2012 Aurora Australis with penguins © Mel Van Twest
Launch of RSV Aurora Australis
The morning of 18 September 1989 dawned fine and clear and driving towards the yard at Tomago, the familiar orange/red of the ship’s profile now stood out as the most prominent feature of the landscape. The two massive 60 tonne gantries which had overshadowed the construction site for the past year, were now rolled clear, and the Launching crowd was gathering.
So wrote the Division’s, Director of the Ships Projects Section, Ivan Bear in a paper published in ‘ANARE News’ #59.
Ivan went on: The gathering was truly representative. The shipyard workers, contractors, brokers, parliamentarians, owners, designers, operators, off-season charterers, and representatives from the Antarctic Division were all clustered about the berth.
How appropriate it was that the actual launch our very own Ice-Breaker, should be performed by Hazel Hawke, the wife of the then current Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who had done so much to ensure Antarctica remained free of the shackles of mining and mineral exploitation, under the obligations of the Antarctic Treaty.
In her address before the launch itself, Hazel Hawke noted the declaration of Antarctica as a ’Wilderness Reserve’, the campaigning for which captured the public imagination, to the point where many other nations are now following our example. She also noted, our new abilities to take on many of the environmental issues in Antarctica.
As to the choice of name, Hazel Hawke said that was selected by a schoolboy, Brett Web from Jindabyne, who won a nationwide competition. ‘A fitting and imaginative name, with clear historical links, e.g. reminding us of Douglas Mawson’s earlier voyages to Antarctica aboard a ship called ‘Aurora’. Indeed, the plan for our next ship – unfortunately being built overseas, is for it to be named ‘Nuyina’’, a local aborigine name for what we know as ’Aurora Australis’. So, the tradition of keeping an appropriate name as long as possible continues.
Hazel Hawke concluded her speech saying:
Australia’s research program in Antarctica is already vigorous. Our four permanent research stations are regularly supplemented by summer work programs at other locations. But all require the service of dedicated support vessels. So, there is no shortage of work for the Aurora Australis to do. May she sail long and well, and may good fortune go with all who sail in her. Whereupon she cut the tape to release the bottle which swung in an arc to shatter against the bow.
Ivan Bear takes over: The hydraulic jacks then began to tilt the cradle towards the launching pond, and as the incline approached the 5.8-degree mark, the creaking announced the first movement on the slips. Then away slid that giant form. Its full mass against the waters of the pond to the bund on the far side and back again. Aurora Australis then righted herself, floating on her own hull for the first time to the resounding cheers, whistles and horns of the shipyard.