Australia to give France Antarctic help

Ethan James

Australia will lend a helping hand to the French Antarctic program this summer after the European nation's research and supply ship broke down.

Icebreaker Aurora Australis is planning to ferry French expeditioners, cargo, 250,000 litres of fuel and two helicopters from Hobart to two of the country's Antarctic stations.

The French vessel L'Astrolabe has suffered damage to its propeller and is out of action indefinitely in the Tasmanian capital.

"We've been helped by a variety of Antarctic nations when we've needed assistance," Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) operations manager Robb Clifton told reporters on Thursday.

"We're only too happy to help the French out."

The Aurora Australis, in its final season as Australia's Antarctic supply vessel, has already left on its first Antarctic mission, but will return to Hobart in late November.

It will then head south for Macquarie Island in early December before continuing to the Dumont d'Urville Station.

The AAD will also fly French researchers to the frozen continent.

French Polar Institute Director Jerome Chappellaz said Australia had saved their short-term field campaigns.

"Without the support of the Australian Antarctic Division, keeping our research stations running and undertaking scientific research would have been extremely difficult," he said.

Mr Clifton said the AAD's planned re-supply operations wouldn't be impacted by the extra trips.

In March 2016, Australian expeditioners on the Aurora Australis were forced to call on help from their Japanese counterparts after the icebreaker ran aground in a blizzard near Mawson Station.