Blizzard Forces Aurora Australis Icebreaker Aground in Antarctica

The Aurora Australis icebreaker. File photo: Australia's Antarctic Division/Wendy Pyper
The Aurora Australis icebreaker. File photo: Australia’s Antarctic Division/Wendy Pyper

Update: Australian Icebreaker Still Aground in Antarctica

Australia’s flagship icebreaker Aurora Australis has run aground in Antarctica after it breaking free from its moorings at the Mawson station during a blizzard.

The Australian Antarctic Division reports that a total of 67 passengers and crew on board are safe and the ship remains watertight with damage to the hull of the vessel.

Blizzard conditions caused the Aurora Australis to break free from its mooring lines at 3:15 p.m. AEDT (9:15am Mawson time), and the ship is currently aground at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour. The blizzard has hampered a full assessment of the damage, and the crew are closely monitoring the hull from inside the ship.

Sustained winds of more than 130 km/h (80 mph) were recorded on the Mawson station automatic weather station leading up to the incident. Blizzard conditions are forecast to continue for the next 24 hours, the Antarctic Division said.

The Australian Antarctic Division is working closely with P&O Maritime Services, owner of the Aurora Australis, to ensure the safety of all passengers and crew as a priority.

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

The Antarctic Division says more information will be released as it becomes available.

The 3,911 tonne Aurora Australia is designed as a multi-purpose research and resupply ship capable of breaking ice up to 1.2 meters thick. The ship is 94.9 meters long.