The SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) polar training vessel the Agulhas is steaming home from Antarctica, having dropped members of "The Coldest Journey” expedition on the edge of the frozen continent.
The ship, which has 51 South African training cadets on board, as well as some expedition support members, is set to dock in Cape Town on Tuesday, Samsa said in a statement.
The Agulhas, its crew and the cadets have been supporting the expedition, headed by veteran explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Fiennes, together with five others, is attempting to make the first-ever, mid-winter crossing of Antarctica.
"The ship sailed for Antarctica from Cape Town a month ago (on January 7), after departing from London where the expedition team joined the crew.
"Following 12 days of unloading and preparations alongside the ice shelf in Crown Bay, the Agulhas is returning, having successfully completed the mission to establish the expedition team with their equipment in Antarctica.” The statement quoted expedition co-leader Anton Bowring, who praised the work done by the cadets.
"It has been a unique opportunity for the cadets to get experience of navigating and handling cargo in Antarctica, an environment unlike any other,” he said.
"They have worked hard and been a wonderful asset to the expedition. It has been a great pleasure to have them with us.” The Agulhas will dock at Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront at 8am on Tuesday.
According to The Coldest Journey’s website, the explorers are attempting the crossing from Crown Bay, via the South Pole, to Captain Scott’s base at McMurdo Sound, a distance of about 4000km.
The six-member team — who are using two modified Caterpillar D6N vehicles, each towing a caboose, and store and fuel sleds -- will take six months to cross Antarctica, most of the time in complete darkness.
They and their equipment are set to be picked up by the Agulhas in McMurdo Sound in February next year. - Sapa