Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sparta Incident

Sparta is a Russian ship that hit a submerged iceberg on December 16, 2011.  The crew abandoned ship when the ship began to take on water, but later returned to the ship to make repairs to keep it afloat while waiting for help to be able to reach them.  The damage caused the ship to list 13 degrees.  Due to the sea ice conditions of their location near the Ross Sea Ice Shelf in Antarctica, the nearest ships could not reach the Sparta because they were not capable of breaking through the ice.  The Aaron, a South Korean ice-strengthened polar research vessel, was then commissioned to rescue the Sparta, but it was at least a week away from the Ross Sea.

On December 17, 2011, the New Zealand Air Force dropped supplies on the ice near the Sparta using a Hercules C130.  The supplies included extra pumping equipment, which helped the crew of 32 (15 Russians, 16 Indonesians, 1 Ukranian) be able to keep the Sparta afloat and make temporary patch repairs to the 30cm hole made by the iceberg.  Overnight the repairs failed and Sparta took on more water, but the crew was able to stop the flow by the morning of December 18, 2011, with the help of the extra pumping equipment.

The crew of the Sparta were able to get the ship back on even keel, but they needed more supplies to try and repair the hole.  A second Royal New Zealand Air Force drop of supplies took place on December 21, 2011.  This drop included pumps, patches, and other equipment.

The Aaron was expected to reach the area where the Sparta is trying to repair itself and remain afloat on December 25, 2011.  The Aaron was traveling with Sparta's sister ship the Chiyo Maru No 3.  It was going too slow and could not handle the ice, so the Aaron temporarily abandoned the rescue to escort the Chiyo Maru No 3 back to open waters.

Aaron finally reached the Sparta about 1am on December 26, 2011 (still Christmas in many other time zones).  The Aaron took on fuel pumped from the Sparta to raise the ship, so that the hole could be seen out of the water and better repaired.  The crews of the Sparta and Aaron repaired the hole with a double plater (one inside and one outside).  They also discovered a second hole, but were able to make the Sparta seaworthy enough to begin being escorted out of the ice on December 28, 2011to meet up with its sister ship Chiyo Maru no. 3 and head north for permanent repairs to be made.

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