New Antarctic icebreaker RSV Nuyina docks in locked-down Hobart

Asia's Tech News Daily

© Provided by ABC NEWS The Nuyina was escorted up the River Derwent by tugs but minus a flotilla of well-wishers, which had to be cancelled because of a lockdown. (Supplied: Caroline Tan)

It was not quite the celebratory fanfare planned but Australia’s new icebreaker RSV Nuyina has finally arrived in Hobart.

The state-of-the art ship slipped quietly into Hobart after celebrations to welcome it were put on ice because of a snap COVID-19 lockdown.

The $528-million ship has taken 10 years to design and build and is bigger, faster and capable of staying at sea longer than its predecessor, the Aurora Australis.

It paused briefly in the middle of the Derwent and showed off its 360 degree-turning capabilities, spinning several times and blasting its horn.

While residents with a view of the River Derwent were able to watch it arrive, people were no longer permitted to greet the ship on the river or on the docks.

The Nuyina began its 24,000-kilometre journey from the Netherlands to Australia six weeks ago.

Australian Antarctic Division chief scientist Nicole Webster said the ship had exciting capabilities for scientists.

“We’ve been describing her as Disneyland for scientists,” she told ABC Radio Hobart.

“She comes absolutely bristling with sensors that are really going to act like eyes and ears and they can collect mountains of data in real-time, so things like echo sounders that help us locate fish populations and krill swarms.

“It has hydrophones that can listen in on marine mammals and whales and seals it has underwater cameras that allow us to see into areas of the Southern Ocean that we’ve never been able to see before.”

She said the ship will collect oceanographic and atmospheric data.

“It enables us to do things like artificial intelligence, we can track individual whales and then use some of those data streams to predict where those whale populations might be, so it’s really going to transform our future science capabilities,” Professor Webster said.

Anti-rolling ballast helps prevent ‘heaving’

The AAD’s Mark Horstman has been on board for the delivery voyage and said it had been a “very comfortable ride”.

“I think we’ve been on board nearly 50 days,” Mr Horstman said.

“We were all amazed at how well the ship handled and put it down to the anti-rolling ballast water system … the sea was heaving but people on board weren’t heaving.”

He was also excited by the scientific capabilities.

“I was pretty thrilled to see the moon pool, the fact that a ship can have a doorway straight down into the ocean so even if you’re surrounded by sea ice you can put all kinds of equipment down,” Mr Horstman said.

“We got to jump into it to celebrate crossing the equator.”

The ship’s name, pronounced noy-yee-nah, means southern lights in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The name was suggested by school students after a national competition in 2017 and was given formal approval by Tasmania’s Indigenous community.

The Nuyina will undertake two years of testing, including ice trials in Antarctica.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said it would be much more than a supply ship for Australia’s Antarctic bases.

“She’s got some pretty incredible laboratories and ability and capability so don’t just think about this vessel as transporting our expeditioners south and bringing the gear there and back, she’s a floating laboratory, 20 laboratories in fact,” she said.

Ms Ley said it was disappointing the ship’s arrival coincided with a coronavirus lockdown in southern Tasmania.

“It’s so disappointing for the people of Hobart … she would have had a magnificent welcome – one of many because some of us can’t get into Tasmania for a while,” she said.

“She’ll be being commissioned, being prepared, being provisioned and all of that over the next few weeks, so there’ll be lots of opportunities to see her in action.”

The ship replaces the Aurora Australis which severed as Australia’s supply ship for more than 30 years.

It was a regular feature on the Hobart waterfront and was affectionately dubbed the Orange Roughy.

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