The SA Agulhas is now in the Port of Port Elizabeth after arriving on Friday morning carrying 20 cadets following an 83-day journey covering the Antarctica on 19th February 2018.

The vessel, which is the South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) dedicated training vessel, sailed to the Antarctica on November 24, 2017, via Mauritius carrying 20 cadets who had enrolled at various institutions pursuing maritime studies.

For the 20 cadets who arrived in South Africa on Friday, they were excited, anxious and said they “had an experience of a lifetime which changed their lives”. The expression on their faces, as they finally docked, spelt joy and relief. Their lives had changed, they said. Given that many were afraid of the ocean, they were now proud to say they “walked on the Antarctic ice”.

The cadets – seven women and 13 men said they welcomed the opportunity to be part of the expedition.

Cadets standing to salute on SA Agulhas
Cadets standing to salute on SA Agulhas

The SA Agulhas was chartered by an Indian science team who boarded the ship at Port Louis, Mauritius. During the journey to the “end of the earth” as the cadets describe, they engaged in unique maritime training sessions, with the added bonus of meeting new people from all over the world.

SAMSA Operations Manager for SAMSA’s Maritime Special Projects, Roland Shortt, said the journey of the SA Agulhas was an exceptionally unique experience.

Highlighting how crucial it is to keep the SA Agulhas at sea, he explained the role of the training vessel served to enhance maritime training and also contribution to the development of the oceans economy.

“There is a dedicated cadet training programme on board where they receive direct training as if they were in a classroom. They have dedicated training officers whose sole purpose is to groom, mentor and train the cadets. Their training involves many tasks including bridge watch keeping (navigation), passage spanning, and astronavigation.

“They also get to be trained in the engineering side of the ship. This exposes them to training on maintenance of the ship’s power plant,” said Shortt.

“Unlike putting them in a merchant vessel, where they would be shadowing the officers, in the SA Agulhas they do not merely watch; they are dedicatedly taken through the process, layer by layer,” he explained.

He said the scientific team carried out a lot of different areas of research, ranging from atmospheric research which entailed taking air samples, releasing atmospheric balloons.

Cadets rejoicing on their return
Cadets rejoicing on their return

More research was conducted in the water, taking water samples from the water continuously.

Samples were taken to test for salinity, its temperature, and its density.

Short said once the vessel reached the ice in the Antarctica, other research activities took place.

“They conducted servicing and retrieving of scientific apparatus left in the ocean in-between surveys, generally for periods of about 12 months,” he said.