Australia’s icebreaker vessel has suffered hull damage after being swept onto rocks during an Antarctic blizzard and is being assessed for seaworthiness.
Sixty-eight expeditioners and crew continued to shelter on board the Aurora Australis on Thursday, more than 24 hours after it broke mooring lines in wind gusts of more than 170km/h.
They are all safe and well and will be transferred to nearby Mawson Station when conditions ease, said Nick Gales, the head of the Australian Antarctic Division that charters the ship.
“Monitoring of the hull condition of the ship by the crew has revealed a breach in the hull into a space that is usually flooded with ballast water,” the Division said in a statement.
“This 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.”
Making a resupply voyage to Mawson Station when the incident occurred, all fuel and the majority of cargo had been unloaded when the ship ran aground at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour.
Weather conditions need to ease before the ship can be refloated.
“(Owner) P&O Maritime has advised it will take a minimum of three days for the ship’s crew to complete a full assessment of the ship once the vessel is afloat again,” the statement said.
The incident is expected to hold up the vessel’s planned operations as the Antarctic research season comes to a close.
Australia has put on stand-by its international peers including China, which has an icebreaker the Xue Long, just days away.
Over coming days a United States aircraft will be used to ferry more than 30 expeditioners from Australia’s Davis Station to Casey Station.
Personnel who were due to make it back to Hobart by mid-March on the Aurora Australis will then be flown home on the Division’s A319 airbus.