Australia’s research and resupply ship Aurora Australis is on the move again.

The ship has broken free of heavy sea ice and is now moving through lighter pack, expecting to be at the ice edge and into open water either this evening or tomorrow morning, Tasmanian time.

Aurora Australis was returning from resupplying Davis station, delivering summer personnel and bringing home those expeditioners who have spent the past 12 months at Davis when it became surrounded by thick sea ice about 180 nautical miles from the Antarctic coast. It remained in heavy ice for twelve days.

Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Tony Fleming, said that once the ship reached open water the trip back to Hobart should be relatively smooth sailing.

“We can’t be definite about an arrival date at this point but will have a better idea once the ship has cleared all sea ice, possibly within the next 24 hours,” Dr Fleming said.

“All people on board ship remain well.

“Aurora Australis was due in Hobart on November 16 and its delay has meant that we have combined our next two voyages into one, extended voyage which will visit Macquarie Island and Casey stations.

“By doing this, we will preserve the work plans of the majority of projects scheduled for the Australian Antarctic program for the 2013/14 season. While some projects, mainly those scheduled for Macquarie Island, will be affected by the changes, the impacts are expected to be minor.”

In the meantime, the season’s first direct flight to Wilkins in Antarctica was successfully undertaken today.

The flight departed Hobart around 5.00 o’clock this morning carrying operation and other personnel, and is now on its return flight.

Today’s flight is two weeks earlier than in previous years from Hobart to Wilkins since they began in 2008.