Photos: Aurora Australis Refloated

Australis aground
The Australis aground (image courtesy Chris Hill / AAD)

By MarEx 2016-02-26 12:30:39

The icebreaker Aurora Australis was refloated on Friday, two days after running aground near Mawson Station, the Australian Antarctic Division reported on its Twitter account.

Her crew refloated her on a rising tide, with use of her ballast system and assistance from work boats. The Division posted images Friday showing her back under way once more. 

Several hours prior to the refloat attempt, “expeditioners on board the Aurora Australis [were] successfully transferred by barge to Mawson Station" in three separate trips, the Division said in a statement.

The Australis' crew continue to monitor a hull breach in a normally-full ballast tank; the breach was discovered Thursday. No sign of further hull breach or fuel leakage has been found. The Division says that the breach “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 she is capable of continuing her voyage. P&O Maritime, her owner and operator, plans to take her to another location to evaluate her condition.

“P&O Maritime has advised that when the Aurora Australis is successfully refloated, [she] will be taken out of Horseshoe Harbour to a sheltered area close by for an initial assessment of any damage and to ensure no fuel leakage is occuring. The ship will remain in the vicinity of Mawson research station while a full assessment is carried out. This is expected to take a minimum of three days,” the Division said. P&O was not immediately available for comment.

The Australis had been scheduled to pick up and transport an additional 30 science party members from Davis research station after her resupply stop 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, during an oceanographic mission in the Kerguelen Plateau region.

The vessel reportedly broke free of her mooring lines 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. The Australian government issued a tender for building a replacent for the 1990-built icebreaker in July 2014. 

All video and imagery courtesy AAD