The Australian Antarctic Division has commended maritime rescue crews for successfully refloating Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, two days after it ran aground in Antarctica.
The ship, which was a on a mission to resupply Mawson Station, broke free of its moorings during a blizzard on Wednesday morning.
But by 7.20pm on Friday the Aurora Australis had been refloated during rising tides, following the safe movement of 37 officials from the ship.It is now in the vicinity of Mawson Harbour awaiting assessment by the P&O Maritime crew.
"Antarctic logistics are difficult when things run well. They are particularly difficult when things go wrong," said Nick Gales, director of the Australian Antarctic Division.
"The transfer of expeditioners from the ship to Mawson station was relatively straightforward. We were in perfect weather conditions."
The transfer operation involved barges, which were used alongside the ship in three trips. Fifteen people were taken on a barge each time, over to the wharf and then up to the station, in a process that took around one hour.
The ship is now in the vicinity of Mawson Habour and awaiting assessment.
Mawson Station is one of three Australian bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory of East Antarctica.
P&O operations manager Shaun Deshommes said crews were relieved to discover there had been no oil spill or pollution.
"We are very pleased there was no negative impact to the marine environment," he said, thanking the supporting team and the ship's master.
The ship broke free of its moorings during a blizzard on Wednesday. Photo: Colin Cosier
P&O Maritime crew used a combination of internal ballast transfers and work boats to refloat the ship during a rising tide.
Mr Deshommes said it was early days, but any breach to the hull of the ship was considered to be "relatively small".
"It is affecting a tank which is a flooded tank anyway ... it is not affecting the stability or the safety of the vessel," he said.
"Internal inspection will be done by opening up all the ship's tanks and inspecting the internal structure at arm's length. This will be complemented by an external examination of the ship with underwater cameras."
The vessel is expected to return to Australia to undergo repairs.
The US Antarctic program is lending a hand to expeditioners from another of Australia's research stations. More than 30 expeditioners from Davis Station, who were scheduled to return home on the Aurora Australis after the summer season, will be transported via aircraft on Saturday to Casey Station.
The Aurora Australis left Tasmania in early January to conduct research on an undersea geological formation.