SA Agulhas II berthed in Cape Town yesterday after her successful second relief voyage to Antarctica.
She is a specialist icebreaking polar supply and research vessel built by STX Finland in Rauma and delivered to the Department of Environment Affairs in 2012. She replaced SA Agulhas, now in use as a training vessel.
Agulhas II has been designed to carry out both scientific research and supply South Africa research stations in the Antarctic and on Gough and Marion islands.
She sailed for the icy continent in November last year carrying scientists and researchers, some of who are now part of the base team that will be conducting experiments and monitoring aspects of Antarctica until they are relieved in November.
Agulhas II’s maiden voyage to Antarctica was in February last year. Prior to this her first working voyage was to Gough Island in October 2012 and in April last year she undertook the voyage to resupply the South African team on Marion Island for the first time.
Agulhas II replaced the 34-year-old SA Agulhas as South Africa’s Antarctic research vessel, supporting and undertaking research in Antarctica and on Marion and Gough islands.
At a length of 135 metres, Agulhas II is about 20 metres longer than her predecessor and can carry 100 passengers. She also boasts a big increase in scientific capability over Agulhas with eight permanent laboratories and six containerised laboratories. When doing logistic voyages, the container laboratories are removed to provide more cargo space.
She has been built to break metre thick ice at a speed of five knots.