Aurora Australis delayed 20 miles off Casey due wind preventing safe cargo operations

Read the ships sitrep for Wednesday 8-Jan-2014 – and the previous one saying they still have 420,000 litres of distillate to pipe ashore – now they are sailing a box pattern 20 miles out to sea until wind conditions ease.

Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) costs circa $4million a week so we see now the consequences of the Christmas “distress” call by MV Akademik Shokalskiy which was carrying The Australasian Antarctic Expedition AAE; the 50 odd members of which plus journalists are now on board the Aurora Australis.
This map of global winds is worth a look,

Casey is the small pink asterisk near the 110°E longitude line.

37 thoughts on “Aurora Australis delayed 20 miles off Casey due wind preventing safe cargo operations”

  1. The Casey webcam as of 9am today (9th Jan) shows flat calm and ice free water, no snow and wind at 7km/hr.

    And yesterday’s AA sitrep contained this,

    Thanks to the Bureau of Meteorology forecasters who do a fantastic job of monitoring the weather conditions for us, particularly the winds. Their ability to do this so accurately enables us to maximise our cargo movement opportunities with the knowledge that we will be advised when to shut down operations with sufficient time to retrieve the ‘Wyatt Earp’ and barge safely. Once snow flurries begin on the bank at Casey it is time to pack up and in the case of the ship move out of the harbour. These flurries indicate that wind is coming and it will not be long before you are at it’s mercy. We are now bobbing around in the swell outside of the harbour waiting for the winds to abate.

    It appears the BoM didn’t do such a ‘fantastic job’.

  2. As I write at 1312EADT they are still in their box well off Casey so maybe they see weather coming on radar. AAD must be fuming at the telescoping of their resupply opportunities for the remaining warm season.

  3. With Akademika Shokalskiy now on the way home, the expeditioners are still stuck in Antarctica with Aurora Australis. Now that’s funny. The Russian sailors are probably partying appropriately.

  4. Turkey: “But it’s just weather! Don’t adjust your plans for trivia like that!”
    Captain: SMACK!

  5. Actually I feel sorry for them. This has turned into a bit of a nightmare for all concerned. The Fairfax “blog” has been silent now for 5 days, although they are back in Casey, with internet access. Their employers are paying their salaries plus presumably tickets at $8 000 each for two of their staff to be stuck in Antarctica for weeks with nothing to do or write about. Meanwhile since their “rescue”, their original ship has broken out of the ice and is on its way back to civilisation.

    It could have been one hell of a lot worse though. Note the forced optimism in the last Fairfax report here about the carrying capacity of the ice “A solid three meters thick” – no worries. But if a crack had appeared during one of the numerous landings of that huge helicopter this could have been an appalling tragedy. There MUST be an enquiry into the whole business.

  6. The tracker shows the AA still slowly steaming their box patterns off Casey at 5.50am on 10th. Latest wind can see at Casey is 19kmh.
    Agree about the enquiry David but I think there will be a lot of vested interests at work against that course of action.
    Yesterday 9th around 8.45am I heard the Canberra 666 ABC Radio Breakfast show and Dr Tony Fleming the Australian Antarctic Division AAD Director was being interviewed discussing AAD work and the implications of The Australasian Antarctic Expedition AAE “ships beset by ice” emergency on current season AAD shipping schedule, work programs etc. I did not hear mention that Aurora Australis was at that exact time steaming the box pattern off Casey. At the end of the segment the interviewer Louise Maher gave Dr Fleming an opportunity to make a comment about the AAE leader Prof Turney – and he said that Prof Turney should not imply that AAD had approved the scientific program of AAE. What Dr Fleming said was that AAD had approved the environmental impacts of AAE.
    Here is a link to an audio file of the interview. About 12min long.
    As these delays mount for the AAE members – I wonder how long it will be before they are flown home.
    12MB MP3 file which you can download – ignore the first 20secs then Louise Maher is heard at good volume – lasts just over 12 mins.

