SA Agulhas II arrives safely at Penguin Bukta, Antarctica


The SA Agulhas II, South Africa’s icebreaker and polar supply ship arrived at an ice shelf in Penguin Bukta, Antarctica on January 4.

The ship’s voyage was ‘mostly easy-going’, according to Professor Annie Bekker from Stellenbosch University. ‘The later departure of the SA Agulhas II has resulted in ice navigation later in the summer,’ she said.

The ice is more depleted in the warmer months, which makes the journey more straight forward, however, there was some ramming in the early hours of the morning on January 4.

Bekker’s text logged the Agulhas’ journey; she said the ship encountered notable sea ice on the morning of January 3 – the ice floes measured approximately 10-metres in diameter and ‘were concentrated at about 80% with some snow cover and only a few centimetres of ice thickness.’

‘The ice cover becomes increasingly dense but the ship is not required to show her steel yet – owing to the voyage being postponed later in summer,’ said Bekker, before pondering how the later departure will affect the Agulhas’ return voyage in March – ‘will she need to show her steel then?’

The weather was turbulent at the beginning of the new year and the ship brushed by a storm as it approached Antarctica.

‘She was peppered with winds of 50 to 60 knots underway,’ said Bekker.

‘If you are lucky enough to escape motion sickness, the sea spray from bow slamming compliments the spectacular sunset.’


The S.A. Agulhas II replaced its predecessor and namesake, the Agulhas I, which was retired from South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) duty in 2012.

It was designed to, both, conduct scientific research and carry supplies to South African research stations in the Antarctic, unlike the Agulhas I, which was in service for more than 30 years.

The multipurpose vessel cost the Department of Environmental Affairs more than R2-billion and can serve as an icebreaker, research vessel, expedition vessel, supply vessel and cruise ship.

It is 134-metres long and can hold 100 researchers and 45 crew members.

Picture: Twitter

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