Why spend $500million on a new icebreaker in the face of global warming melting polar ice?

We are told constantly about warming this and that – catastrophic melting of ice shelves – why not give the Aurora Australis a tidy up refit and keep her sailing – save some money. There seems to be an internal inconsistency here – Icebreaker to boost jobs in Tasmania – let Tasmania stand on its own two feet – many are fed up with taxpayers having to subsidise Tasmania to be a Green theme-park. European shipbuilders short-listed to build Aurora Australis replacement – amazing, I would have thought Asian shipyards would have been in the running.
Will make a prediction now – the cost will end up nearer a $billion than $500mill.
I see news here about $45mill over 4 years to maintain air services to Wilkins ice runway near Casey – I thought that ice runway had melted – just Google – wilkins ice runway melting – pages and pages. In October 2012 I noted this Fairfax story about the melting runway which went viral all over Australia.

7 thoughts on “Why spend $500million on a new icebreaker in the face of global warming melting polar ice?”

  1. Warwick,

    Not sure where you get your figure of $500k when the government has not put a specific figure on the cost, unless you’re relying on The Australian’s guesstimate. As for your suggestion of refit etc for Aurora Australis, it had that last year to extend its life for another 5 years. Given the rigours faced by ice breakers, they do not have a limitless lifespan. Regarding the likelihood of the shipbuilder being European and your railing against that, don’t you believe that the tender process should take its course? And if so, do you know that there was an Asian tenderer?

    As for your snipe at Tasmania, what about infrastructure funding for other states? I notice you don’t have much to say about that. Tasmania has the highest concentration of Antarctic-related institutions and scientists than anywhere else in the country. It makes sense to continue to have an Antarctic ship based there. It also makes sense to continue to build on Hobart’s already-established Antarctic hub, known internationally as such.

    As for the Wilkins runway, it has not melted. The truth is that during January the runway can be affected by melt due to the relatively warm temperatures. Aircraft continue to fly to and land at Wilkins on either side of January during the Antarctic season. To provide as proof, to make your point, a story that went viral doesn’t make it fact.

    Sure, it’s ok to bring these matters up for discussion but you can’t expect to go unchallenged when your claims are either wrong or not properly researched.

    Simply trotting out a list of whinges for the sake of it portrays you as a bit of a grumpy old bugger.


  2. This paper discusses weather considerations at Wilkins.


    It states,

    ‘A temperature at or below -7C at the runway is necessary to achieve
    the surface friction constraints imposed by the Australian Civil Aviation Authority’

    The reported ‘melt’ may be a simplification.

    Nonetheless, the AAD/BoM failed to predict the runway would be unuseable most of the time, and rather predictably blame Antarctic ice melt for their failure.


    They appear to be in denial as to the real reason(s) for the problems at the Wilkins runway.

    This report from the Australian is a bit of an eye opener, as a BoM representative is forced to concede that temperatures have actually cooled at Casey since 1980, after initially trying to claim the opposite, and in addition refuses to show the temperature data.


  3. I wonder if the Australian Antarctic people could resurrect PIKECRETE ? A WW2 invention of sawdust and ice which never became ‘commercial’.

    The main project was a ‘super’ aircraft carrier stationed in the middle of the Atlantic to provide aerial cover against U-boat attacks on shipping. “super” indicates that it was well over 150,000 tons. Pipes circulation cold water were to be embedded in the walls, so it was saved from melting and was self sealing if torpedoed. The need for this faded as the U-boat menace receded.

    Apparently a Churchill enthusiasm, sparked by the inventor (Magnus Pike) dropping a lump into his bath and it not melting for a long time.

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