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AGB Shirase Class

In 1911, Amundsen and Scott raced to be first at the South Pole, but a third expedition was there at the same time, who are celebrated heroes in their homeland and neglected elsewhere. When the Japanese Antarctic Expedition cast off in Tokyo harbour in early 1910, it was the culmination of a long struggle by Lt. Nobu Shirase to lead a team into the Southern Ocean to explore the ice-bound continent. In a country with no tradition of polar exploration, the appeal for funding was scarcely taken seriously by the public and government. The first Japanese Antarctic Expedition returned to a rousing welcome in Yokohama in June 1912. It had failed to reach the South Pole but, with its modest resources, Shirase?s team had achieved all its other objectives without loss of life. The legacy of the 1911 expedition lives on in the Japanese icebreaker and research vessel which is named Shirase.

In preparation for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) (1957-1958), the Japanese Government, in 1955, initiated participation in Antarctic research and established the Headquarters for Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition within the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The first Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition established Showa Base at 69o00'S and 39o35'E on the Ongul Islands, Prince Harald Coast in 1957. Mizuho Base (70o42'S and 44o20'E, 2230m above sea level, about 270km southwest of Showa Base) and Asuka Base (71o32'S and 24o08'E, 930m above sea level, about 670km west-southwest of Showa Base) were added in 1970 and 1984, respectively. In 1973 the National Institute for Polar Research was established as an inter-university research institute, replacing the National Science Museum Polar Research Center.

A number of governmental agencies cooperatively conduct Japanese Antarctic research under the name of the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE). All decisions and approval of proposals for research activities rest with the Headquarters of JARE under the chairmanship of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The Secretariat of the JARE Headquarters belongs to the Science and International Affairs Bureau, Monbukagakusho.

The task of NIPR is to operate JARE both for scientific programs and logistics, except the transportation of personnel and materials by the icebreaker Shirase from Japan to Antarctica. Scientific programs at Syowa Station cover the following fields : upper atmosphere physics, meteorology, seismology, gravimetry, geodesy and cartog-raphy, oceanography, glaciology, geology, geography, marine and terrestrial biology, and medical research. Programs offered on board the Shirase include the following subjects : ionosphere, meteorology, geomagnetism, gravimetry, and physical, chemical and biological oceanography.

AGB-5002 Shirase

Japan had used the ice-breaker Fuji, built in 1965, to support the Showa Base personnel engaging in the south pole observation. The demand for enlargement of the observation capacities increased, and to counter effectively the extremely harsh ice condition around the base, a new big ice-breaker Shirase was built. To cope with the design of the propeller and the main shafting of the new ice-breaker, the following was reviewed: <1> Design concept of the propeller and shafting system. <2> Investigation of the strength design method of the propeller and the propeller shaft of Ignatjev, M.A. Subsequently, new design method for the propeller and the propeller shaft for the ice-breaker was elaborated.

The AGB Shirase replaced FUJI on the Antarctic observation mission. Shirase is not only bigger but also improved largely in the performance, making it a world first-class icebreaker. Shirase has the power to break 1.5m of ice at 3 knots and is equipped with a trimming and heeling system.

The 11,600-ton research vessel "Shirase" was commissioned in 1983 at a cost of Yen 24 billion. Japans own "heroic age" pioneer, Nobu Shirase, explored The Bay of Whales in King Edward VII Land in 1911 -the same year Amundsen reached the Pole. Shirase is a triple-screw Diesel- electric vessel, which was delivered by NKK to the Japanese Govern- ment defence agency in November 1982 but was not commissioned until late 1983. Shirase replaced Souya and Fuji, and carried out the antarctic zone research cooperation every year since the commission in 1983. The 35th Japanese Antarctic over-wintering party departed Tokyo aboard Shirase in November 1993.

The ship has six 4230-kW Mitsui 12V42M medium-speed main engines, each driving a 4050-kW alternator. The current is rectified for supply to the propeller motors, which give the triple screws a total shaft power of 22,080 kW there are also four 900-kW Diesel- generator sets for ship services. The crew numbers 170, and 60 researchers can be carried.

