Thala Dan 1957-82
Following the success of the Kista Dan, the J Lauritzen Lines built another two ships of the same type, but larger and more powerful. The Magga Dan and the Thala Dan were purpose built and strengthened for navigation in polar waters.
Built in 1957 at the Aalborg yard in Denmark, the Thala Dan was a substantial ship for the time:
- main engine Burmeister & Wain 2020 IHP (Indicated horse power)
- tonnage 1400 tons dead weight
- length 75.135 metres
- breadth moulded 13.72 metres
- draft fully loaded 6.275 metres
- passenger capacity 50 in two, three four and five berth cabins with ensuite toilet and shower facilities
- bunker capacity 400 tons @ consumption of 8 tons per day
- service speed 12 knots
- fresh water generating capacity of 20 tons per day
The ship had three holds with a general cargo capacity of 1800 m³. There was a refrigeration compartment capable of storing 139 m³ of cargo at -20°C, and 40 m³ at 4°C.
Nine derricks had a lifting capacity ranging from two to 30 tonnes. Space was available on deck to carry heavy equipment such as Army LARCs and amphibious vehicles.
Special features on the Thala Dan included an ice cutter, ice fins and an ice breaker stern. The ship was built to Lloyds 100 A1 Ice Class 1.
Despite the precautions, the ship could not be protected from human error. On 16 January 1959, the ship ran into trouble off Davis. John Bechervaise recalled the incident:
Suddenly we struck a rock. This was really a tremendous shock, in every sense of the term. I can remember the masts quivering and making a strange noise, as if they were vibrating, and a few men were almost thrown off their feet.
The ship was holed and oil gushed into the sea, which had a strange effect on the penguins:
I think it caused a change in the refractive index of the sea surface – for they started leaping straight out of the water as though onto invisible ice floes.
Captain Petersen followed the same course of action employed by Captain Cook when his ship, the Endeavour, suffered a similar fate on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770.
A sail was passed under the hull which prevented the inflow of water, the water was pumped out of the tank, and the captain prepared a number of wooden wedges to be driven into the gash from the oil tank just inside the hull, which had taken the strain.
Interview with John Bechervaise & Tim Bowden, ANARE Jubilee history project.
It took 15 days to extricate the ship, and a further 12 days to continue the five kilometres to Davis station, where temporary repairs took place to enable the ship to return to Australia.