Dozens of Antarctic expeditioners are returning to Hobart today, with some of them having spent the last year living and working on the frozen continent.
The RSV Nuyina will dock in the capital from Davis Station on Friday, following a successful journey through the Southern Ocean to resupply the remote research outpost.
Among those making the trip home on the ship is Davis plumber Mick Cloke, who says he can’t wait to see his loved ones.
“We’ve been away from our friends and family for 400 days so it was fantastic to see the Nuyina’s bright red shape coming through the icebergs,” Cloke said.
“You really know the end is in sight then but there’s still a mammoth task ahead, with the resupply and handover.”
The ship left Hobart on Voyage One on October 10, carrying 80 passengers and 35 crew members, via a refuelling stop in Burnie due to issues passing under the Tasman Bridge.
After a relatively calm journey, it arrived at Davis in mid-November when the “massive logistical exercise” of resupplying the station began.
A total of 350 tonnes of cargo, 200,000 litres of water and 750,000 litres of fuel were successfully offloaded from the ship, despite what Operations Planning Manager Robb Clifton described as slight concerns about poor ice quality.
“We need a certain thickness of ice and quality of ice to safely provide a platform that can bear the loads that we need,” he said.
“In a period of of bad weather, the ice started showing signs of losing or lacking stability so out of an abundance of caution we halted operations until we could do a full assessment in conditions where we had enough visibility to really understand what was going on.”
He said it took over 30 hours to complete the fuel transfer, with personnel constantly monitoring the fuel line for leaks or issues.
“It would have been a serious disruption to the program if we’d had to delay resupply. We wouldn’t have had enough water on station to sustain the whole population so some of the expeditioners would have had to turn around.”
“The ship is proving to be an incredibly capable ice breaker.”