SA Agulhas II off to Gough Island


The new Department of Environmental Affairs polar research vessel SA Agulhas II has departed on its maiden supply voyage to Gough Island.

The SA Agulhas II left Cape Town yesterday. The icebreaker will stop over at Tristan da Cunha to drop off a group of 38 British Tristan da Cunha residents before heading on to Gough Island. She was due to depart at 14:00 yesterday, but only left harbour at 21:00 due to a problem with one of the cranes and an unsatisfactory internet connection, reports Die Burger.

The eight members of the Gough 58 team consists of three meteorologists, a medical orderly, a radio technician, a diesel mechanic and two field assistants.

South Africa has been operating a weather station on Gough Island since 1956. This weather office, according to the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), operates the same as stations in South Africa, with hourly climate observations and twice daily upper-air ascents.

Gough Island is a volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,700 kilometres south west of Cape Town. It is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha, which in turn is a dependency of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena. The land the weather station is built on is leased by South Africa under contract. It is uninhabited except for the six to eight expedition members of the weather station as part of SANAP and is thus one of the most remote places with a constant human presence.

The SA Agulhas II is set to sail back to Cape Town from its expedition on October 11.

The SA Agulhas II takes over from the 34 year-old SA Agulhas as South Africa’s new Antarctic research and supply vessel, supporting and undertaking research in Antarctica and on Marion and Gough Islands. Built in Finland and having arrived in its home port of Cape Town on May 3, the vessel returned from a 26 day shakedown cruise to the edge of the ice shelf in Antarctica at the beginning of August.