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     "Italica" berthed at Cashin Quay in Lyttelton Harbour       31 December 1999

Today (December 31 1999) I went on board the Italian Antarctic Expedition vessel "Italica" which was berthed in Lyttelton Harbour.

The "Italica" arrived from Hobart on the 30th December 1999.  While in Lyttelton it will load supplies and take on its scientific party which has flown from Italy.

The captain is Giuseppe Mancino, a veteran of several previous Antarctic Expeditions over 7 years. After talking to Giuseppe I was shown around the vessel by the Radio Officer Zlatko Sculac who is a Croatian and on his very first trip to the Antarctic. He tells me that the "Italica" was built in 1981 in Roumania for the Russians. A lot of the equipment still bears inscriptions in Russian even though the vessel hasnow been registered in Naples for a number of years. Zlatko showed me the old Radio room which is no longer used. All the equipment in this room is now obsolete. These days the job of radio officer in most ships is also redundant with deck officers undertaking most of the communication roles. The vessel of course uses Satellite navigation and for communication inmarsat by which the vessel can receive and send faxes. It is also possible to make phone calls by inmarsat although this is expensive. The vessel also does have email facilities for the science members although surprisingly Zlatko did not know how this worked despite being the radio officer! On this voyage south it will not be carrying any helicopters unlike previous seasons. There are already several helicopters at Terra Nova Base and of course the "Polar Duke" also has 4 helicopters attached to it.

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Stern view of  "Italica"

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Deck of  "Italica"

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Chart Room of  "Italica"

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"Italica" Bridge and Radio Officer Zlatico Sculac

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Captain Giuseppe Mancino operating hold lift

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Hold of "Italica"

The Science party arrives on Monday 3rd January and on the 6th January the "Italica" will depart for the Antarctic carrying 20 ship crew and a 40 person Expedition team. The plan at present is for the "Italica" to rendevouz with the "Polar Duke" at Cape Hallett in the Ross Dependency on the 10th January to transfer supplies and personnel. The "Italica" will then go to Terra Nova Bay where most of the cargo will be offloaded for the Main Italian Base as will many of the science party. After this the "Italica" will be used for several oceanographic research projects in the Ross Sea.

The "Italica" will return to Lyttelton in February (I was told the date but forgot to write it down!) with just over 100 people on board including some scientists who had flown south and others transferred from the "Polar Duke" and possibly some from the New Zealand vessel "Tangaroa" which will be working in with the "Italica" and the "Polar Duke". Often the complements of the particular vessels depends on which science projects have been completed and which will profit from more field work being done in the current season.

To view more illustrations of the "Italica" and some nice covers from last years Antarctic Expedition of the "Italica" click here

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