Nella Dan history highlights Danish, Australian maritime links 19 December 2023

Australian Antarctic Division

Danish business consultant Rasmus Nygaard was just 20 years old when he stood on the beach at Buckles Bay on Macquarie Island and watched the polar ship Nella Dan smash against the rocks. The ship had been in the final stages of transferring fuel to the Macquarie Island research station on December 3, 1987 when the wind picked up and the anchor shifted.

“We had a swell towards the shore and it was high tide, and all of a sudden the anchor was slipping,” Mr Nygaard said.

“We were very close to the shore because of the bunker hose and within two minutes we were on the beach.”

Macquarie Island personnel used LARCs – lighter, amphibious, resupply, cargo – vehicles, which can travel on land and in water, to rescue everyone on board.

“They did a tremendous job coming around the vessel in heavy seas and getting people down the rope ladders,” Mr Nygaard recalls.

“The rope ladders were clapping against the side of the ship and when the swell hit the port side, causing pressure in the diesel tanks, we got a lot of vaporised diesel on the deck and that made everything very slippery.

“Trying to run around in the life suits was almost impossible but we got everyone off.”

Nella Dan was refloated several weeks later but caught fire and was scuttled in deep water.

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