An introspective look at Antarctica from our guides Wendy Hare & Nigel Milius
Why was the name Magellan Explorer chosen?
The name Magellan Explorer is a tribute to what distinguishes Antarctica21. Our Company’s story started in Punta Arenas, the hometown to our founders and the capital city of the Chilean region of “Magallanes”, Spanish for Magellan. In 1520, the Portuguese explorer discovered the strait that today bears his name, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. At the time of Magellan to the south was the so-called “Terra Australis Incognita”. From Punta Arenas many important historic expeditions have left for Antarctica. Today the region has a deep connection to Antarctica and remains one of the major international Antarctic gateways. As “local actors” steeped in this reality, with all the important advantages that gives us in managing our operation, we decided to recognize Ferdinand Magellan by naming the ship in his honor.
What was your role in the construction of the new ship?
My team and I have shared our operational expertise with the designers, engineers and naval architects. We helped ensure that the new ship would be designed to meet all the specific requirements of our Antarctic air-cruises. It has been an exceptional opportunity to contribute and to help shape the ideal ship. The project has been a team effort with the contribution of several international polar expedition experts. One such experts is Mariano Curiel, our Operations Director, who has more than 200 Antarctic trips to his credit.
What are the main challenges in the construction of an Antarctic ship?
Antarctica is one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Human activity couldn’t exist there without sophisticated facilities that can withstand those conditions. Low temperatures, sea ice and icebergs that drift with the currents represent the greatest challenge for ships that sail in those remote seas. Safety is undoubtedly one of the fundamental concerns for a polar ship. Two elements in particular are essential to ensure a ship’s safety in Antarctica: a suitable hull and state-of-the-art navigation equipment. While Magellan Explorer will sail mainly in coastal areas along the Antarctic Peninsula, where the waters are relatively calm, the ship has been designed as an ocean-going vessel that can navigate the wild Southern Ocean. Magellan Explorer benefits from a system of retractable stabilizing fins that reduce the ship’s movement caused by the waves and improve the comfort on board in a significant way.
You said Magellan Explorer is purpose-built for air-cruise operations. How so?
One of the special features of the air-cruise model is that the ship remains in Antarctica for extended periods of time. Most ships’ itineraries start and end at a port, where passengers turnover takes place and where all the necessary supplies, such as provisions, fuel, water, etc. are loaded. Magellan Explorer has been designed to maximize its range, making it the first ship in the world designed specifically for Antarctic air-cruises. When the project was in its early stages, there was intense communication with the engineers at the shipyard on this. Claudio Bobadilla, who is in charge of Marine Operations at Antarctica21, worked hard to verify that all the operational requirements were met. Magellan Explorer is equipped with marine gasoil (MGO) tanks with a total capacity of 720 m3, sufficient to allow the ship to operate in Antarctica for 60 days. The ship is also equipped with ample spaces for storing provisions, including large refrigerated areas and freezers. There are tanks of 200 m3 on board for the storage of fresh water. Fresh water is produced on board through a desalination plant that guarantees the production of about 24 tons per day. Special attention has also been paid to the ship’s waste management processes, since all the waste produced is compacted and stored on board.
What about the ship’s hull? How does it deal with floating ice?
As I mentioned, one of the biggest challenges for a ship that sails in a polar environment is floating ice. It moves constantly and its presence is unpredictable and random. Consequently, the design and structure of the ship’s hull are central to the safety of navigation. Since 2017, the navigation of ships in polar areas has been regulated by standards issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) through what is known as the Polar Code. Magellan Explorer is built with a double hull made of thick steel plates. It has a rounded bilge and a special bulb designed specifically to facilitate polar navigation. The two main engines, with a total power of 3,440 kW, guarantee plenty of propulsion to push sea ice out of the way. All that, together with many other structural elements and state-of-the-art ice radar, ensure that the ships complies with the Polar Code and is given a PC6 Class. Things get very technical but essentially it means that, during the summer and fall seasons,Magellan Explorer can navigate safely in polar seas covered with one year old ice of medium thickness that may contain some older ice. In short, the ship is perfectly suited for the itineraries that Antarctica21 offers in the Antarctic Peninsula.
The ship has a heat recovery system. What is that about?
It is a system that recovers and repurposes the residual heat produced by the engines. Using heat exchangers, energy is extracted from the engines’ cooling liquid. That energy is then reused in the operation of the ship’s heating system, to heat water used on board, and for the production of the ship’s fresh water supply. Antarctica is a wildlife sanctuary and one of the most pristine places on our Planet. Its conservation is one of the great commitments of the international community. In designing the ship, we worked hard to ensure energy efficiency so as to minimize environmental impact. I should also note that both main engines comply with the Tier III emission standard, the most stringent emission standard in the shipping industry.
Any other technical requirements were considered for the ship?
One of our central objectives has been to create a ship that supports our specific expedition style. We like to travel in search of the best places and the best opportunities to visit the White Continent, adapting constantly to the changing ice and the climate conditions. We want to be able to adapt to wildlife patterns and to make quick decisions about a trip’s itinerary. For that, we need the flexibility that only a relatively small and very maneuverable ship likeMagellan Explorer can provide. The ship is extremely agile and is equipped with bow and stern thrusters of 500 KW each. We have the ability to operate Zodiac boats from two mid-ship gangways since the ship is equipped with two landing gates and a double set of cranes. It allows us to offer greater protection and stability against the swell or wind during Zodiac operations. We can also be very quick and efficient with embarkation and disembarkation, avoiding unnecessary wait times for our guests. Finally, the ship is equipped with a large expedition warehouse that runs across the entire width of the ship. That area supports the outdoor activities we offer, such as sea kayaking, and hiking and snowshoes, allowing us to deliver those experiences efficiently and to a high quality standard.
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