The "Almirante Irizar" is the main Argentine Antarctic support vessel. She is a fully equipped icebreaker with the highest possible +1A1 icebreaking classification. She carries a crew of 135 plus 45 additional passengers and has space for 2 Sea King SH-3D or similar helicopters.

She was built in Finland in 1978 and since then the Almirante Irizar has worked every year in the Antarctic supplying scientific research stations and also being employed as a floating laboratory or carrying out search and rescue missions.

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While this web page is concerned mainly with covers from the historic 2002 "CRUZ DEL SUR" rescue expedition we do have envelopes available for purchase which have been carried by the "Almirante Irizar"during the 1999 season.  These can be seen on our Argentine Jubany Antarctic Base page here.


The German owned vessel  "Magdalena Oldendorff"  was chartered by the Russian Antarctic Programme in 2002 to resupply the Russian Novolazarevskaya research base when late in the season the vessel became stuck in thick ice and a rescue mission was called for.

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"Magdalena Oldendorff" stuck in the ice

It has been reported that the "Magdalena Oldendorff" remained later than normal in the season hoping for the ice to harden enough to allow the unloading of heavy machinery. When it became apparent in early June 2002 that the vessel would not be able to free itself plans were made to resupply the vessel and remove most of the crew and returning Russian base personel.  The South African vessel "Agulhas" was first to the rescue and with the use of her helicopters employed at extreme range all the extra crew and passengers were safely extricated.

Meanwhile the "Almirante Irizar" had left her home port of Buenos Aires on the 1st of July and after picking up two Sea King helicopters at Puerto Galvan finally reached the trapped vessel on the 6th of August 2002.  She transferred much needed supplies and a doctor and took off further crew members.

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"Almirante Irizar" arrives to help "Magdalena Oldendorff"

The "Almirante Irizar" then took the "Magdalena Oldendorff" in tow (as shown at right) and attempted to extricate both vessels from the ice. However after several days effort it was decided that the ice conditions were so severe that it was advisable for at least the "Almirante Irizar" to escape its clutches and so it was decided to leave the "Magdalena Oldendorff" to winter over. The "Almirante Irizar" reached open water on the 7th of August and finally return to a welcome home from 5,000 people at Buenos Aires on 18th August, 2002.

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The "Almirante Irizar" finally home in Buenos Aires.

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IRIZAR 1.   2002 (August 18th) cover from "Almirante Irizar" with pictorial postmark.    Price US$8

Note: The icebreaker has its own permanent pictorial postmark which has been used above to postmark this airmail envelope. the cover bears in blue and red the two regular cachets available on board the vessel plus a special "Operacion CRUZ DEL SUR" cachet applied in green.

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IRIZAR 2.   2002 (August 18th) Signed cover of "Almirante Irizar" with pictorial postmark.  Price US$10

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The above cover has been signed by Ricardo Miguel Oyarbide, the "Capitan de Fragata, segundo Comandante Rompehielos A.R.A. "Almirante Irizar".

Comandante Oyarbide is shown at left applying his signature to one of the above offered envelopes.

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IRIZAR 3.   2002 (August 18th) Cover from "Almirante Irizar" with special postmark.  Price US$10

The Argentine Post office also commemorated the event with a special one day pictorial postmark on the day the vessel returned to Buenos Aires. There was little if any advance notice given about this postmark which gave tribute to the part that Almirante Irizar" played in Operacion "Cruz Del Sur". The above cover also has a Argentine Metrological Service sticker at top left as well as the ships special rescue cachet at lower left.

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