Japan had used the ice-breaker Fuji, built in 1965, to support the Showa Base personnel engaging in the south pole observation. The demand for enlargement of the observation capacities has increased, and to counter effectively the extremely harsh ice condition around the base, a new big ice-breaker Shirase was built. To cope with the design of the propeller and the main shafting of the new ice-breaker, the following was reviewed: Design concept of the propeller and shafting system. Investigation of the strength design method of the propeller and the propeller shaft of Ignatjev, M.A. Subsequently, new design method for the propeller and the propeller shaft for the ice-breaker was elaborated.

It carries a post office on board and normally makes one single long voyage each season from Japan via Fremantle to the Japanese Antarctic Bases of Syowa (established 1957), Mizuho (est. 1970) and Asuka (est. 1985). It then returns to Japan via Sydney after a round trip of around 6 months. Mail from the Japanese Bases and posted on board "Shirase" itself is usually carried all the way back to Japan before on forwarding via the Japanese and international mail systems.

The 11,600-ton research vessel "Shirase" was commissioned in 1983 at a cost of Yen 24 billion. The design of the SHIRASE is based on experience gained and lessons learned during the 18 years of service of its predecessor, the FUJI. This triple-screw Diesel- electric vessel, which was delivered by NKK to the Japanese Government defence agency in Nov. 1982 but was not commissioned till late 1983. The ship has six 4230-kW Mitsui 12V42M medium-speed main engines, each driving a 4050-kW alternator. The current is rectified for supply to the propeller motors, which give the triple screws a total shaft power of 22,080 kW - there are also four 900-kW Diesel- generator sets for ship services. The crew numbers 170, and 60 researchers can be carried.

The MSDF's Antarctic support vessel, the ice breaker Shirase, completed its 49th and last Antarctic voyage at Harumi passenger terminal in Tokyo on Saturday 12 April 2008, completing 25 years of service.

AGB-5003 Shirase (II)

Experts were concerned that failing to build a new ship to replace the Shirase, and thus suspending the program, would dent Japan's credibility. In 2003 Japan's finance ministry was set to pull the plug on a 40-billion (US$360-million) project to build a research ship for Antarctic exploration. Ministry officials said that the plan lacked the popular appeal to justify its cost.

In December 2004 expenditures approved at the working level session include 3.5 billion yen to build a successor to Japan's Antarctic exploration vessel Shirase. But the plan to build an icebreaker to replace the aging Antarctic research ship Shirase was put on hold because the government found finances tight. The ship replaces an older icebreaker, also named Shirase, which is being retired after a 25-year run.

The second-generation Shirase (17AGB / H17 Forecast) was launched in April 2008. A launching ceremony took place Wednesday April 16, 2008 in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, for the Shirase, Japan's newest icebreaker for Antarctic expeditions. The participants in the launching ceremony included Maizuru citizens, members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, which owns the ship, and those related to Antarctic expeditions. The new Shirase (5003) was built at the Universal Shipbuilding yard in Maizuru on the Japan Sea coast. The New Shirase was scheduled to be ready in May 2009. Due to budgetary delays Shirase (5003) will not go on its first voyage until November 2009 after interior work on it is completed in May 2009. The Australian civilian ice breaker Aurora Australis will be chartered in the interim. The previous Shirase, which became Japan's third icebreaker after the Soya and Fuji, returned to Tokyo on 12 April 2008 from its last mission.

Taking the name of its predecessor, the Shirase is Japan's fourth icebreaker. The new Shirase was built at a cost of 37.6 billion. The 12,500-ton ship, which is 138 meters long and 28 meters wide, is slightly larger than its predecessor and has top-level ice-breaking capabilities. It can move at 3 knots, breaking up ice 1.5 meters thick. The new ship uses seawater to clear the snow on the ice, allowing it to move smoothly for better fuel-efficiency, and has a double-walled fuel tank to prevent leaks.



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