The Aurora Australis has been deemed seaworthy and will depart Mawson research station today (2 March), with essential personnel on board for the voyage back to Australia.

The assessment of the Aurora Australis, which took four days to complete, has been verified by external maritime experts, including the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

The icebreaker’s voyage back to Australia with P&O Maritime crew and two support staff from the Australian Antarctic Division on board is expected to take 11 days.

The other expeditioners scheduled to return home with the ship will remain at Mawson research station for the time being. The Australian Antarctic Division has plans well in hand for returning expeditioners to Australia, and hopes to officially sign off on arrangements in the coming days.

Expeditioners at Mawson research station awaiting return to Australia include scientists and support staff associated with the marine science voyage that preceded the grounding, and those who have been at Mawson for winter (2015) and summer (15/16).

Expeditioners remain in good spirits and many are analysing data from the completed marine science voyage and exploring the area around station.

While the Aurora Australis sustained minor structural damage to the hull, the grounding did not impact the propulsion or steering capability of the ship.

P&O Maritime say the safety of those on board the ship and ensuring no impact on the marine environment during the passage were the highest priorities of the thorough assessment.

The destination of the Aurora Australis remains dependent on the availability of a suitable shipyard where repairs can be undertaken.

More than 30 expeditioners who were based at Davis research station and scheduled to return to Australia on the Aurora Australis are currently en route to Australia on the Division’s Airbus 319.