Foundation of Australia’s new icebreaker laid

Icebreaker Keel Laying

Video transcript

Dr Nick Gales: We’re here for a very important moment, to mark the keel laying of Australia’s new icebreaker.

Keel laying is a very old, maritime tradition. The idea is to place coins, originally under mast of the ship but with modern ships it is within the keel, and they are there to bring good luck to the ship its life. We’re not just placing one coin, we’re placing four coins on the keel of the ship today. An Australian coin, of course, as it will be the Australian Antarctic Program’s ship. A coin from Romania to mark where the ship was built. A coin from the Netherlands to mark that Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding have designed and are responsible with the shipyard in Galați for the building of the ship, and also a Danish coin to mark that the original design from Knud E. Hansen came from Denmark — so it’s a truly international affair.

The laying of the keel is a really important milestone and it really marks the start of building the whole new ship — taking the ship from many many years of work and drawings, through to a real thing, so today is really the serious start of the construction phase for the new icebreaker.

[end transcript]

Photo of coins before they are welded to icebreaker
Four coins have been welded to the keel, where they will remain as the ship crosses the Southern Ocean and cuts through the sea ice during its voyages to and from Antarctica. (Photo: Damen/Australian Antarctic Division)
photo of keel of icebreakerMan in safety gearphoto of man welding coins

The first building block of Australia’s new icebreaker has been welded into place at a keel laying ceremony in Romania overnight.

Maritime tradition was observed with a 50 cent piece bearing Australia’s Coat of Arms, welded onto the keel by the Australian Antarctic Division’s Director, Dr Nick Gales.

“This marks the first major milestone in the construction of the 160 metre ship that will carry scientists and supplies to Antarctica for decades to come,” Dr Gales said.

“According to maritime tradition, attaching coins to the keel brings fair winds, speed and good luck.”

“We welded four coins to the keel, where they will remain as the ship crosses the Southern Ocean and cuts through the sea ice during its voyages to and from Antarctica.

Coins from Romania, Holland and Denmark sit alongside the Australian coin, from the Royal Australian Mint, in recognition of each countries contribution to the design and construction of the ship.

“The original concept was developed by a Danish company, the design and construction is being managed by a Dutch company and the icebreaker is being built in Romania,” Dr Gales said.

Duplicates of the coins will be placed on the bridge of the ship.

To date, over 3000 tonnes of steel has been cut, and construction has now moved into the dry dock where the keel was laid yesterday.

Once the hull is complete, the dock will be filled with water and the ship floated out.

Australian school children were given the task of naming the sophisticated resupply and research vessel, with 792 classes putting forward a suggestion.

The winning name will be announced in the coming weeks and up to 12 students from the winning classes will be the first to fly to Antarctica and land on the icy continent.

The icebreaker will arrive in Hobart in 2020 and make its maiden voyage to Antarctica during the 2020/21 season.