The Australian Antarctic icebreaker, Aurora Australis, arrived in Hobart at 7 am this morning, carrying the 52 passengers rescued from MV Akademik Shokalskiy on 2 January, after their ship became trapped in sea ice.

The return of Aurora Australis also heralds the completion of the resupply of Casey research station and the return of 36 Australian Antarctic program personnel to Australia; some of whom have spent the winter south.

Despite the two-week diversion to rescue passengers, the Aurora Australis completed the necessary discharge of cargo to supply Casey research station for the winter season, including over 912, 000 litres of Special Antarctic Blend fuel, food, machinery and equipment.

Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Tony Fleming, said he was pleased to have a successful conclusion to a challenging voyage.

“We are very pleased to have completed the final leg of this voyage, returning the Akademik Shokalskiy passengers and our personnel safely back to Hobart and their families,” he said.

“I’d like to extend my thanks to the Captain of the ship, Murray Doyle, the P&O crew, and our voyage management team, who did such a fantastic job responding to the rescue request and subsequently completing the complex job of resupply.”

While there has been some disruption to the science season as a result of the rescue operation, the Australian Antarctic Division’s operational planners have been working to readjust the season to deliver science and operational goals as effectively as possible.

“We have tried to minimise disruption to our science and other programs but it is too early to determine in detail the flow-on effects to our programs,” Dr Fleming said.

“On a positive note, scientists from the Aurora Basin ice coring project, which was the major science project supported this season, have reported that they have achieved all the scientific goals for the field component of the project.”

Aurora Australis will undertake two more voyages to Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations, making a total of four voyages for the 2013–14 season.