The MV Nella Dan and the shipping company J. Lauritzen’s red polar ships constitute a unique chapter in Danish maritime history that goes far beyond boyish adventures and tall tales.
Nella Dan was a legend among polar ships, and only a small number of renowned ships have left a similar legacy in Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Her track record of 85 trips and half a million nautical miles in Antarctica – or 24 times around the Earth – made her, among other things, the ship in Australian service with the most miles and the longest period beset in the ice.
Built by Aalborg Shipyard, she was launched in 1961 and sank on Christmas Eve in 1987. Hundreds of men and women travelled on the little, indomitable red ship, which even during the most perilous times in the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties, provided a safe home to the Danish crew, guests, international research teams and Australian staff for the bases in Antarctica.
“She was from another time, when ships were built to last,
and she had a mind of her own.” - Captain Arne Sørensen
To capture the history of the vessel, the Friends of Nella Dan now host over 75 films of life on board.
Whether you were 16 years old, signing on for the first time, or the proverbial "old man of the sea” returning home after a few months ashore, or whether you were about to winter on the South Pole or count krill in sub-Antarctic waters, everyone who showed up at the gangway for the first time felt the tingle of anticipation and apprehension. Nella Dan offered adventure at a time when distances were still daunting and post took months to reach the recipient.
Credit: Greg Young
The Lauritzen Foundation, Springeren and Knud E. Hansen supported the development of the Nella Dan film database which has over 20 hours of film footage from voyages in the Arctic and Antarctica between 1961 and 1987.
The film database is available here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.