  7. David, I’m not sure where you get your figure of $8000 for each of the Fairfax people in Antarctica. Also don’t understand your reference to their “rescue”, nor mention of their original ship breaking free of ice. Fairfax was never on Akademik Shokalskiy. The Guardian was on AS. Fairfax was on Aurora Australis.

  8. Gina,

    Thanks for correction! I did see you correct where the Fairfax people were earlier so it should have sunk in, but even though I kept reading Fairfax reports I somehow thought they were being rescued rather than doing the rescuing. Of course they were stuck in ice for a while too. The $8000 was the cost of a junket on the Akademik Shokalskiy – as Fairfax were not there they would not have paid that, do you know if they paid anything? In any case, the point is much the same for their employers – they were supposed to be back in Australia by now but because of this complicated rescue they are still stuck in Antarctica with nothing to do.

    All the journos are now very quiet about this. The Fairfax lady tweeted 3 days ago that she is back in Casey but the Guardian people have already reverted to global warming nonsense: cop this story – “Emperor penguins are having to struggle up 100-foot walls of ice as warmer temperatures force them out of their traditional breeding grounds, a study has shown.” There are none so blind…

  9. PS Just checked the Marine Traffic map and the Australis is still in a holding pattern off Casey, it must be ghastly down there. The Guardian said yesterday: “Just over six hours after our ship had made it to Casey, however, resupply operations had to stop. Snow had started falling and that meant the winds were not far behind. By lunchtime, a gale was gusting at speeds of 50 knots, making it difficult to stand out on deck. The Aurora Australis bobbed around in swells of several metres, travelling in circles in the bay, as huge waves smashed high against the side of the ship.”

    Earlier they had said “the mighty Aurora Australis is now getting back to work and the rest of us, no longer at the centre of the expedition in which we are taking part, just have to keep out of the way.” If only the whole lot of them had just kept out of the way for the duration of the summer resupply effort…

  10. Although it is too much to dream that Turney & co will reimburse any decent fraction of the extra costs and damages to various groups, probably in the millions, they should be presented with bills for something. To completely subsidize the reckless, the stupid and their camp followers only encourages more of the same. Bills under $10,000 will not be very instructive.

  11. I don’t envy them being stuck in a ship being buffeted by gale force winds for that period of time. Certainly no place for children. What was Turney thinking when he decided to take his wife and kids to a place like that for a holiday? The man appears to suffer from very poor judgement.

  12. David, the Fairfax journalists have a rider at the end of their stories published in SMH that says they are travelling as part of the Australian Antarctic Division’s media program. If you check AAD’s website it clearly explains what this is.

    By the way, I doubt the journalists have nothing to do at the moment. Rather, I would think they are gathering material and interviews with a number of people on various projects for publication in the coming days/weeks. I would think the rescue was something of a distraction from what they’d gone to Antarctica to do. That fact that they were drawn into the rescue, they had no option than to report on it. There would also be certain stories, apart from the rescue itself, that would result from it that they would be expected by their editors to write.

  13. Gina’s persistent attempts (above) to shift the goalposts away from embarrassment are mildly amusing
    The AA embarked with a routine requirement to service Casey with re-fuelling and supplies. There’s not a lot for the SMH to report there. That the AA became embroiled in a tight “rescue” situation was unexpected and should be the issue of breathless reporting, one might imagine
    But this hasn’t happened. In fact, efforts by the SMH, the ABC, the BBC and the Guardian have been made to minimise the publicity situation by, for example, reporting the AS as a Russian tourist ship in direct contrast to their media websites in November
    In short, the Turney “expedition” was an attempt at a huge PR stunt of the “it’s much worse than we thought” variety. The expected pay-off was to be in SMH, ABC, BBC and Guardian broadcasts and articles soon after Turney et al triumphantly returned

    Big fat FAIL, I’m afraid … and quite reckless

  14. I notice from the Guardian’s blog here that they did not pay to go on the Akademik Shokalskiy either. Of course they are also now guests of the AAD, “on board the Aurora Australis”.

    From the look of their site, the Guardian people seem to have given up completely. Even though it’s called “Antarctica Live”, the journo’s blog gave out on day 20, and it’s now day 32. The last time I can see any trace of him on the site is a video on 3 January.

