Two icebreakers - Ponant's Le Commandant Charcot and RRS Sir David Attenborough, working on an Antarctic channel

   February 14, 2022 ,   Cruise Industry

Ponant' icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot and RRS Sir David Attenborough icebreaker both entered service in 2021 with their missions to sail in the polar regions.

While David Attenborough is focused on the logistical support of the British Antarctic stations, Le Commandant Charcot is purpose-built for polar voyages whilst conducting scientific research.

When it was realized both vessels would coincidentally meet in Carroll Inlet (between Antarctic Peninsula's Rydberg Peninsula and Smyley Island), it offered the best chance to combine the capabilities of the icebreaking vessels to work in tandem.

Le Commandant Charcot cruise ship

Le Commandant Charcot has a PC2 (ice-class) hull design, with the ability to cruise in ‘double-acting mode’, enabling her to tackle thicker and more dense ice. Le Commandant Charcot does it more quickly and efficiently via sailing backwards.

The ship opened a channel by sailing astern, with RRS Sir David Attenborough following behind, to widen the channel. The collaboration enabled a 3 NM (5,6 km long) channel to be opened in 3 hours. In spite of creating a channel and getting close to the depot site, once the Ponant ship had departed for her next destination, the sea ice conditions were against the vessel, and RRS Sir David Attenborough turned around (seeking an alternative location to depot cargo for Thwaites Glacier). 

RRS Sir David Attenborough icebreaker

Le Commandant Charcot is an LNG-electric hybrid ship. She is also the world’s first PC2 Polar Class cruiser, making her the world's safest polar exploration passenger ship, as well as one of the most luxurious amongst the icebreakers. Ponant's voyages explore deep into the Antarctic and the Arctic oceans (North Pole) and invite scientists from around the globe to make use of her laboratories to conduct research in these remote regions.