5:15pm update: Attempt to refloat Aurora Australis as weather conditions ease

The Aurora Australis grounded in Horseshoe Harbour, from Mawson research station
The Aurora Australis grounded in Horseshoe Harbour, from Mawson research station (Photo: Tony Harris)

26th February 2016

5:15pm update

Expeditioners on board the Aurora Australis have been successfully transfered by barge to Mawson station.

The barge transported up to 15 expeditioners on each trip. The expeditioners arrived at the Mawson station wharf, and were then taken by a Hagglunds snow vehicle to the station.

P&O Maritime crew will remain on the ship and attempt to move it off the rocks at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour using the ship’s ballast system and work boats.

The Aurora Australis broke its mooring lines on Wednesday (24 February) during a blizzard. 

12:30pm update

Improved weather conditions should allow the transfer of expeditioners from the grounded icebreaker Aurora Australis to Mawson research station today, after which the ship’s crew will attempt to refloat the vessel.

The refloating process is expected to begin at 9:00pm AEDT (3:00pm Mawson time) and will take several hours. The ship’s crew will attempt to move the ship off the rocks at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour through a combined process of using the ship’s ballast system and work boats.

P&O Maritime has advised that when the Aurora Australis is successfully refloated, it will be taken out of Horseshoe Harbour to a sheltered area close by for an initial assessment of any damage and to ensure no fuel leakage is occuring. The ship will remain in the vicinity of Mawson research station while a full assessment is carried out. This is expected to take a minimum of three days.

Sixty-eight (68) expeditioners and crew are currently on board the Aurora Australis. All continue to be safe and well. Thirty-seven (37) expeditioners will be transferred ashore to Mawson by barge, as per standard disembarking practice, leaving the ship’s crew on board for the refloating operation.

Monitoring by the ship’s crew of a breach in the hull, into a space that is usually flooded with ballast water, is continuing. This breach continues to pose no risk to the stability of the vessel or of fuel leaking into the environment. The crew are monitoring the ship’s fuel levels and the marine environment, with no evidence of any fuel spill to date.

The Australian Antarctic Division is consulting with other national Antarctic programs to develop options for transporting expeditioners from Mawson research station back to Australia.

The US Antarctic program will assist in transporting expeditioners from another of Australia’s research stations. More than 30 expeditioners from Davis research station, who were scheduled to return home on the Aurora Australis after the summer season, will be transported via a US LC130 aircraft tomorrow (Saturday, 27 February) to Casey research station. They will then be flown home on the Australian Antarctic Division’s A319 Airbus in the coming days.

The Aurora Australis broke free of its mooring lines at 3:15pm AEDT on Wednesday (9:15am Mawson time, 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.