SA Agulhas II on shakedown cruise
The new R1.2-billion SA Agulhas II sailed from Cape Town for Antarctica yesterday.
The vessel, owned by the Department of Environmental Affairs, replaces the aged SA Agulhas, decommissioned in May.
Built in Finland for R1.2-billion, the SA Algulhas II is an icebreaker, unlike its predecessor.
According to department spokesman Zolile Nqayi, the ship will carry out scientific research and supply the South African Antarctic research station, Sanae IV.
Nqayi said the ship would make a 26-day test cruise to the "edge of the ice shelf in Antarctica".
On board is a group of marine scientists from the department, the SA Weather Service, the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
"The shakedown cruise will test all ship systems under full operational conditions and train researchers. A wide variety of vertical and towed probes, nets and underwater photographic equipment will be deployed and their associated on-board processing systems will be fully tested," Nqayi said.
"An important objective will be to enter the winter ice pack - a floating mass of compacted ice fragments - and to test the ship's propulsion systems under Antarctic conditions.
"All previous ice tests were in the Baltic, where the density of the ice is different to that of the Antarctic. This will be very useful in obtaining a 'first feel' for the ice prior to the Sanae relief voyage in December."
He said the trip will also give new crew members an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the sea, land and weather conditions in the Antarctic.