. The final design incorporated a winch on the ramp’s tow vehicle and a 20 percent ramp slope to improve traction and reduce the length of the ramp extending into the cove. To further minimize rock removal, the bottom of the ramp was supported above the existing seafloor on rolled structural steel beam supports.
The floating dock is a pre-manufactured modular system, adapted to the site with custom built elements. The dock can moor two 10- or 15-foot inflatables and two 24-foot rigid inflatables. It’s connected to shore via struts pinned to anchors bolted into rock. The dock is accessed via a pre-manufactured 5-foot-wide by 24-foot-long aluminum gangway with handrails and an expanded metal grating to provide a safe walking surface.
“The steep rocky shoreline, seasonal sea ice and harsh Antarctic conditions presented safety challenges that required innovative design and construction solutions well-suited to the climate and remote environment.”
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