Air option activated as Aurora Australis remains aground

Aurora Australis slightly visible
Aurora Australis slightly visible, aground at Mawson research station (Photo: Shane Ness)
Mawson research station in blizzard conditions, with the Aurora Australis aground

25th February 2016

With the Aurora Australis still aground near Mawson research station, the Australian Antarctic Division is receiving assistance from the US Antarctic program to transport expeditioners who were waiting at Davis research station to return home aboard the icebreaker after the summer season.

A US LC130 aircraft will move more than 30 expeditioners from Davis research station to Casey research station, to be flown home on the Australian Antarctic Division’s A319 airbus. This is expected to occur in the coming days.

Sixty-eight (68) expeditioners and crew remain on board the Aurora Australis, which remains aground at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour. All continue to be safe and well.

Current blizzard conditions are forecast to ease overnight (Thursday, 25 February). Expeditioners on the ship will be transferred to Mawson research station when the conditions ease.

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. 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. The crew continue to monitor the hull.

Attempts to refloat the vessel will occur when the weather conditions ease. 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. Attempts to return the ship to service will follow the completion of this assessment.

The capacity of the ship to complete its original voyage remains unknown, however the Australian Antarctic Division has a range of contingency plans in development.

The Aurora Australis broke free of its mooring lines at 3:15pm AEDT yesterday (9:15am Mawson time, Wednesday, 24 February) during a blizzard.

The Australian Antarctic Division is working closely with P&O Maritime Services, owners of the Aurora Australis, to ensure the safety of all passengers and crew as a priority.

Further information will be released as it becomes available.

View of Mawson blizzard conditions
Blizzard conditions yesterday evening at Mawson station.