Blog 214 The Aurora Australis 17th March 2012


Paul was by now back on the ship preparing for it’s next voyage, he suggested we come down to the ship with Kerry and have lunch on board. We of course jumped at the chance.

He also said we might have time for a quick tour after lunch as he was waiting for a surveyor from Lloyds insurance to come and sign off a repair. As luck would have it said surveyor was flying in from Sydney and his flight was delayed so we got a great tour around. She is a big ship 94.9metres long and weighing 3911 tons.

Here is us having lunch, the food was extremely good, there is a picture of the galley also. John (one of Guzzisti we were riding the TT with) used to work in here up until quite recently. The other thing you notice is that everything has something to sit in or a strap to tie it down with. This ship spends its entire life in the Southern Ocean which is one of the wildest seas in the world.

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This is the engineering control room, this has a duplicate set of engine controls and monitors every system on the ship. There is a lot more going on than you might think. Three generators are controlled from here supplying the ships electricity and there are heat exchangers to keep the crew areas warm. The ship also has a desalination plant to make it’s own fresh water and a steam generator for keeping all the vital mechanical parts at a reasonable operating temperature.

There are a couple of pictures of the ships two engines and the huge thing that looks like a pipe is the propshaft which runs back to the propellor. The engine room itself is always warm for obvious reasons but the support bearings on that prop shaft all have a steam jacket around them to keep the lubricating oil at he right temperature and viscosity. This ship is different to most in that it spends a significant part of it’s time in some seriously cold temperatures. The coldest ever naturally occuring temperature on earth was recorded in Antartica in 1983 at -89.2 deg C (or -128.6 deg F)  The mean temperature on the coast is a bit warmer where it  averages of -3c (-18.4F) in summer and -28 (26.6F) in winter. She is capable of breaking through 1.23metres of solid ice.

  The last picture is of Paul’s workshop complete with lathe/drillpress/ welding gear etc there is no popping to the local parts store when you break something out there you have to be able repair it or make a new one if you don’t have a spare.

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This strange looking object is a plankton counter which is trailed from the ships stern to monitor plankton numbers. There trawl deck on the back is designed for oceanographic and marine science work. The ship carries 116 passengers and there is an ever changing team of scientists on board, some overwinter at Mawson base and are picked up next spring as the ship is laid up over the winter. The other pictures are views from the stern and side. Paul told us this whole area can be awash in rough seas.

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This is all serious stuff but there is time for a bit of larking about as well. The first picture is of Pueblo Bezoar which I am pretty sure is an anagram for something rude but I can’t figure out what. He lives in the control room and is basically made from, well lets just say the curly hairs that were blocking up the showers. It’s no wonder they keep him in a cage !

The next picture is a bit dark but thats probably a good thing. MUA stands for maritime union of Australia by the way. Here they are having a union meeting, butt naked in the snow as you do ! The next couple of pics are just some amusing signs we spotted around the ship.

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Look out Guzzioverland are at the controls, here I pretend I know what I am doing with a sextant (I probably have it upside down). We were treated to coffee and tim tams (very Australian) on the bridge and we even got to meet the captain.

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Of course it’s a dangerous business being out there so they have do regular safety drills, here is Karen sitting in one of the liferafts. Paul told us they have to do live drills with them where everyone jumps in and they are actually deployed to make sure everything works and everyone knows what to do. Having sat in one I can tell you it would be scary to crammed in here with sixty odd people bouncing around like a cork, there are no windows so you can’t see out, chundersville I reckon.

The next pic is firewoman Karen, they even have their own fire fighting gear because lets face it no one else is going to come and rescue you out there are they. The ship also has its own helideck and dedicated chopper, sometimes two.

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This is Paul’s cabin, as chief engineer he gets one to himself,  the rest of the crew share. The sofa in the next pic tells a story, it’s a recent aquisition and it’s the only thing in the room that’s not bolted down (yet). Paul was telling us that it ended up in the corridor WITH two big blokes still sat on it after one particulary violent wave hit. They often have to strap themselves into bed when it’s rough to avoid injury.

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So now we come to the end of our tour, she is an amazing ship. The last picture is the symbol of 100 years of Australian Antartic exploration which was celebrated a few years back. Douglas Mawson was the man who led the first Australian expedition. He is less well known than his peers Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton (outside Australia anyway) but was certainly no less heroic. He had several near death experiences on the ice, on a three man survey mission one member of his team disapeared in a crevass and was never seen again. They also lost most of their supplies and several huskies in the same incident and had an epic journey back to the base with little food or equipment. His other colleague also died on the way back leaving Mawson to cover the last 100 miles alone only to discover the ship (Aurora) had left and he had to overwinter at the base with the six man rescue party that was left to find him before he could return home. The current Australian Antartic base is named Mawson in his honour.

If you are interested there is an excellent Australian Antartic Division website at http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/travel-and-logistics/ships/au…

It even has a webcam on the ship and at Mawson base (although you won’t see much at the moment from the ship as she is in dock at Hobart for the winter.)

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Back on dry land, here are some more pictures of Hobarts beautiful waterfront. The steam crane is quite something, it’s great to have this kind of gear around in the enviroment it would have originally worked in. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the crew of a tall ship up in the rigging too.

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Next up:  You guessed it , more from Hobart

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