Watch: Aurora Australis Completes Final Antarctic Voyage

Published Mar 24, 2020 8:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

After more than three decades of service, Australia's icebreaker Aurora Australis sailed up the River Derwent to Hobart on March 25, returning from her last resupply expedition to sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, said the ship has had a colourful and exciting 31 years plying the Southern Ocean. “The ‘Orange Roughy’ has carried more than 14,000 expeditioners on over 150 scientific research and resupply voyages to our Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations.”

The iconic orange ship, owned by P&O Maritime, was launched at Newcastle’s Carrington Slipways on September 18, 1989 by Hazel Hawke – wife of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. The ship entered Antarctic service in the 1989–90 season, with Australian Antarctic Division fisheries scientist, Dick Williams, the first Voyage Leader on her maiden voyage to Heard Island.

Since then, as well as her research and resupply role, the Aurora Australis has been involved in rescuing stricken ships and injured expeditioners, as well as facing a few challenges, with engine room fires in the 90’s and running aground at Mawson station in 2016.

Some former crew members of Aurora Australis are urging the Australian Government to acquire her as a specialist emergency response vessel. With the capacity to carry and transfer nearly two million litres of fuel, a functional hospital, desalination equipment that can make fresh drinking water anywhere, helicopter pad and refueling station, and extensive storage for food, clothing and emergency equipment, the Aurora Australis is capable of delivering emergency assistance directly to coastal communities.

The delayed arrival of Australia’s new icebreaker RSV Nuyina means an alternative ship will be used next summer season. Negotiations are underway. Nuyina is due to arrive in Hobart in November, with the first trip south scheduled for January 2021.