PONANT’s luxury expedition cruise ship, ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ joined up with the British Polar research ship ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ to support the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration.
‘Le Commandant Charcot’ and ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ both entered service last year to operate in Polar regions.
While the research ship is focused on science and the logistical support of British research stations, ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ was purpose-built to take guests on voyages to high latitudes, whilst also conducting scientific research.
When it was realised both ships would meet in the Carroll Inlet at 73 deg 15 min south, it offered an opportunity to combine the capabilities of both ships to work in tandem.
‘Le Commandant Charcot’ features a unique PC2 hull design, with the ability to sail in ‘double-acting mode’, to enable the ship to tackle thicker and more dense ice, which she undertakes more quickly and efficiently by sailing stern first.
As a result, the cruise ship opened a channel by sailing astern, with the ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ following on behind, working to widen the channel. This collaboration enabled a three mile channel to be opened in just three hours.
Despite creating a channel and getting close to the depot, once ‘Le Commandant Charcot’ had left for her next destination, the sea ice conditions were against the research ship and as a result, she turned around to find an alternative location nearby to discharge the Thwaites Glacier cargo.
“When we realised we had the opportunity to work together to support the ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’, we immediately set off. This co-operation fully illustrates the values of PONANT, which was founded by sailors and is committed to scientific endeavour and shows just what can be achieved through teamwork,” explained Capt Patrick Marchesseau on board ‘Le Commandant Charcot’.
“Additionally, it was a unique opportunity for our guests to see first-hand the challenges involved in polar science. We are already discussing the possibility to continue to collaborate with the ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ on future voyages, when our itinerary allows.”
“This joint exercise highlights the value and importance of collaboration and co-operation in Antarctica, where conditions are often changeable and demanding,” said Dave Wattam, British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Head of Polar Operations. “The sea ice conditions around the English Coast are extremely challenging this year, and it’s great to work with the ’Le Commandant Charcot’ to remain on schedule.”
Local sea ice conditions were particularly difficult, with second-year sea ice, covered in a thick layer of snow, BAS said..
The research ship was built to break through 1 m thick ice at three knots. She is a Polar 5 vessel classed as ‘ice capable’ but not an icebreaker.
At the time, the expedition ship was in the area of Carroll Inlet operating in the same region as the research vessel. ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ was seeking a route to reach the British research station to deliver scientific equipment.
‘Le Commandant Charcot’ is the world’s first PC2 Polar class ship sand operates on LNG and electric energy and invites scientists from around the world to make use of her on board laboratories to conduct research to further our understanding of these remote regions.
In addition, last month, Swan Hellenic’s new expedition cruise ship ‘SH Minerva’ took on eight researchers that were in danger of becoming stranded in the Antarctic, due to bad weather and logistical problems related to the pandemic.
The ship took the team to Argentina.