Australian Icebreaker RSV Aurora Australis Arrives in Hobart After Final Antarctic Voyage

Australian icebreaker RSV Aurora Australis has arrived into its homeport of Hobart for the final time with the Australian Antarctic Program on March 25.

After more than three decades of service, the Aurora Australis sailed up the River Derwent this morning, returning from its last resupply expedition to sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. A series of farewell events planned to farewell the ship have been cancelled due to the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, said the ship has had a colourful and exciting 31 years plying the Southern Ocean.

“The ‘Orange Roughy’ has carried more than 14,000 expeditioners on over 150 scientific research and resupply voyages to our Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations,” Mr. Ellis said. “All expeditioners who’ve sailed on the Aurora Australis have a soft spot for the icebreaker, whether it’s because the ship has enabled their science or transported them south for an Antarctic adventure.”

RSV Aurora Australis was built by Carrington Slipways in Newcastle and launched in September 1989. The vessel is owned by P&O Maritime Services. Her first voyage with the Australian Antarctic Program was to Heard Island in 1990.

“The Aurora has been involved in rescuing stricken ships and injured expeditioners, as well as facing a few challenges, with engine room fires in the ’90s and running aground at Mawson station in 2016,” Mr. Ellis said. “She’s much more than a ship, she’s been a lifeline, she’s been a home, she’s been a symbol that really captures that whole Antarctic spirit.”

Aurora Australis is 94.91 metres long, and has a beam of 20.3 metres, and a draught of 7.862 metres. Her displacement is 8,158 tons. The vessel has a maximum speed of 16.8 knots and a cruising speed of 13 knots. She can break level ice up to 1.23 metres thick at 2.5 knots.

The icebreaker is served by a crew of 24 and can accommodate up to 116 passengers. The ship’s hangar and helideck allow for the operation of up to three light-medium helicopters.

The delayed arrival of Australia’s new icebreaker RSV Nuyina means an alternative ship will be used next summer season. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) is now finalising negotiations with another company to supply a vessel for a minimum of 90 days.

RSV Nuyina will have a displacement of 23,800 tonnes and be 156 metres long, with a top speed of 16 knots and a cruising speed of 12 knots. The ship will carry up to 160 crew and passengers, and a cargo capacity of 3,000 square metres, including 96 shipping containers. The vessel will be able to break ice up to 1.65 metres at 3 knots.

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