BOW HAS THE X FAC­TOR

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - CRUISING EXPEDITIONS - BARRY MATHE­SON

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

PIC­TURE: AURORA EX­PE­DI­TIONS

An artist’s im­pres­sion of Greg Mor­timer, a state-of-the-art ex­pe­di­tion ship due to launch in Oc­to­ber next year.

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