Aurora Australis in Operation for Thirty Years

By The Maritime Executive 11-18-2019 06:37:11

The Australian Antarctic Division is commemorating the 30th birthday of the Antarctic research vessel Aurora Australis this year. It is also expected to be her last year of service, as she is to be replaced by the Nuyina currently under construction by Damen Shipyards.

Aurora Australis master Gerry O'Doherty says: “We're very fond of the old girl. It will be sad to see it go, but it's the end of an era, and this is the last season of this contract for the ship. Look, it may come back to Antarctica in a different role, who knows. But certainly the role that this ship performs now will be superseded by the new ship Nuyina.”

Aurora Australis is named after the southern hemisphere atmospheric phenomenon, the aurora australis.

Designed as a multi-purpose research and resupply ship, the she was built by Carrington Slipways in Newcastle for P&O Polar and launched in September 1989. The ship is 94.9 meters long and 3,911 tonnes in weight. She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and accommodates 116 passengers. 

The Aurora Australis regularly sails across the Southern Ocean where storms can generate 10 meter high seas and winds of 120–150 km/h. The ship has been known to roll up to 45 degrees in big swells. In these situations the angle of the deck is far steeper than any streets in Australia. 

The ship is capable of breaking ice up to 1.23 meters thick and is fitted with a helipad and hangar facilities for three helicopters. She has a trawl deck, purpose designed for marine science and oceanographic work. A wide range of science is conducted in onboard laboratories including biological, oceanography and meteorological experiments and observations.

Expeditioners are accommodated in small cabins that sleep three or four people on bunk beds. The beds fold away into couches to save space, and each cabin has its own bathroom and toilet. The ship also has a gym, library and recreation areas. 

On a six week voyage, the ship’s kitchen can go through 4,500 eggs, 1,000 kg of potatoes and 280 liters of ice cream. The ship can produce up to 45,000 liters of fresh water per day.