Navy Officer Gets Experience on American Icebreaker to Antarctica

February 22, 2019 – Lieutenant Sophie Going joined the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) for travel and adventure and she has found both, travelling to Antarctica recently on an American icebreaker.

Lieutenant Going, 26, from Devonport, will be the navigator on the RNZN’s new ship Aotearoa, which is scheduled to enter service in 2020.

That ship will travel to Antarctica every two years, so to help prepare Lieutenant Going joined the crew of the United States Coastguard ship Polar Star to experience its icebreaking operation on the month-long voyage.

Aotearoa, which is being built in South Korea, is expected to make its first trip to Antarctica in the 2021 summer season. It will follow an icebreaker ship to McMurdo, in the channel it has created.

“We learnt lots about how sea ice forms and different sizes and thicknesses of ice,” Lieutenant Going said. “Some of it is easier to navigate through than others, based on its age and the formation.”

The Polar Star has a flat section at the front, before the keel begins. That enables it to ride up on the ice and, when it catches the keel, use the weight of the ship to crush the ice.

“It feels like a consistent earthquake,” Lieutenant Going said. “When you’re eating you have to chase your dinner around the table.”

The Polar Star isn’t the first foreign military vessel Lieutenant Going has worked on – she has also spent time on Royal Australian Navy ships HMAS Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as a French frigate in Noumea.

“There are always similarities between New Zealand and foreign military ships, because we operate in a similar way,” she said.

However, her latest deployment to Antarctica was unlike any other she had been on.

It’s a totally different environment – really cold and dry. I guess you read and hear about Antarctica and it being an inhospitable place and it absolutely is, but it’s beautiful too. We saw orcas, minke whales, seals and Adélie penguins.”

Even though Lieutenant Going grew up in Devonport, next to the naval base, she has no military family history. However, she reckons that proximity probably influenced her career choice.

“I wanted to join the military because I like travel, adventure and having the opportunity to do something totally different to what most New Zealanders get to do.

“Dad suggested the Navy, so I learnt more about what being in the RNZN entailed and I thought it sounded like a pretty cool job.”