Captain at the Helm of Korea's First Icebreaker

      March 17, 2010 09:25

      Kim Hyun-ryul

      Smashing through the frozen waters of the South Pole was "a spectacular scene," said Captain Kim Hyun-ryul from the navigation bridge of the Araon, Korea's first icebreaking vessel. "It felt like riding a motorcycle on an unpaved road. The ship shudders and the ice splits." 

      Araon on Monday returned to Incheon Port after its maiden voyage to Antarctica. "I feel like the icebergs are still floating in my head," Kim said.

      The ship departed Incheon on Dec. 18, 2009, with 83 people on board, including 15 researchers from the Korea Polar Research Institute. After docking at its first port of call, Lyttelton Port in Christchurch, New Zealand, Araon successfully plowed through ice at Cape Burks in western Antarctica and Terra Nova Bay in eastern Antarctica from Jan. 23 to Feb. 10. The total distance of the journey was 33,000 km.

      Araon was built last year by Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction for exploration of icy polar areas and is equipped with 60 high-tech exploration and monitoring devices. "It's essential to have an icebreaker in order to make inroads into the poles," Kim said. "There are just 20 icebreakers in the world, and we made one of them."

      Kim, 51, joined STX in 1982 and worked as a mate and later captain of auto and ore carriers. He normally spends about eight months at sea every year. Last July he was asked to go to Antarctica. "I told the company I couldn't possibly leave auto carriers because I had been captaining them for 13 years," Kim said. "Frankly, I was afraid of the mission because I'd not had a chance to lead a research ship, despite my long experience as a captain."

      He eventually gave in to the company's persistent persuasion and prepared for the journey by reading dozens of books on icebreaking and studying with Russian experts.

      In June Kim will lead Aaron to the North Pole to conduct climate research.

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