The MV Kista Dan played a vital role in the establishment of two ANARE stations: Davis and Mawson. Built in Denmark in 1952 by the J. Lauritzen Lines, the Kista Dan's diesel-powered engine and hull form were capable of navigating in difficult ice conditions. ‘Kista’ is a Scandinavian name; ‘Dan’ means from Denmark (Danish).


  • Motor Vessel (MV)
  • Lloyds + 100 A1 “Strengthened for navigation in Ice” and Finnish Ice Class 1A.
  • main engine: Burmeister & Wain diesel, type 635-VF-62, bore 350mm, stroke 620mm.
  • length: 64.89 metres
  • breadth: 11.2 metres
  • capacity: 1250 tons gross
  • range of action: 14 500 nautical miles
  • speed: 12 knots
  • passenger capacity: 24 with 2, 3 and 6 berth cabins

Special features

The Kista Dan was the first of the Lauritzen ships to have the vivid red that has since become emblematic of polar ships.

The ship impressed all on board with its speed and ability to break through the pack ice. With significant cargo capacity, the larger cargo hold could transport an Auster aircraft used by ANARE for early mapping and surveying work.

Key Antarctic voyages

During her first ANARE voyage in December 1953, the Kista Dan visited sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island and Heard Island to resupply the stations, and Kerguelen Island. Heading further south to Antarctica in early 1954, the voyage’s key aim was to find a suitable location for Australia’s first continental station. Using the materials transported on the Kista Dan, expeditioners built huts and buildings to establish Mawson station.

In 1955, on return to Australia, the Kista Dan was lighter having unloaded cargo to the stations. Encountering rough seas caused by a hurricane off the Antarctic coastline near the Vestfold Hills, the Kista Dan lay on a 30 degree angle tilt due to the force of the winds. The ship’s engineer was unable to pump sea water into the forward tanks to improve stability because of frozen pipes. Captain Hans Christian Petersen was unable to gain full control of the ship. Antarctic Division Director Phillip Law recalled:

No combination of rudder and engine revolutions could counteract the force of the winds on the bows, and the Kista Dan broached to. Lying over on the port side, she drifted helplessly, pounded by every breaking wave and held in a permanent list by the hurricane.

The Auster aircraft strapped to the deck was blown over the side. Fearful passengers endured the terrible conditions. Large waves smashed frozen ice floes against the ship’s side causing horrible, menacing sounds. Eventually, the ship’s crew managed to free the frozen pipes and Captain Petersen was able to steer the ship to safety.

The Kista Dan was charted by ANARE until 1957 when it was replaced by the Thala Dan and the Magga Dan.

Later life

In 1967, the Kista Dan was sold to the Karlsen Shipping Co. Ltd for the Canadian sealing industry, and renamed Martin Karlsen.

The ship was sold in 1979 to the Bowring Steamship Company, renamed Benjamin Bowring, and chartered to the Transglobe Expedition, the first ever longitudinal circumnavigation of the world (including the both poles) across land, sea and ice.

Sold to Halba Shipping Ltd London, who intended to charter the ship for research work, in 1983 it was renamed the Arctic Gael. Bought the following year by Freighters & Tankers Ltd, and renamed Olympiakos, the ship was converted to a yacht.

In 1997, the ship was sold to Polar Ventures Ltd. However, due to the cost needed to repair serious structural damage to the hull caused by collision with the harbour wall during a storm, Polar Ventures Ltd was forced to sell the vessel for scrap.

Recent history of Kista Dan supplied by Antony Bowring, of the Transglobe Expedition 1979–1982.