With environmental, climate change and marine resource issues at the forefront of concern for the modern world, many leading nations are investing heavily in state-ofthe-art ‘icebreaker’ research vessels which will be capable of dealing with the harshest conditions on the planet to allow scientists to study a wide and diverse range of ecosystems, habitats and resources globally.
Here we look at just three of the most exciting of this new breed of vessels:

 

 

AUSTRALIA

Considered by the Australian Government as a “once in a generation investment”, their new 160m icebreaker research vessel is the centrepiece

of the AUS$1.9 billion (€1.2bn) Australian Antarctic Strategy 20-Year Action Plan launched in 2016. To include the design, build and 30-year

operational and maintenance lifespan of the RSV Nuyina, this is the single biggest investment in the history of Australia’s Antarctic Program. Due to make its maiden voyage to Antarctica in 2020–21, the Nuyina has been designed so that it can support scientific research that answers the critical questions of today — but it must also cope with future research demands (for the 30-year lifetime of the ship), some of which are currently unknown. To ensure this, scientists involved in the design consultation had to do a bit of crystal ball gazing, to consider what the science of the future could look like and what future capabilities would be needed on the ship to support that. With a ‘moon pool’ to deploy autonomous vehicles and oceanographic equipment, RSV Nuyina can also:
• break 1.65 m thick ice at a continuous speed of 3 knots;
• cruise efficiently at 12 knots, with a maximum speed of 16 knots;
• handle sea state 9 (waves over 14 m); • handle Beaufort 12 winds (hurricane);
• cope with air temperatures as low as -30°C and up to 45°C; • support voyages of up to 90 days.

The ship will be the main lifeline to Australia’s three Antarctic research stations and its sub-Antarctic station on Macquarie Island, and will support Australia’s leadership role in Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research. Nuyina is the only ship in the world to have a watertight room or ‘wet well’ to process seawater for krill and other fragile marine organisms, at up to 1,800 litres per minute. State-of-the-art scientific equipment, including the latest technology from Scanmar, includes acoustic instruments to map and visualise the sea floor and organisms in the water column, and instruments to measure atmospheric gases, cloud properties, wave heights and ice conditions. As well as having its own helicopters, the vessel also boasts of ‘Silent R’ acoustic rating at 8 knots which minimizes noise radiating from the ship’s two diesel engines (19,200 kW total) for icebreaking and two electric motors (7,400 kW total) powered by diesel generators for silent operations. The word ‘nuyina’ means ‘southern lights’ in palawa kani – the language spoken by Tasmanian Aborigines today. It is pronounced “noy-yee-nah” and the name Nuyina recognises the long connection that Tasmanian Aboriginal people have with the southern lights (aurora australis).

 

 

UNITED KINGDOM

The project for a state-of-the-art new 129m research icebreaker for the U.K. almost got off to a bad start as the publicly-invited vote to find a name for the new vessel almost resulted with the now-infamous name of ‘Boaty McBoatface’ almost becoming the embarrassing title of this extensive investment in marine research. However, common sense finally prevailed, and the new vessel will carry the name of the distinguished and globally highly respected Sir David Attenborough. To be operated by the British Antarctic Survey (partner NERC-BAS), the RRS Attenborough is a Multipurpose Ice Strengthened R/V built to the new PC4 Polar Code requirements. With the areas of Antarctic and Arctic ocean to be the vessel’s main scientific regions of operation, the vessel has endurance capacity of 60 days and carries some 90 persons (60 of which will be scientists) in 40 single and 25 double cabins The primary role for the vessel is that of the British Antarctic Surveys’ logistic and research platform, with the vessel available for NERC-funded Arctic science for 60 days per year. Compromising of a vast range of scientific facilities and the added feature of its own helicopter deck and hanger, RRS Sir David Attenborough will have configurable interior labs, temperature-controlled spaces as well as a suite of containerized labs to enhance the onboard lab spaces. The ‘Moon Pool’ located in the CTD Hanger will allow for in ice measurements and sampling that is otherwise difficult whilst in the ice and the vessel can support the full range of ocean-based science disciplines and equipment used in those areas, and it has a full suite of acoustics including both deep ocean and shallow water swath systems.

 

 

NORWAY

 

To be based in Tromsø, the new 100m X 21m icebreaker

research vessel Kronprins Haakon will be formally owned by the Norwegian Polar Institute while the Institute of Marine Research will have operational responsibility and the Arctic University of Tromsø will be its main user. Equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation, the NOK 1.4 billion (€14m) vessel is classified icebreaker and will have year-round operation in ice-covered waters and, as a research vessel, it is seen as a valuable continuator of Norwegian research traditions in the Arctic. Among its many assets, Kronprins Haakon holds specifications as: A PC 3 class icebreaker – year-round operation in ice-covered waters;

• Equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation;
• Moonpool and ROV, AUV and helicopter operations;
• Accommodation for 17 crew and 35 scientists;
• Endurance for 65 days at cruising speed;
• Cruising speed of 15 knots and will be able to break through ice up to one metre thick. Kronprins Haakon will monitor the environmental and climate state of both the Arctic and the Antarctic.