Due to severe damage to the HMAS Labuan on the 1951 Heard Island voyage, ANARE had to find another ship quickly to resupply Macquarie Island station later in the season. With a shortage of suitable ships, after several weeks of hurried negotiations, ANARE charted the SS River Fitzroy from the Australian Shipping Board.
The River Fitzroy, named after the river in central Queensland, was built in 1941 to carry freight up and down the Australian coast. Travelling from South Australia to Port Kembla with a cargo of iron ore, the ship was diverted to Melbourne and Hobart to collect ANARE expeditioners and cargo.
- Single-screw steamship (SS)
- River-class merchant freighter, shelter deck steamer with 5 cargo holds
- triple expansion steam engine with an exhaust turbine fitted
- capacity: 5001 gross tons; 2780 net tons
- approximate length: 157 metres
- approximate breadth: 17 metres
- capacity: 70 persons
- average speed: 12 knots
- 10 × 5-ton derricks, 1 × 20-ton heavy derrick crane
- 11 steam winches including warping winch
Key Antarctic voyages
Fortunately, the 1951 expedition experienced good weather except for the last day when strong winds and high seas made conditions uncomfortable for expeditioners. Antarctic Division Director, Phillip Law, noted that, “a cargo of iron ore is not conducive to a good ride.”
There were some difficulties when the crew, unused to Antarctic conditions, would not work around the clock to take advantage of the good weather conditions and unload the cargo quickly.
Departing Macquarie Island, the River Fitzroy sailed directly to Port Kembla to deliver its original cargo of iron ore, thereby ending its short Antarctic career.
In 1957, the Australian Shipping Board transferred ownership to the Australian National Line. In 1963, the River Fitzroy was sold to Amakasu Sangyo Kisen KK for scrap.