SA Agulhas II - Open Day Awareness Programme

Event date: 
2019-08-07 23:00 to 2019-08-09 22:30

introduction -the beginning       benefits of funded research    
Theme and messages
Aims and objectives
Event schedule / awareness programme
Frequently asked questions (FQs)
2018 SA Agulhas II open day and cruise to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for IIOE2


Introduction and background


The department will once again host the annual SA Agulhas II – Open Day awareness programme in East London on 09 August 2019. The SA Agulhas II is South Africa’s state-of-the-art polar research and supply vessel and plays a crucial role in support of the country’s involvement in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands, researching national interest in the Southern Ocean. In 2017 and 2018 the vessel through the IEOII training cruise, also played a crucial role in providing much needed practical training opportunities for young students in South Africa and other African countries.  

The department has provided public access, to thousands of South Africans, to the vessel using the Open Day concept in different coastal cities and has held similar events on the continent for people who have a keen interest in marine science and the maritime world, for example; 2015 Port Elizabeth, 2016 Cape Town, 2018 Durban,  Dar es Salaam and the Comoros. This unique opportunity can only be provided to people when the ship is on one of its routine research or training cruises and is near a town with a port big enough to berth the vessel. This is also done to showcase career opportunities and research work carried out by and on the ship.   




The SA Agulhas II Open Day 2019 dates (08-09 August) coincide with National Womens Day, which is celebrated on the 9 August, hence the theme “Women in the Ocean.”  Historically, women’s work and contributions in labour at sea, fisheries, policy making and resource management, marine scientific research, marine and coastal conservation have been completely undermined and undocumented. However, there has been a gradual increase in documentation in the past two decades. Furthermore, the theme is a continuation of the World Oceans Day 2019 focus on Women and the Ocean.


Open day objectives


The key Open Day objectives in line with the theme are:

  • To promote women representation with a special focus on young women mentorship in marine science and participation in the Ocean Economy and Operation Phakisa.
  • To create awareness amongst learners and the general public about the importance of the SA Agulhas II and also give them a tour of the important areas of the vessel.
  • To showcase and inform learners about careers and opportunities in the marine and maritime sector.
  • To draw attention to the importance of having a healthy and clean ocean as envisaged in the Good Green Deeds campaign.

These objectives will be met through a deployment of a structured awareness programme that involves face-to-face talks, live demonstrations, the use of technology and guided ship tours. This combination engages all five human senses and cuts across most learning barriers  and is proven to last longer in people’s minds.


[back to top]


Event schedule /  awareness plan 


The open-day on 09 August will be dedicated to members of the public who will be invited via newspaper adverts, social media and radio. 

The department will share the space with 30 other exhibitors who work in the marine science, research, careers and maritime realm, e.g. SAMSA, Transnet and SAEON. The approach ensures that all our visitors get a broader picture of the sector and foster stronger partnerships between department and its stakeholders.

A guided tour of the ship will be offered to all visitors in which they will have an opportunity to tour the Miriam Makeba Lounge, bridge, helicopter hanger and environmental labs.  As they go through the ship, they will also be interacting with the ship’s crew.

In keeping inline with the fourth (4th)  industrial revolution, the department will use hi-tech awareness products such as virtual reality, interactive screens and holegrams to drive key messages during the open day.


Frequently asked questions (FAQs)


  1. Background of the Ship

    S. A. Agulhas II is a South African icebreaking polar supply and research ship owned by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Construction of the vessel was launched in September 2010. She was built by STX Finland in Rauma, Finland, to replace the aging S.A. Agulhas, which was retired from SANAP duty, but is fulfilling a training role with SAMSA since 2012. Unlike her predecessor, S. A. Agulhas II was designed from the beginning to carry out both scientific research and supply South African research stations in the Antarctic

  2. How many Passengers can it carry?

    SA Agulhas II has been designed as a multi-purpose vessel, capable of serving as an icebreaker, research, expedition, and supply vessel and cruise ship. The 134m-long ship is capable of accommodating 100 researchers / passengers and 45 crew members.

  3. Facilities on the ship

    Gym, hospital, lounges, kitchen, business centre, auditorium, satellite communications system, cabin, bar, helicopter hangars, helideck, wet and dry laboratories, weather station, moon pool, dinning area.

  4. What activities can be done on/ with the ship?

    SA Agulhas II was built primarily to carry out research operations and expeditions. It is used to carry scientists and equipment for the South African National Antarctic Programme. The vessel can be stationed for several months at sea. Scientists can continue their marine research on board as the vessel also operates as a mobile laboratory. The vessel collects and transmits weather data for use by meteorological institutes around the world. It is also equipped with a helicopter deck, capable of accommodating two Puma class helicopters.

  5. How fast can it go ( e.g in km per hour) ?

    The maximum speed of the vessel is 16 knots (30 km/h)

  6. Where it goes every year?

    The vessel is annually scheduled to go to Marion Island, Gough Island and Antarctica (SANAE IV) to provide logistics support and supplies to these three bases. The logistic support involves the replenishing of fuel, maintenance spares, food and the regular maintenance of the facilities at the bases.

