Mr Per Larsen’s contribution to the achievements of the Aurora Australis and to the Australian Antarctic program (AAp) is extensive and unique.
Since his first voyage south in the summer of 1994, Per has demonstrated professional pride and commitment in his work, his ship and those he works with; both crew mates and expeditioners. His skills, leadership and concern for safety are evident in all the shipboard activities undertaken by the crew in support our programmes, on the trawl deck, in the cargo hold, and on the helicopter platform.
Per’s contribution in support of marine science programmes has been particularly significant and important. He has participated on most of the major marine science cruises within the AAp over the last 10 years. These include the first east-Antarctic winter-time sea ice and oceanography study (July-August 1995); a large scale krill and oceanography survey (BROKE, January-March 1996); most of the WOCE SR3 oceanographic transects between Hobart and the Antarctic coast; a large sub-Antarctic Zone oceanographic study (September 1997); and the successful winter survey of the Mertz Glacier Polynya (July-August 1999). Many of the activities undertaken on these voyages were new and untried, and Per’s contribution to the innovations necessary to undertake these has been essential to the success of many major marine science activities.
Per’s depth and breadth of knowledge plays a crucial role in the training and supervision of personnel engaged in marine science. He has demonstrated an ability to listen to the often novel requirements of scientists, in partnership with the ship’s officers to translate these into safe and efficient plans of action, to share his skills and knowledge with other crew members, and to motivate through example the personnel under his supervision. His expressed attitude is one of wanting to make the science programmes work and, not surprisingly, he is considered a mandatory member of any marine science team. He sets such a high standard of personal achievement that it flows through to the other members of the crew and those who serve alongside him. Per’s belief in the equality of team members, and his stability and leadership all help to develop harmonious and effective teams quickly, maximizing the effectiveness of the limited marine science time available.
A particular incident where Per Larsen stood out was during the MV Polar Bird’s release from ice in January 2002, after it had been beset for 5 weeks. Per’s knowledge was crucial to the planning and successful execution of the break-out and tow of the other vessel to open water by the Aurora Australis. The dangerous role of monitoring the tow line from the aft mooring deck was routinely accepted by Per, and was not a task he would have delegated to a colleague. This is typical of the ethic that Per continues to apply to every aspect of his work; on the trawl deck, in the cargo holds or on the helicopter deck.
Per Larsen was also CIR (bosun) on the winter voyage in 1998 when the first attempt was made to access and study the Mertz Glacier Polynya. At 02:30 on July 22, while the ship was within the pack ice, a major fire occurred in the ship’s engine room. Per, along with the ship’s officers, played a lead role in the measured and effective response to the fire by the crew, including safe mustering of all expeditioners, fire suppression and the restoration of propulsion to the ship. Per sailed again on the repeat (and successful) voyage to the Mertz Glacier Polynya in 1999.
The past and continuing successful performance of the ship, its crew and the AAD marine science programme can be attributed in a major part to Per Larsen’s efforts and dedication to the AAp.