End of the Astrolabe’s First Antarctic Logistic Mission (ALM) [fr]
After five rotations, the Astrolabe just ended its first logistic support assignment in the Antarctic which started last November. The fulfilment of its mission, in harsh meteorological conditions, marks French Navy’s return in the Antarctic, 67 years after Commanding Officer Charcot’s last expedition in the Adelie Land.
The Astrolabe just ended its fifth and final rotation during the Antarctic summer. Ice conditions met were really different from the previous times. It was mainly due to a drop in average temperatures by around 10°C at the end of the austral summer. The accumulation of packed ice near the Dumont d’Urville research station (DDU) across a dozen of miles, and the reinforcement of brash ice gaps by freezing sea waters blocked access to the coast in spite of numerous reconnaissance flights.
Because of this, all the logistics operations were performed by helicopter: 60 tons of freight were delivered and 41 passengers boarded (Most of them where seasonal workers at the end of their assignment).
The polar patrol boat “The Astrolabe” thus ends its first logistic mission assignment in Antarctica, which started last November. It will reach its home port base in Reunion Island by the end of March, after a five and a half month journey.
All in all, no less than 5 rotations between Hobart and DDU were necessary to ensure the delivery of 1187 tons of freight (composed of food, supply and vehicles intended for convoys between DDU and Concordia) and 1790 cubic meters of “special Antarctic blend” oil, critical to these bases exposed to austral winters’ extreme conditions.
The ship, built just one year ago in the Piriou shipyards, also transported 223 scientists and technicians who all acknowledged the comfort on board in spite of rough seas.
This mission marks the French Navy’s return in the Antarctic Ocean, 67 years after the Commanding Officer Charcot’s last expedition in the Adelie Land. It was also the occasion for the Navy to get the experience to navigate in ice, while giving logistic support to the French scientific research. It was, for both crews, a great adventure and the occasion to discover the Antarctic’s wildlife and mesmerizing landscapes that they will have the pleasure to meet again next austral summer. In the meantime, the “Astrolabe” will be used for sovereignty missions in the Indian Ocean and the French austral seas.