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a group of people posing for the camera

A select group of educators, scientists and students got a chance to step aboard Korean icebreaker the RV Araon late in March. Key members of the International Antarctic Centre team travelled to Lyttelton to see up close how the facilities in the research vessel were used down on the ice.

Organised by a range of groups including International Antarctic Centre, Antarctica New Zealand, Lyttleton Port Company and ChristchurchNZ, the ‘open day’ on the icebreaker was proposed as means to increase understanding and strengthen bonds between the Korean and Kiwi scientific communities.

Such an opportunity doesn’t come along every day, and plenty of work was undertaken behind the scenes to ensure the Lyttelton trip was a success.

The tour group included members from Antarctica NZ, ChristchurchNZ, Antarctic Heritage Trust, University of Canterbury, NZ Antarctica Society and a number of other scientific organisations and local schools. Five of our International Antarctic Centre team were invited to participate.

All got to see the onboard laboratories and scientific research being conducted by the Korean Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) within this impressive vessel.

109.5m long, 19m wide, and built at a cost of US $100 million, the Araon can accommodate 85 people (including 25 crew) on its trips south. Four 3,400 kw generators power the electric motors for this journey and, with a hull of 4 cm thick strengthened steel, the ship can comfortably break one metre thick sea ice while travelling at a speed of 3 knots.

The Araon’s main mission is to conduct independent scientific research in the Southern Ocean and to support the two Korean stations in Antarctica. The laboratories onboard are equipped with sophisticated research instruments for studying atmospheric and ozone layers, paleo-marine and paleo-climate, ocean physics, chemistry, geology and biology.

The IAC team got an in-depth look at this as well as touring the rest of the boat that, with a helicopter operating facility, storage for 31 containers and three large cranes, was just as memorable.

While the icebreaker has visited the port multiple times each year since first being put to sea in 2010 the recent visit highlights the strengthening of bonds between the various countries represented on the International Antarctic Campus in Christchurch.

“The visit is just another way we’re growing closer as a scientific community here on the (Antarctic) campus,” says Antarctic Centre GM Todd Schmidt.

“Planning is now well underway with new developments at the Centre and we’re looking forward to an ongoing collaboration with KOPRI – this is a win-win for all concerned.”

For IAC Education Manager Miranda Satterthwaite the trip was a clear success.

“From an educational perspective the Araon tour was very rewarding,” says Satterthwaite. “The research undertaken by the international scientific team onboard is of immense worth, both to the many fields in which it works and, overall, to the wider global community.”

Everyone clearly enjoyed the day and appreciated the depth of information and collaboration the trip provided. Now the ‘ice is broken’ the team is looking forward to further tours in the future.