The Dumont d’Urville Station in Adelie Land is served by the icebreaker Astrolabe from its port of departure at Hobart in Tasmania.
L’Astrolabe is an icebreaker (IB5 Polar Code) built in 2017 as part of a partnership between the Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF), l’Institut polaire français Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV) and the Ministry of defense (French Navy). The partnership is through 1) the creation of a public interest group (GIP) between TAAF and the Navy and 2) an agreement between IPEV and the Navy.
Operated at all times by the Navy, the vessel has two types of mission:
- Support of the Antarctic Logistics Mission of IPEV: transport of freight and passengers between Australia (Hobart, Tasmania) and Dumont d’Urville station, Adelie land, for 120 days (Southern summer). As part of international scientific cooperation between France and Australia, L’Astrolabe can also resupply Macquarie Island for the benefit of the Australian Antarctic Division.
- Defence missions: missions of sovereignty in the South of the Indian Ocean the rest of the year.
Consequently, L’Astrolabe makes 4-5 trips a year between November and February to supply Dumont d’Urville and Concordia stations, the material for this last station, being routed by land traverses from Cap Prudhomme. L’Astrolabe can also carry about 40 passengers on each trip.
L’Astrolabe is also used for offshore scientific campaigns during her transit from Hobart to DDU (e.g. MINERVE, SURVOSTRAL projects) or short coastal campaigns, when sea ice conditions permit.
The sea ice around Dumont d’Urville
During the Southern winter, the sea ice environment extends generally very widely around Antarctica and allows no access by sea during this period.
The first voyage of the vessel (R0) was annually scheduled end of October until 2012, at the beginning of the Southern summer. It allowed the delivery of technical teams and equipment preparing the land traverses to Concordia station. Uncertain ice conditions at this time forced boarding of 2 helicopters on the vessel, guiding its approach through the ‘pack’ and for the transport of staff from the vessel to the station.
After 2012, the ice conditions in the vicinity of DDU changed and sea ice does not break some years throughout the Southern summer, forcing IPEV to adapt unload the vessel on the ice, then to transport cargo to the station by traverse.
General characteristics of Astrolabe:
- Length overall: 72,00 m
- Moulded breadth: 16,00 m
- Draught: 5,30 m
- Deadweigh: 1,200 t
- Accommodation (crew /special personnel): 60
- Speed: 14 Kn
- Diesel propulsion: 4 x 1600 kW
- Generators: 2 x 500 kWe
- Emergency generator: 1 x 150 kWe
- Bow thruster: 500 kW