Australia

Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis runs aground in Antarctica

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Media captionThese pictures from the Australian Antarctic Division show the ship at Mawson station as the bad weather moved in

Blizzards are continuing to hamper attempts to assess damage to Australia's flagship icebreaker, which has run aground in Antarctica.

There has been a small breach of the hull which is being monitored, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) said.

The Aurora Australis broke free of its mooring lines at Mawson at 09:15 local time (04:15 GMT) on Wednesday.

All 68 expedition members and crew on board were safe and well, the AAD said.

The AAD said blizzard conditions were forecast to ease by Thursday and expedition members would be transferred to Mawson research station if winds dropped below 55km/h (34mph).

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Aurora Australis broke free of its moorings in high winds
Image copyright AAD
Image caption The ship was taking on supplies at Australia's Mawson base

The Aurora Australis left Hobart in Tasmania on 11 January and carried out marine science research around the Kerguelen Plateau, a submerged continent that extends for 2,200km (1,365 miles), before arriving at Mawson on Saturday.

It broke free of mooring lines amid winds of more than 130kph (80mph) and ran aground at West Arm in Horseshoe Harbour.

Operations manager Shaun Deshommes from the ship's owner, P&O Maritime Services, said the boat's starboard side was resting alongside West Arm and the vessel was listing, ABC reported.

But he added that this was thought to be because of the blizzard conditions.

"The crew have been able to secure additional mooring lines and, despite the strong winds, the ship is sheltered from heavy swell and remains stable," he said.

The AAD said the crew had discovered a small breach of the hull into a space usually flooded with ballast water. The breach did not affect the stability of the vessel and did not pose a risk of fuel leaking out into the environment, the organisation said.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Blizzard conditions have continued for 20 hours after the ship ran aground
Image copyright Australian Antarctic Division
Image caption The Aurora Australis is Australia's Antarctic flagship

The AAD said that it was still unclear whether the ship would be able to continue its voyage, but added that the expedition could be continued on another boat or by plane.

The Aurora Australis was due to sail to the Davis research station to collect more expedition members before returning to Australia between 15 and 23 March, the AAD said.

The Aurora Australis, which is 95m long and weighs 3,911 tonnes, was launched in 1989 and is capable of breaking ice that is up to 1.2m thick.

The ship is designed to cope with heavy seas and contains laboratories that are used for biological, oceanographical and meteorological research. It also has a gym, library and recreation areas.

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