Thirty students put their feet on solid ground for the first time in three months on Friday (10/03/17) when the SA Agulhas 1 docked in Port Elizabeth harbour after crossing the Indian Ocean from Antarctica.
The group of seven engineering and 23 deck cadets embarked on a research voyage in December, carrying out work at scientific stations along the way.
The vessel will be in Port Elizabeth for the remainder of the month and residents will get a chance to go aboard during the Port Festival on March 25 and 26.
The ice-strengthened polar research vessel was built in 1977 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan and has been in use for 38 years.
Senior cadet Africa Masuku, of Port Elizabeth, said he had received job offers from other companies while on his adventure. “The trip was initially hectic but everything turned out well. I am really appreciative of this experience.”
Engineering cadet Qhawe Mchunu, of KwaZulu-Natal, said he was thrilled to be home after a vigorous fourmonth excursion out at sea.
“After being away from home for so long, I am happy we have finally landed and we can be with our families. We are so happy.”
Fellow engineering cadet Malizi Khali, also of KwaZulu-Natal, said 12 of the cadets were female, which was good news for maritime studies. “We had about 12 girls on the ship and since this isn’t my first trip I know that the number has increased.
“It also helps just in being able to have peers you can relate to. The voyage was an amazing experience. I truly gained so many skills,” Khali said.
SA Agulhas 1 senior training officer Merwyn Pieters said the cadets had initially been shocked about their new environments and some had suffered heat stroke as Mauritius had been extremely hot.
“The ship sailed south from Mauritius before heading west of Kerguelen Island and on to Antarctica and back to Mauritius carrying out operations at scientific stations along the way.”
He said cadets were involved with different jobs such as anchoring and handling ropes. “We got them to do look-out and navigation.
“We tried to get them to do drills especially with the lifeboats, which offered real practical experience,” Pieters said.
The SA Agulhas 1 was acquired by SAMSA for training in support of the national cadet programme, which is being managed by the Port Elizabeth-based South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI).
Institute chief executive Professor Malek Pourzanjani said: “The fact that the Indian government was willing to entrust leading scientists and important multi-disciplinary scientific research to a South African training vessel crewed by South Africans is a tribute to the quality of our mariners and the training offered in South Africa.”