Australian Icebreaker Refloated in Antarctica

Mike Schuler
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February 26, 2016

The Aurora Australis aground in Horseshoe Harbour near the Mawson research station. Photo credit: Antarctic Division

The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis has been refloated near Antarctica’s Mawson research station after grounding earlier this week during a blizzard.

The Australian Antarctic Division confirms that as of late Friday the ship is free from the rocks and all expeditioners have been transferred from the vessel.

The Aurora Australis grounded near the station in Horseshoe Harbour after breaking free of its mooring lines during a blizzard on Wednesday. All 68 expeditioners and crew were left stranded aboard the ship as they rode out the storm.

On Friday, improved weather conditions allowed the transfer of the 37 expeditioners by barge to shore and back to the Mawson station. The Aurora Australis was later refloated using the ship’s ballast system and work boats.

The vessel was expected to head to a sheltered area close by for an initial damage damage assessment and to ensure no fuel is leaking. The crew onboard continues to monitor a breach in the ship’s hull, which occurred into a space that is usually flooded with ballast water. The Antarctic Division said the breach continues to pose no risk to the stability of the vessel or release of fuel. So far monitoring of the ship’s fuel levels and the environment have shown no evidence of any fuel spill so far.

The assessment of the vessel is expected to take about 3 days, the division said.

The 3,911 tonne Aurora Australia is considered the flagship of Australia’s icebreaking fleet, designed as a multi-purpose research and resupply ship capable of breaking ice up to 1.2 meters thick. The 94.9 meter long icebreaker is owned by P&O Maritime.

The vessel departed Hobart on January 11, 2016 and has been undertaking marine science around the Kerguelen Plateau region of Antarctica. It arrived at Mawson for a resupply mission last Saturday, February 20th.

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