The return to Hobart of Australia’s Antarctic supply ship, Polar Bird, tomorrow ends a successful month-long voyage which saw the off-loading of a 100-tonne crane at Mawson, to be used in the construction of the station’s new wind turbine system.

The construction of the wind turbine system will get under way next spring with a start to the pouring of concrete footings, followed over summer by the erection of three 34-metre towers carrying the turbine blades.

Polar Bird also unloaded fuel for next summer’s major international research expedition in the Southern Prince Charles Mountains, inland from Mawson, and retrieved summer expeditioners from Davis and Mawson.

Polar Bird’s return marks a successful end to the ship’s 2001–2002 summer season which included a month-long besetment in Antarctic ice before the ship was extracted with the help of the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

However, the return voyage was not without incident. An excavator being brought back to Hobart after preparing ground for the Mawson wind turbines was damaged in the ship’s hold when it broke its lashing chains during exceptionally heavy weather. A quick and effective response by the ship’s crew ensured that the excavator was restrained before any major damage was caused.

Arrival details: Polar Bird is scheduled to dock at Macquarie No 4 wharf at 1:00pm on Saturday (tomorrow). The voyage leader, Richard Mulligan, will be available for interview half an hour after the ship docks.