MV Tottan 19521953

Tottan during Expeditions Antarctiques Francaises at Point Geologie 1952 where Robert Dovers participated as Australian observer.
Tottan during Expeditions Antarctiques Francaises at Point Geologie 1952 where Robert Dovers participated as Australian observer. (Photo: Robert Dovers)
Tottan at Hobart after returning from Macquarie Island, April 1952Tottan at the ice edge

The MV Tottan was a steel-hulled Norwegian sealer which had been used by the French Antarctic program to resupply their base. Lacking a suitable ship, ANARE chartered the vessel. The Tottan was named after its owner, Partrederiet Tottan.

Specifications

  • Motor Vessel (MV)
  • 4-stroke diesel engine, Krupp type
  • capacity: 540 ton gross, 610 deadweight
  • overall length: 74 metres
  • breadth: 9 metres
  • speed: 11 knots
  • cargo capacity: 2 holds, 2 hatches, 2 booms and winches
  • cooling and freezer

Key Antarctic voyages

Although the Tottan was a small vessel, it was more stable in rough seas than the Wyatt Earp. Nevertheless, on the 1952 voyage to Heard Island, the little ship battled gale-force winds and large seas causing many ANARE expeditioners to be seasick most of the time. A dozen sheep being sent to Heard Island were in a pen on the deck of the ship. With their pen destroyed by crashing waves, the sheep enjoyed the rest of the voyage in the exclusive quarters of the Captain’s bridge!

The Tottan was too small to carry the Army amphibious vehicles (called DUKWs), that were used on the Labuan to transport cargo from the ship to station. Inflatable pontoons with timber decking, used by the United States in World War II, were selected as the best option on the Tottan. They were so successful that ANARE continued their use for the Tottan’s four voyages between 1951 and 1953.

Later life

Following the ANARE, the Tottan worked primarily in the Arctic region. In 1956, the Tottan returned to the Antarctic to the Weddell Sea as part of an International Geophysical Year (IGY) expedition for the British Royal Society.

In the 1960s, the ship operated as a sealing and fishing vessel in Canada. In 1976, it was sold and converted for diving and salvage, where it continues to be used in this service.