(9:30 a.m. AEST) — The first passenger cruise in five years to Antarctica’s historic Mawson’s Huts will depart from Australia on Saturday after two massive icebergs finally moved out of the way.
The first of the ship-blocking bergs, known as B9B and measuring 97 kilometres (60 miles), has covered the entrance to Commonwealth Bay since 2011; it was joined last year by another huge iceberg known as C15, sparking fears they could be wedged for another decade.
But Chimu Adventures reports the icebergs have broken up and shifted, enabling the company to operate the first commercial expedition to the site in five years.
The 26-day journey aboard the 54-passenger Akademik Shokalskiy leaves Constitution Dock Hobart, Tasmania, at 4pm this Saturday, 9 January, 104 years after explorer Douglas Mawson stepped ashore in Antarctica to establish a “station for scientific investigations”.
Mawson’s 1912 Australasian Antarctic Expedition remains one of Australia’s greatest stories of adventure and survival in the coldest and windiest spot on earth. The only remaining evidence of the team’s occupation are two timber buildings, dubbed Mawson’s Huts, which Chimu’s passengers will have the opportunity to explore (subject to weather and ice conditions).
The voyage is also raising money for Mawson’s Huts Foundation to help maintain the basic structures. “It’s so exciting to be going back after such a long time,” said Chimu co-founder Chad Carey.
“As recently as last February, experts were saying the icebergs could stay jammed in the bay for a decade or more but fortunately those predictions have proved incorrect and expedition ships are now able to enter Commonwealth Bay.”