JS Shirase returns from the 61st Antarctic research
Icebreaker JS Shirase returned to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Yokosuka District, Japan on April 6th, after completing support activities for the 61st Antarctic research.
Japan launched its 1st Antarctic Research Expedition in 1956, marking the dawn of Japan’s Antarctic research. Showa Station was opened in the following year, and since then, relevant ministries and agencies have been collaboratively conducting research, observation, and transportation for over 60 years.
The JMSDF was given a transport mission for the expedition in 1963. Its first transport mission took place with the 7th Antarctic Research Expedition in 1965.
The JS Shirase is the JMSDF’s third-generation icebreaker since the JMSDF started its transport mission, following the JS Fuji and the first-generation JS Shirase. (Before the JMSDF started its transport mission, transport was carried out by the icebreaker Soya operated by the Japan Coast Guard.)
The JS Shirase departed from Harumi Pier in Tokyo on November 12th, 2019. After embarking expedition members in Fremantle, Australia, it then sailed to Antarctica. On the way, an extensive observation was conducted off the Totten Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in East Antarctica, which was the main mission of the 61st Antarctic Research Expedition. As the tip of the Totten Glacier extends into the sea, warm seawater flows underneath it, encouraging its rapid melting. This time, Japan conducted the extensive observation to clarify the melting process.
On January 5th, the JS Shirase berthed at a fixed location 400m off Showa Station and began on-site operations. High transportation efficiency was achieved using two transport helicopters simultaneously to off-load fuel, food, and observation instruments. Then, the JS Shirase loaded materials to be brought back from the station such as garbage and scrap, and the crews also provided support for the station’s facilities construction and field observation.
After completing these missions, the JS Shirase left Showa Station on January 29th, embarking the 60th Expedition crews who was replaced by the 61st Expedition crews. On her way back, the JS Shirase also supported observation mission off the Totten Glacier and disembarked the crews of the 60th Expedition in Sydney as they would return to Japan by air. The JS Shirase departed from Sydney on March 21st and arrived at Yokosuka on April 6th.
On April 15th, the JS Shirase’s Commanding Officer Takeuchi reported to Minister Kono about the return of the ship from Antarctic.