February 27, 2016 by polrec
Damaged Aurora Australis expected to sail to Western Australia for repairs
The Antarctic ship the Aurora Australis is expected to sail to Western Australia for repairs after it was grounded off Mawson Station during a blizzard this week.
The crew of the Aurora was able to refloat the ship on the first attempt last night using work boats, a rising tide and the ship’s ballast system.
P&O operations manager Shaun Deshommes commended the crew “for their efforts and professionalism which they have demonstrated through this situation”.
The task now is to check the hull which was damaged when the ship broke its harbour mooring and was stranded on rocks near Mawson Station.
(Aurora Australis was grounded during a blizzard near Australia’s Mawson Station earlier this week.)
Mr Deshommes said underwater cameras would be used to inspect the damage but the ship was free to sail.
“The breach is relatively small, affecting … a small tank which is in all circumstances a flooded tank anyway — a double-bottom tank with sea water ballast inside so it is not affecting in any manner the stability or the safety of the vessel,” he said.
The ship has been moved out of the harbour as a precaution but there has been no evidence of any oil leaks.
Mr Deshommes said it was not possible to repair the Aurora Australis in Antarctica and it was likely to be sailed to Western Australia.
He said a risk assessment of the ship will be conduced before it is moved but he was confidence of its seaworthiness.
The 37 expeditioners on board were moved by barge to Mawson Research Station.
They, along with others at Mawson Station, are reported to be well looked after and in good spirits.
Director of the Australian Antarctic Division Dr Nick Gales said he was working with other countries on the logistics of how they and other expeditioners at other stations would return to Hobart.
“South Africans, the Chinese, the Japanese are all programs operating across our area,” he said.
“We assess where all of their assets are, ships and aircraft, and then talk to them about options.”
Dr Gales said “the ice runway is operatable… we will be utilising our A319 to bring back the Davis expeditioners in the coming days”.
He said he did not know if other expeditioners could be returned to Australia aboard the Aurora Australis.
A resupply of Macquarie Island will go ahead but it was not clear when that will happen or which ship will be used.
The assessment of the damage to the Aurora Australis is expected to take three days.