    Last story from the Fairfax journo was 4 January:, though she tweeted on 7 January that she was back at Casey:

    I don’t blame especially the Guardian people for not working. They must be worried, demoralised, and may well be seasick after 4 days of being bashed around off Casey in howling winds. In fact I don’t blame any of them – they are getting a lesson I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

  15. Slight correction the Guardian’s journo did file the story I referred to earlier on 7 January. But the four days of gusts to 100km/h or so seem to have taken the wind out of his sails. Has anyone seen anything from Turney the last few days?

  16. Re Turney I find only a couple of tweets on their trip:

    8 Jan: “Made it to Casey. All well but storm approaching. Hope this sends before comms blow over side” 23 hours ago: “Sorry for silence. Ship turning so linking up difficult. Hope better Sat. Snowing @ moment!” 1 hour ago: “Massively changing conditions @ Casey. Snowing @ moment but stunning ice bergs about!” One commenter says: “keep tweeting. You fell off the medias radar good luck”

    Ianl8888: I agree Turney’s expedition, and the SMH excursion, were intended as global warming hypefests. In fact the SMH headed their first story: “Fairfax Media to travel to Antarctica to document first-hand how climate change is affecting the polar environment”. But, like the Guardian, they are still running ridiculously hyped Antarctica global warming stories:

  17. ian18888, you’ll do yourself damage if you get too excited over this. I couldn’t care less where the “embarrassment” goalposts are in this story. But I am interested in trying to be accurate instead of letting loose a bunch of random, yet-to-be-proved claims that seem to be generated in an over-active imagination. If you’d been following the SMH’s journey from the beginning you’d realise the journalists flew to Antarctica in December. They’re there to cover a range of stories on living/working on an Australian Antarctic station and the science that’s happening there. They were sidetracked, like everyone else, by the rescue operation. They’re not there to cover the station resupply only. It would be part of a much broader brief. Maybe check out things more closely before sounding off. You’re also wrong about media coverage. From December 25 to January 3 the ABC had 17 stories online that I could find. There are probably more. Stories were also carried several times a day in radio and TV news bulletins, etc. The story travelled around the world through news networks on TV, radio, newspapers and online to hundreds of millions of people. I shouldn’t need to do your research for you. SMH vision/images were updated daily for a world audience. I understand you have your own views about the media outfits you mentioned, but your lack of proper research makes you worse than those you criticise. Where’s your evidence? Not everyone is part of a conspiracy whose sole purpose is to drive you to distraction. There are more interesting things in life than trying to get under your skin. Truly.

  18. There have been no new blog entries on the Spirit of Mawson website since the 3rd of January so perhaps they no longer have internet access or are planning to open a new blog, presumably called ‘Dispirited of Mawson’. At least the kids had a bit of an adventure and might even miss a bit of school which by now they may be desperate to get back to as they must be bored out of their minds sitting out on the ocean going nowhere, and even when they do get going, Australia is still nearly 7 days away.

    One tragedy in all of this is that the 12 yr old son of Turney wants to become an environment reporter for the Guardian according to one of his blog entries. But then I guess the Aussie education system has done a pretty good job of brainwashing a lot of Aussie children. By the time he grows up and gets out of Uni the Co2 hysteria will be in its death throws as the delayed impact of the current half height solar high makes itself felt and the World enters a possibly even lower sunspot cycle.

  19. The cost/passenger on the Shokalskiy trip was not ~$8000. I don’t know where the figure came from but it is floating around. The cost of a single berth for the first leg was around $5,000. The second leg to Antarctica was was closer to $17,000. ( “How much are berths?”). The Commonwealth Bank of Australia which sponsored a contest and probably provided funds for the expedition paid the winner $21,500.

  20. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition on board the AAD ship Aurora Australis have just returned to Casey where AAD can hopefully commence cargo ops after 3.25 days steaming offshore waiting for wind to ease. Currently webcams show it is snowing and wind is 11-15kmh and a crane on the foredeck is active.

