The Dumont d’Urville Station in Adelie Land is served by the icebreaker Astrolabe from its port of departure at Hobart in Tasmania.
This polar-adapted supply vessel is 65m long. For each voyage it can carry 49 passengers and several 100 tonnes of food, fuel, goods and equipment.
The ship is used by IPEV 138 days each year, making 5 return crossings (November to March) on the 2700km route between Tasmania and the Antarctic continent.
During the austral winter, the ice pack spreads extensively around the Antarctic and prevents any maritime access.
Up to 2012 the ship’s first service (Rotation R0) was programmed for the end of October, at the very beginning of the austral summer. This allowed transportation of the technical teams and the equipment necessary for preparing the land convoys for transfer to Concordia Station. The still uncertain ice-pack conditions at this time demanded 2 helicopters to be taken on board, guiding its approach across the pack and taking over transport runs from the ship.
Since 2012, the ice conditions close to the Antarctic continent have modified and the ice-pack holds firm during the austral summer. This has prompted IPEV to develop means other than Astrolabe for unloading goods, equipment and people.
Astrolabe is also deployed for short oceanography research campaigns along the Antarctic coasts.
General characteristics of Astrolabe:
- Type: Antarctic supply ship
- Overall length: 65m
- Beam: 12.80m
- Draft: 4.80m
- Gross tonnage: 1700grt
- Passenger capacity: 49 (13 cabins)
- Class: A1 Super, polar ship with ice capability
- Owner: P&O Maritime Services
- Operator: P&O Maritime Services
- Charterers: TAAF and IPEV
- Positioning system: dynamic.