3 Mar 2015

Ice man's risky mission

4:12 pm on 3 March 2015

Scott Laughlin has ice running in his veins, which is just as well.

Mr Laughlin has been the ice pilot on NIWA's deep-water research vessel Tangaroa on its six-week voyage in Antarctic waters. The ship has been carrying New Zealand and Australian scientists on a mission to study the food-webs of the top Southern Ocean predators - humpback and blue whales and toothfish.

Mr Laughlin said a ship working in such a remote place faced a lot of risks.

"The greatest danger is holing the vessel, and having to abandon ship on to the ice.

"One of the reasons I'm here is to make sure we don't get into a situation where we need to be rescued."

He supplied "local knowledge" on the conditions by considering a lot of information including assessing the ice imagery, the weather, currents and topography of the area.

The latest mission had been lucky as it had entered the ice as it was "decaying" toward the end of the season, he said. It meant the ship's path had not been slowed too much.