  21. @gina

    Mild amusement is not “over excitement”. Stop moving goalposts … as if. My skin is way thicker than you seem to imagine, you even pulled in the old “conspiracy” shibboleth. A specific mindset is not conspiratorial – end of your silly story

    My comments on the SMH, ABC, BBC, Guardian “meeja” reports are based on constant survey of their more popular broadcasts and print articles, ie. where the mass of the population receive their news. It is the mass that matters to meeja, so minor audiences on webposts are almost irrelevant to them

    After the AS became iced in, the popular story changed from Antarctic Scientific Exploration in the Spirit of Mawson to a Russian tourist ship. Fact, that – and the cause of my mild amusement

  22. “expeditioners” on the AA don’t have access to internet other than “text only” email whilst at sea. She is able to download satellite images etc so does have limited internet connection of her own though it is used for operational purposes only.
    Any tweeting,blogging etc will only occur whilst the ship is parked up off shore from one of the stations and able to use the stations internet access.

  23. marc – thanks for clarification, it’s not easy to put all the pieces together on this. But do you happen to know how the SMH’s science editor was able to file stories from the AA while at sea – e.g. or Maybe the SMH has privileged access to the AA’s comms and/or are not considered “expeditioners”?

    As far as I know the SMH people have been on dry land at Casey since 7 January. One of them posted a small story with video of a weather balloon today: Last I knew (or thought) the Guardian people were still on the AA, but their “Antarctica Live” site is now so dead even the map is still showing last Thursday, the “Latest News” is last Tuesday, and “Alok’s Daily Blog” hasn’t been updated for more than 2 weeks.

    Shub – thanks for video! The $8000 figure is indeed everywhere on the net but Turney says live it’s $16,500 for this gig. Wonder if he paid for his wife and kids to go along – and also wonder if the presence of the kids influenced the decision to mount the “rescue”.

  24. David Brewer- Hard to know exactly. My thoughts are that as the SMH journos are on an official AAD media program, they would have access to ships internet in the same way that AAD science programs do whilst at sea.
    However i doubt that Turney et al are able to do more than occasional email and sat phone and they would need to have an AAD user account and phone pin, or get special clearance and permission. Note that this would apply even whilst parked up or on station at Casey.

  25. Just caught up with Louise Maher’s interview with Tony Fleming of the Australian Antarctic Division that wazsah posted above:

    Very revealing about the whole Akademik Shokalskiy schemozzle. In addition to the points wazsah mentions, when Maher asks about Turney’s claim that there was nothing to suggest the mass breakout of thick sea ice was imminent, Fleming replies that he had advised Turney in advance about the pile-up of multi-year ice in the Commonwealth Bay region. After confirming that the Akademik Shokalskiy and the Xue Long have both since regained open water, Maher then asks [from 10.48]: “One of our listeners says that he’s heard reports saying there was enough food on the ship for 2 weeks. So, given that, was it necessary to mount that rescue expedition in the first place?” Fleming replies: [Sigh]…there’s… [sigh]…the Captain made a call…ah…to…um…ah…indicate that the ship was in distress…ah…and we always respond to that call, so…um…it’s not for me to judge whether that ship was in distress…it’s the captain and the rescue co-ordination centre that make that call.” Fleming also says he’ll be talking to AMSA about an investigation, adding “They had the responsibility to mount the rescue mission and we responded to their call.”

  26. Just over an hour and a half ago the Aurora Australis departed Casey, plenty of cargo on deck. Just prior 1630AEDT 15 Jan
    Remember too that the AAD webcams do not always update readily – using Firefox I find I have to go History – Clear Recent History – I then clear all ticked boxes except cache and then click – Clear Now. Usually if you do this for one webcam the others update OK too.
    Currently picking way through loose ice.

