SA Agulhas leaving Cape Town harbour 2SA Agulhas set sail for Antarctica from Cape Town harbour late on the afternoon of 8 December 2011 with three young Scenic South scientists on board along with the 51st South African over-wintering team to go to the South African base in Antarctica where cutting-edge research is done in the fields of physical sciences, earth sciences and life sciences.

The well-equipped SANAE lV base on the icy continent is situated on a great cliff of Karoo rock, almost 5000 kms from South Africa.

This is the final voyage of the research and support ship to Antarctica. SA Agulhas ll, currently being built by STX Finland Oy at its Rauma shipyard in Finland, will take over the 33 year old ship’s duties as from July next year. SA Agulhas will be put use as a training ship for naval cadets.

Amy Weeber and Amy Harding-GoodmanAmongst the research scientists on board are UCT graduates Amy Harding-Goodman (22) from Muizenberg and Amy Weeber (24) from Noordhoek who  completed their Honours degrees in Oceanography this year and will be embarking on their Masters degrees next year.

Both young women are passionate about the ocean. Amy Harding-Goodman, who matriculated from the Cape Town German School, teaches surfing in her spare time and has her mind set on doing a Robben Island swim soon. She is very excited about the expedition to Antarctica.

Amy Weeber is a surfer who completed her schooling at the Constantia Waldorf School. Although thrilled about the adventure she was embarking on, she did admit to being scared of the big waves in the open sea. The ship will be passing through the Roaring Forties found between the latitudes of 40 and 49 degrees south, where gale force winds are experienced. Closer to the South Pole are the Furious Fifties and the Screaming or Shrieking Sixties, so Amy’s fears are not misplaced.

They will be filtering samples of ocean water for nutrients and phytoplankton in the fully equipped laboratories on board the SA Agulhas as part of their research projects for their Master’s theses.

Bjorn von der HeydenThe University of Stellenbosch also has a contingent of young graduates on board. Bjorn von der Heyden (25) of Fish Hoek is doing research for his PhD in marine biogeochemistry, focusing on the iron mineral content of the southern ocean. His time too will be spent filtering sea water in the labs on board. A passionate surfer, Bjorn matriculated from Fish Hoek High School. He and Amy Weeber first met as fellow pupils at Kalk Bay Primary School.

An article written by Bjorn appears under

Four electrical and mechanical engineering graduates from Stellenbosch University will be working on the two wind turbines at the base installed and tested over the past year as back-up for the diesel engines which generate power for the research station.

Mezaan Baker from Ocean ViewAlso from the Scenic South Peninsula is 23-year old Nezaam Baker from Ocean View who is one of the chefs on board. This is his second trip to Antarctica and although thrilled to be on the voyage he confesses to not being as excited as he was on his first trip. He joined the SA Agulhas three years ago after doing a chefs’ course at Northlink College. Asked for further comment he said that his mom is very proud of him. We did not have too much time to talk as Nezaam was busily frying steaks for lunch which, judging from the aromas in the kitchen, promised to be a very tasty affair. No wonder there is a gym on board –  perusal of the menus in the dining room left no doubt that the passengers on board will be very well fed!

Arriving at Antarctica on the 21/22 of December, the crew and visiting scientists and researchers will be spending an icy Christmas at the SANAE lV base. Mean summer temperatures for Antarctica are between -15 and -35 degrees C. However, they will be well insulated by the clothing and boots provided by the South African Dept of Environmental Affairs.

On the 8 January 2012 SA Agulhas with its team of researchers will set sail for the South Georgia Islands, returning to the SANAE base from 1 – 12 Feb. The ship is due back in Cape Town on the 22 February 2012.

Marimba bandA festive atmosphere prevailed at the Cape Town harbour quayside despite the cold South Easter as friends and relatives of the researchers and crew gathered to say farewell, together with members and officials of the South African National Arctic Programme (SANAP) and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). A short ceremony included the singing of the South African National anthem and the unveiling of a plaque “honouring the historic Antarctic expeditions  which made use of Cape Town for refuelling, provisioning and the calibrating of scientific instruments.” Vibrant entertainment was provided by an accomplished marimba band.

The SA Agulhas finally set sail at 4pm to the cheers of family and friends on the windswept quayside and the exuberant passengers on deck.

We look forward to having graphic feedback from the two ‘Amies’ and Bjorn on their return!



The Agulhas returns after its final voyage to Antarctica: