Our Burning Planet


In pictures: Russian Antarctic ‘prospecting’ ship’s twin rolls into Cape Town

In pictures: Russian Antarctic ‘prospecting’ ship’s twin rolls into Cape Town
End of the road: Russia’s 40-year-old polar research vessel, the Akademik Fedorov, slips past the wealthy Atlantic seaboard suburb of Llandudno on Saturday, 4 March. Though Russian vessels are often present in the Southern Ocean until autumn and winter ice makes it impassable, this may represent the Fedorov’s last return from Antarctica this season before heading back to St Petersburg. (Photo: Nic Bothma)

Relaunching Cape Town as an Antarctic gateway in February, Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis slammed Russian state vessels as a ‘shameful, moral disgrace’. But that did not stop the Putin regime’s Akademik Fedorov — a sister vessel of the ship accused of prospecting the Southern Ocean — from mooring in port on 4 March. Photographer Nic Bothma trailed the Fedorov up the coast.

Akademik Fedorov

Not Russian to conclusions: An onlooker takes a selfie on Chapman’s Peak, with the Akademik Fedorov in the background. Apart from stopping in Cape Town on 10 December for six days, the Fedorov has been at sea for nearly four months, sailing under the flag of the Russian Antarctic Expedition (RAE).

In coming weeks, the Fedorov’s RAE sister vessels are also set to replenish in port: the Akademik Tryoshnikov, another research vessel, will call at Table Bay on 26 March en route to Antarctica; and the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky, a seismic survey vessel that has amassed vast oil and gas inventories of the Southern Ocean seabed, is expected back in Cape Town after plying Antarctica’s protected waters. (Photo: Nic Bothma)

Akademik Fedorov

Spot the pirate ship: After an all-day, sometimes meandering, journey up Cape Town’s sleepy Atlantic coast, the Fedorov finally neared port late in the afternoon, edging into a deep-blue gathering storm. The Jolly Roger, a familiar tourist ‘pirate’ ship at the V&A Waterfront, trundled onto the scene at the same time, heaving with tourists. (Photo: Nic Bothma)

Akademik Fedorov

What the hull? Preoccupied by two weekend events taking place around the Waterfront — a Stormers vs Sharks rugby match and the Cape Town Pride Parade — onlookers did not exactly line up to greet this worn lady of Antarctic seas. There was no evidence to suggest these kelp gulls knew what to make of the Fedorov’s arrival, either. (Photo: Nic Bothma)

Akademik Fedorov

Home from home: Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty – an agreement devoted to peace and science – Cape Town has served as a key transit node to the Fedorov and co for decades. This year, the ice-strengthened ship serviced not only Russia’s five polar research stations, she also conducted her usual weather, oceanography and other Southern Ocean studies.

But as envoys of a state waging an illegal, brutal war on Ukraine – also a treaty signatory that uses this port – Russia’s Antarctic fleet remains deeply controversial: a fired-up coalition of 29 South African organisations has vowed not to let the Karpinsky off the hook for seismic blasting that resembles prospecting.

The Fedorov finally moored in the container dock on Saturday at about 5pm. It is unclear how long she will stay. (Photo: Nic Bothma). DM/OBP


Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    I like ships. I like icebreakers. I like the ice. I do not like prospecting in the Southern Ocean! Full bl%dy stop.

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