  27. The Akademik Shokalskiy got back to Invercargill yesterday, and the crew are starting to talk:

    ‘A change in the wind direction eventually took the pressure off the ice and allowed the Akademik Shokalskiy to break free, he said. While there was no immediate danger to passengers and crew during the ordeal, the ship’s captain, Igor Kiselelev, did declare a state of emergency, known as a pan-pan, Mr Russ said. A pan-pan informs potential rescuers, including emergency services and other crafts in the area, that a safety problem existed. …”Captain Igor would never take his ship into an area where he was not confident he could get out.” The ship’s third mate, Dmitri Danilenok, said the crew were all well and there were no issues while they waited to be freed from the ice.’

    Which raises the question: did Captain Igor ask to be rescued from the ice, or from Turney the Grauniad, Senator Rice, and co.?

  28. Steve McIntyre has now comprehensively reconstructed the whole sequence of events:

    He picks up on the audio wazsah posted of Fleming rebutting Turney’s claims that the AAD had approved his science programme. He also shows that maps Turney published were completely botched, and demolishes Turney’s claims that the ice that trapped them was an unpredicable breakout of multi-year “fast” ice. The place where the Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck was a 20km wide stretch of open water on December 3, but with fixed ice to the west and a massive expanse of mobile ice to its east. As the month wears on, easterly winds blow more and more of the latter against the former, but the Akademik Shokalskiy only heads further south so that when it is eventually trapped, it is even further from open water. McIntyre observes: ‘The “peninsula” of pack ice to the northeast of Mertz Glacier was highly exposed to change of wind and blowing of this pack ice onto the westerly shore ought to have not only been considered a possibility, but a virtual certainty.’ Worth reading it all, including the comments.

  29. Good of Steve to put the work into that timeline of sat imagery – hard to beat timelines for getting understanding ontrack.
    I have just read the Wikipedias for Mayday and pan-pan calls. Quite a few examples of usage are given.
    I think the word distress was only used in the mayday wiki.
    So there is a contradiction.

  30. They’re back in Hobart, and “The expedition leader and the captain of the Aurora will address the media later in the morning.”

    Not bloody Turney again…

    By the way did anyone notice his 15 January post where he said “Chris Fogwill has been drilling down with New Zealand and German colleagues into the origins of the sea ice breakout event that trapped the Shokalskiy.” Some mystery that was, as Steve McIntyre amply demonstrated…

  31. Yes Dave what a blizzard of spin we can look forward to.
    The AAD Director has stated they will tally up costs of the rescue to support claims – exactly who they intend to claim against remains to be seen.
    This skirmish between warmists is good news for IPCC sceptics and could lead who knows where. I think it likely there will be a truce of sorts and the mug public will just get spin not truth.
    Climategate was a turning point in the war to impose IPCC globalwarming/climate change dogmas on the world. The AAE disaster came out of left field at a time the new Govt in Canberra is looking to make expenditure cuts and there may well be attention given to the Australian Antarctic Division budget.
    We currently have senior cabinet people opining about how to shave the welfare sector – even the old age pension hit the news before it was put out of bounds – Although AAD is a vastly smaller target at ~$180million I would be surprised if their budget was not given a further trim.

  32. The SMH journos are back and telling the truth:

    Have not compared point by point but their account seems to very much back up McIntyre’s analysis. The key problem was irresponsible excursion management on 23rd, with the last group not returning to the ship until 3 hours after the captain had ordered evacuation.

    A new fact to me is that the ship was gashed open by ice, above the waterline, on the following night as it tried to escape the thickening ice.

  33. The SMH journos are back and blurting. Good to see:

    They back McIntyre’s analysis. The crucial mistake was the three hour delay getting people back on the ship on the 23rd.

    The story also reveals, for the first time to my knowledge, that the ship was gashed open above the water line on the following night as it tried to force its way through the ice.

    Interesting that crucial details including passenger testimony only comes out now, and from SMH journos who only learnt about what had happened 10 days after the event when they came and picked up the Shokalskiy passengers. Maybe the Grauniad people, who were on the Shokalskiy, felt they couldn’t dump on the organisers because they had got the trip for free. And maybe, as the SMH suggests, the passengers were allowed to spend too long on the ice because they had paid. Lots of issues to be investigated here, all sorts of dangerous incentives are built in to this type of adventure tourism cum publicity stunt.

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