The polar resupply ship, Polar Bird, has arrived back in Hobart on its final voyage for the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

The ship, owned by Rieber Shipping of Bergen in Norway, was the first purpose-built polar resupply vessel. It was built in Germany in 1984, launched as Icebird, and has been chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division most years since.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone said that the ship had served the Australian Antarctic program well during that time — transporting hundreds of scientists and other expeditioners to Australia’s four stations at Macquarie Island, Casey, Davis and Mawson, and to Heard Island.

“At a time when there was a large-scale rebuilding program in Antarctica, increased space was needed to carry building materials and equipment. Polar Bird’s unique cargo facilities enabled the expanding program to go ahead on schedule,” Dr Stone said.

“The standard box construction of superstructure aft with side cranes gave tremendous capacity which meant that it was as easy as opening up the top of the ship, loading everything in, closing it again and being ready to sail,” said Dr Stone.

“That was a great bonus and made the task of transporting these bulky materials pretty well hassle-free.”

Dr Stone paid tribute to the management and crew of the Polar Bird and said that all who had the opportunity to sail during almost 20 years of service to the Australian Antarctic Program would remember them with great fondness.

Dr Stone said that the AAD was currently reviewing its shipping operations for future seasons.

“We will be taking into account our future supply and resupply arrangements as well as the potential for air transport within, and to, Antarctica,” said Dr Stone.