BOW HAS THE X FACTOR
Seasickness. It’s the bane of every seafarer, but Sydneybased Aurora Expeditions believes its new expedition ship, under construction in China, will greatly reduce seasickness. The ship, named Greg Mortimer after the company’s cofounder, will have what is called an X-Bow that is said to accept anything the sea can throw at it.
I inspected this revolutionary concept at a keel-laying ceremony for the vessel staged by the Chinese, complete with fireworks, at a giant shipyard in Nantong on the mouth of the Yangtze River, two hours from Shanghai. Designed by Norwegian Ulstein Group, the inverted X-Bow is shaped somewhat like a submarine’s bow that keeps ships more stable in rough seas.
“Instead of the vessel rising on the waves and then dropping with tremendous force, the X-Bow slices through the waves,” Aurora Expeditions general manager Robert Halfpenny says. “Less slamming forces means more comfort for our passengers and crew and it’ll also help to reduce seasickness.
“Another plus is that it uses less fuel to get through the waves, helping to save energy, and there’s very little spray so the deck remains relatively dry. It takes very little water on deck to start being a hazard.”
It won’t begin its inaugural passenger voyage until October next year, but the ship has attracted so much interest that Aurora Expeditions said its first sailing was already 60 per cent full. The company is seeing a surge in bookings and believes expedition cruising is taking off, much like river cruising has done in Europe.
“Up until now, expeditioners have had to sail in old Russian research ships that were very spartan, but the new Greg Mortimer is state-of-the-art with ensuite bathrooms, big balconies, TV, twin and double beds and daily cabin service,” Robert says.
It has just one dining room; an observation lounge that offers 180degree views so you don’t miss out on wildlife and wilderness, and viewing platforms perfect for watching polar bears, whales, or the ship pushing through pack ice. Its 15 Zodiacs will take passengers on more frequent and longer landings, and there’s no climbing up and down gangways – boarding the Zodiacs will be at sealevel making transfers easier. There’ll also be a team of expedition specialists – naturalists, historians, scientists, and complimentary access to a doctor and medical clinic.
“We will take small groups to the heart of nature and with its modern ice-strengthened hull, the ship has the ability to explore places that larger ships can’t reach,” Robert says.
In 1988, Greg Mortimer hatched an audacious plan to sail to Antarctica and attempt Mount Minto, the highest unclimbed peak in the Admiralty Ranges. He had already become the first Australian to reach the summits of Mount Everest, K2 and Annapurna 11, without using supplementary oxygen.
Returning triumphant, he and his future wife, Margaret, founded Aurora Expeditions. In 1992, he went on his first expedition cruise to Antarctica, often landing where few, if any, had been before. Limiting group numbers, expedition cruising was born.
THE WRITER TRAVELLED TO SHANGHAI AS A GUEST OF AURORA EXPEDITIONS
An artist’s impression of Greg Mortimer, a state-of-the-art expedition ship due to launch in October next year.