Grounded Icebreaker Reports Hull Breach
The Australian Antarctic Division reported Thursday that the crew of the grounded icebreaker Aurora Australis have discovered a hull breach in a normally-full ballast tank.
The Division says that the breach “has occurred in an area of the ship that poses no risk to the stability of the vessel or of fuel leaking into the environment.”
The Division does not yet know whether the Australis is capable of continuing her voyage, and weather conditions continue to hamper a complete evaluation of the groundings' effects.
All crew and science complement remain safely aboard, and the science party will be transferred ashore at Mawson once conditions improve.
The agency says that it is working on a range of contingency plans for refloating her, returning her to service, and containing any potential fuel spill. There have been no reports of fuel or oil spill at this time.
The Australis had been scheduled to pick up and transport an additional 30 science party members from Davis research station after her resupply at Mawson. Due to the casualty, the Division has made arrangements for an American LC-130 aircraft to transport them to Casey station, where a Division aircraft will meet them and take them home.
The Australis went aground the morning of February 24 at West Arm, Horseshoe Harbor at Mawson Station. She called at Mawson, a scientific outpost in the Australian sector of East Antarctica, for resupply during an oceanographic mission in the Kerguelen Plateau region.
The vessel reportedly broke free of its mooring lines at about 9:15 local time during a blizzard, with recorded wind speeds in excess of 70 knots.
The Australis is classed LR 1A Super, with a hull strengthened for breaking ice of up to four feet thick.
She is owned and operated by P&O Maritime Services, a diversified marine services firm based in the UAE. P&O was not immediately available to comment.
The Australian government issued a tender for building a replacent for the 1990-built Australis in July 2014.
Conditions at Mawson (courtesy AAD)