Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, has begun its 24,000 km journey home to Tasmania.
The ship left Vlissingen in the Netherlands last night (31 August) and is expected to arrive in its home port of Hobart in late October. The voyage will take it close to the edge of the sea ice surrounding Antarctica.
Australian Antarctic Division Director, Kim Ellis, said the ‘delivery voyage’ was a good opportunity for the new Australian crew to test the ship’s capabilities on a long sea journey.
“This voyage is similar to a test run that you would do if you bought a car,” he explained. “It’s going to be an amazing opportunity to see this ship in action, in challenging weather, on a really extended voyage.”
Custom-designed for Australia’s needs
Master of the ship, Captain Gerry O’Doherty, a veteran of previous Australian Antarctic voyages, admits to a few butterflies at taking the helm for the first time.
“I’m a bit nervous, but also very excited,” he said. “It’s a monumental occasion to take delivery of a brand-new icebreaker that’s been custom designed and built for the Australian Antarctic Program.
He added: “The people of Hobart will be blown away when they see the size of the ship. It’s just very imposing and very impressive.”
Once it arrives, Nuyina will undertake an intensive period of testing, commissioning and certification of various systems and capabilities, including ice trials in Antarctica.
“Over the next two years we will test and certify the different capabilities of the ship, such as the logistic capabilities, passenger-carrying and fuel-carrying capabilities, and the incredible array of scientific systems on board,” Ellis said.
Two years of testing still lying ahead
“In the ship’s 30-year lifetime, these two years of testing will set us up for a very long and secure future.”
The ship was formally handed over to Australia from its European build team in a ceremony on 19 August.
Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, said that with the nation’s flag now flying on the ship’s mast, Nuyina had become a symbol of Australia’s commitment to Antarctic science.
“RSV Nuyina will soon be the backbone of the Australian Antarctic Program,” she said.