Aurora Australis icebreaker celebrates 25th birthday

The bright-orange icebreaker Aurora Australis, which has become a feature of the Hobart waterfront, is celebrating its 25th birthday.

To mark the occasion, the ship has taken a celebratory jaunt around the River Derwent.

Named after the Southern Lights that occasionally brighten up the night sky, the Aurora Australis has served as Australia's principal Antarctic research and resupply vessel, providing the link between Hobart and the Australian Antarctic Division's (AAD) bases.

"It's an iconic ship and is a symbol of Hobart's special status as an Antarctic gateway," Tasmanian Polar Network chairman John Brennan said.

The ship is owned and managed by P&O Maritime which purpose-built the 3,911-tonne ship in Newcastle, New South Wales.

At 94.9 metres long, it has a cruising speed of 13 knots and is capable of breaking ice up to 1.23 metres thick.

The Aurora Australis was launched on 18 September 1989 by Hazel Hawke, wife of the then prime minister Bob Hawke.

At the end of the upcoming summer it will have completed 25 seasons for the Australian Antarctic program.

The vessel may have its work cut out to reach the bases with Antarctic sea ice reaching record levels this year.

P&O Maritime managing director Rado Antolovic said Aurora Australis has been and continues to be the company's flagship vessel.

"We are committed to continue providing services to the AAD and being engaged in Antarctic marine services.

"The design has withstood the rigours of the Southern Ocean well.

"The highest waves and strongest winds in the world are found in the stretch of ocean, and the ship can roll at angles of 45 degrees in high seas."

Today Tasmanian Polar Network members, government officials and expedition members past and present will gather to celebrate the ship's service.

Among the visitors tomorrow will be the personnel who sailed on the first voyage south.

This year the ship will operate to all four Australian stations, delivering resupplies of food, fuel and cargo along with a changeover of personnel.

The ship will also carry out a marine science project in the Totten and Mertz glacier areas.