In the peak of the 2019-20 Antarctic summer, Navy Hydrographer Lieutenant Danielle Britton embarked on a six-week voyage to Antarctica’s South Shetland Islands on board Peruvian Navy polar research vessel BAP Carrasco

The first placement of its kind between the two Navies, the voyage was not only an opportunity to engage with Australia’s friends across the Pacific but a unique opportunity for the hydrographic service to broaden the experience of its people.

After a 40-hour transit, Lieutenant Britton joined the ship in Punta Arenas, Chile. 

“Being a Navy ship it was a familiar yet foreign environment on board,” Lieutenant Britton said.

“The Peruvian Navy structure is much like ours, however, the food and daily routine are quite different. 

“Potato, pork and legumes form the basis of many meals and the only milk available was canned evaporated milk. 

“The working hours also extend well into the night due to the Peruvian adherence to siestas, a custom which I had to quickly adjust to in order to get enough sleep,” she said. 

“Humpback whales and swimming gentoo penguins became a very common sight as the ship sailed further south.”

After sailing from Punta Arenas, BAP Carrasco transited through the breathtaking Chilean Patagonian channels to the southern tip of the South American continent. 

“Our first attempt to cross the infamous Drake Passage was unsuccessful,” Lieutenant Britton said.  

“Many of the crew and embarked scientists went down with sea sickness. 

“When we later made the crossing there was a lot of excitement on board as we passed the 60 degrees south parallel into Antarctic territory. 

“Humpback whales and swimming gentoo penguins became a very common sight as the ship sailed further south.”

The crew commenced the base resupply upon arrival at the Peruvian ’Machu Picchu’ base on King George Island. 

“Once complete, the ship, with its lower decks full of keen scientists, set to work out in the Bransfield Strait,” Lieutenant Britton said. 

While Australian Navy hydrographic units deploy to Antarctica primarily to conduct shore-based, small boat, bathymetric surveying in support of safety of navigation, BAP Carrasco’s taskings were largely oceanographic in nature. 

The ships primary role is to support scientific research projects from national and international universities. 

“From underwater volcanoes to sub-seafloor profiling for magnetic currents, there was always something fascinating to get involved in,” Lieutenant Britton said. 

“This voyage has opened my eyes to how other countries conduct Antarctic operations. 

“I am interested to see how Australia’s whole-of-government approach to Antarctic operations evolves with the introduction of the impressively capable Australian Antarctic vessel RSV Nuyina, replacing Aurora Australis in 2020.”  

Naval officers from Italy, Spain, Panama and France were also embarked for the voyage, as was a UK Hydrographic Office cartographer. 

“Having fellow hydrographic experienced officers on board made this a truly multi-national, and multi-lingual experience,” Lieutenant Britton said. 

“There was a variety of polar navigation and surveying experience amongst us, and I have certainly gained a broad oversight of how other nations operate in polar regions.”