On board L’Astrolabe, France’s new ship for Antarctic research
French icebreaker PP L’Astrolabe made her way into the Port of Hobart this week in preparation for her up coming voyage to Antarctica
The 72 metre long vessel weighs in at an impressive 4000 tonnes purposely built by French ship building company Piriou to cut through thick polar ice.
She has a permanent crew of 42 French Naval personnel split into two rotating crews (Crew Alpha and Crew Bravo) based out of the French island of La Réunion off the east coast of Africa.
In addition to the crew, she is fitted with bunking for a further 39 passengers to accommodate scientists and exploration personnel when required bringing her maximum capacity to 60.
The ship was bought and commissioned in 2017 by the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF) and the French Polar Institute in partnership with the French Navy to conduct patrolling duties in the southern indian ocean and support logistic supply of french antarctic stations.
This will be Polar Patrol vessel’s second rotation to Antarctica since her commissioning. Her predecessor however, now an American hospital vessel under the name IWAM Liberty, has previously made regular visits to Hobart over the past 30 years since 1988, ferrying scientists, equipment, vehicles and much needed supplies to the icy southern continent.
PP L’Astrolabe will spend six days alongside Macquarie Wharf where she will embark fuel, water, food, equipment and personnel all bound for the French Antarctic base of Dumont D’Urville.
Dumont D’Urville, named after the French Polar Explorer (1790-1842) is located at a frosty latitude of 66°40’ S in the north-east of the continent and was originally established in 1956.
The base serves as a scientific operating base during the warmer months (October-March) however is virtually inaccessible from the water during the winter due the growing pack ice.
Over the cooler months (March-October), the base is manned singlehandedly by a caretaker who maintains the basic running and security of the base until supplies and scientific personnel return for the annual summer rotation.
En route to Antarctica, L’Astrolabe will also visit Australia’s Macquarie Island, approximately 800 nautical miles south-east of Hobart, to deliver scientific personnel and equipment as a part of the regular team rotation on the island.
L’Astrolabe is due to set sail for Antarctica on Tuesday on completing of her resupply and pending weather, for 1 month before returning to Hobart in december.
After five voyages, she will later return to her home port of La Réunion in March.