    1. SANAE IV

      ​South African base station in Antarctica and lies at 72.0°S, 2.5°W, 4280 km from East Pier, Cape Town Harbour. It takes about eight to 10 days from Cape Town to Antarctica. Depending on the ice condition, the voyage can take much longer. The SANAE overall voyage is about 72 - 76 days.

      SANAE IV base is built at Vesleskarvet, 220 km due South of SANAE III. After Norway’s announcement, during the second half of 1959, that its base (Norway Station) in Queen Maud Land would be evacuated later in that year, and after South Africa had, on 1 December 1959, signed the Antarctic Treaty, together with 11 other countries, the first South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) departed early in December of the same year on the Norwegian ship, the Polarbjorn, to take over the Norwegian base. The ship reached the Antarctic coast near the base on 8 January 1960 and commenced its return voyage 7 days later, after the South Africans had been deployed at the Norwegian base.

      Vesleskarvet is a nunatak which is a rocky outcrop peeping out of a snowy surface. In sharp contrast to the white surroundings, its colour is normally black or dark brown and, in some cases, able to support some sort of life, for instance mosses, algae, a few insects or birds, such as Roberts’Kollen own Snow Petrel colony some 25 km from the SANAE IV base.

      SANAE’s research is divided into four programmes:
      Only the physical sciences programme is conducted year-round at SANAE IV. The other programmes are conducted during the short summer period when the temperatures and weather permits field work and the extent of the sea ice is at its minimum.

      • Physical sciences
      • Earth sciences
      • Life sciences
      • Oceanographic sciences
    2. Marion island 

      Marion Island lies at 46°S, 37°E in the Southern Indian Ocean, 2160 km from East Pier, Cape Town Harbour. It takes about four days from Cape Town to Marion. The overall Marion voyage takes about 36 days.

      Marion Island is 19 km long by 12 km wide, and the two islands have a combined area of 316 square km and politically form part of South Africa’s Western Cape Province. The islands are volcanic in origin, with Marion having many hillocks (secondary craters) and small lakes. Prince Edward Island has spectacular cliffs up to 490m high on its south western side.

      Biological/environmental research is a major function of the Marion Island base (weather data collection being the other). Close to 1000 scientific papers and dozens of post-graduate theses have been produced from research on Marion, and the long-term biological monitoring programmes provide exceptional research potential into the rate and impacts of climate change as a result of global warming.

      ​The research on Marion Island focuses mainly on the following themes:

      • Weather and Climate studies;
      • the interactions between marine and terrestrial systems;
      • the life histories of seals, seabirds and killer whales;
      • the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and
      • the structure and functioning of near shore ecosystems
    3. Gough island

      Gough Island is located at 40°S, 9°W, 2600 km from East Pier, Cape Town Harbour. It takes about four days from Cape Town to Gough Island. The first stop is at Tristan da Cunha. The overall Gough voyage takes about 36 days.

      South Africa has been operating a weather station on Gough Island since 1956. Initially it was housed in the station at The Glen, but moved to the South Western lowlands of the island in 1963 where weather observations are more accurate.  This weather office operates the same as stations in South Africa with hourly climate observations and upper-air ascents.

      It is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha, which in turn is a dependency of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena. The land the station is built on is leased by South Africa under contract and is magistrated as a district of Cape Town.

      It is uninhabited except for the 10 expedition members as part of the South African National Antarctic programme (SANAP) and is thus one of the most remote places with a constant human presence. It is a lonely place, about 400 km southeast of the other islands in the Tristan da Cunha group, 2600 km from Cape Town, and over 3200 km from the nearest point of South America.

  7. Who gets to go on the ship? Is it open to the public?

    The research teams and the crew are allowed to go onto the vessel. The crew provides support and maintenance to the vessel. The vessel is only open to the public during the annual Open Day.


  8. What careers can one follow, if they want to work on a ship like the SA Agulhas II?

    Captain: The Captain is in command of the ship and is responsible for the safety of all crew and the vessel
    Deck Officers: Responsible for the navigation, manoeuvring and safe handling of the ship, communications between ship and shore, the handling and delivery of cargo, and the operation of all lifesaving devices.
    Deck Cadets: Deck Cadets enter into a training program that lasts between 18 months and three years, a large part of which will be spent on-board receiving structured training and building up experience.
    Chief Engineer: The Chief Engineer is in charge of the engineering department and responsible for the upkeep of all engineering systems.
    Engineering Officers: Assist the Chief Engineer in maintaining and operating all mechanical and electrical equipment on board.
    Engineering Cadets: Engineering Cadets enter into a training program that lasts between 18 months and three years, a large part of which will be spent on-board receiving structured training and building up experience
    Bosun: The Bosun looks after the maintenance of the on deck areas, the rigging and the sails
    Cook: Cooking
    Doctor: Medical services




    [back to top]