The icebreaker/research ship Aurora Australis, 6,574gt, broke her moorings during a blizzard and went aground as she was resupplying the Australian base of Mawson on the east coast of Antarctica on Feb 24.
The Aurora Australis, owned by P&O Maritime Services, left her homeport of Hobart on Jan 11 and had been undertaking marine science around the Kerguelen Plateau region before she arrived at the Mawson base on Feb 20.
Winds of more than 130 km/h were recorded on the Mawson base’s automatic weather station before the Aurora Australis broke her mooring lines at 0915. The ship grounded on rocks on West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour. On board were 68 crew and expeditioners.
Later that day, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) said: “The ship remains watertight, with no damage to the hull. The current blizzard conditions are hampering a full assessment of the damage, and the crew are closely monitoring the hull from inside the ship. The blizzard conditions were forecast to continue for the next 24 hours.”
“Blizzard conditions were forecast to ease overnight and the expeditioners on the ship will be transferred to the Mawson base when the conditions ease,” the AAD said the following day.
“Monitoring of the hull by the crew had revealed a breach into a space that is usually flooded with ballast water. This breach posed no risk to the stability of the ship or of fuel leaking into the environment.”
On Feb 26, 37 expeditioners were taken ashore in three trips by a barge and then on the rising tide and using a combination of transferring ballast in the ship and workboats, the Aurora Australis was refloated at 1320, local time. There was no oil pollution.
The ship then anchored near the Mawson base where, over four days, she was assessed and it was found she had sustained minor structural damage to the hull.