Sailing to Antarctica

Cadets Sikelewa Nogabhe, a student from Paarl and Saluse Tsengiwe, from Site B in Khayelitsha.

On Friday November 24, 20 cadets embarked on a training trip of a lifetime – a three-month voyage to Antarctica on the SA Agulhas.

Several of those chosen were from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and from Cape Town. At a media briefing at the Cape Town Harbour, they appeared nervous and excited.

As part of its crew, the vessel will have 19 deck cadets and one engine cadet. The South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) has been appointed to manage the cadets and training operations for the Antarctic voyage.

One of the students, Alain Le Sueur from Blouberg, said he had always wanted to go to sea and work on ships.

“I ended up finding out about CPUT and their courses in maritime studies. With doing the subject I managed to get on board.”

The crew were selected after a round of interviews.

“We are going to be part of the navigational watch. We’ve also been busy helping getting the ship prepared for sea. A lot of us will be on the bridge on watch.”

He added that they would also be helping with general maintenance of the ship during the journey. “If you want to go to sea, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s very rewarding and you learn a lot. There are also great trainers to guide you along the way. I’m very excited. For most of us it’s the first time going down (to Antarctica).”

Ayanda Miya, from Khayelitsha, said she had been introduced to the course by a relative who was in the industry. “That’s how I got to grasp more information about the industry. I am looking forward to it. It’s a great learning curve,” she said.

“Hopefully we will get a lot of experience out of this and also have fun.”

She said eight CPUT students had been selected to be part of the crew.

“I would definitely recommend it to other students who want study. It’s different from any other career. Every day there are new challenges and you are exposed to different things regularly.

“For me that is intriguing. I’m very excited but also a bit nervous because it is my first time.”

Saluse Tsengiwe, from Site B in Khayelitsha, said while it wasn’t the first time he’d be on a ship, it was the first time he’d be part of an expedition of this magnitude.

He added that he had been interested sea life since high school.

However, he said, during a four-day trip to Mossel Bay, he had a bad experience with sea sickness.

“I didn’t eat for the entire time. I’m looking forward to this trip because I want to know how I’m going to cope with the sickness. This time I’m going to take my pills in time,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Antarctica. I love biology so I’m really excited to go to this environment and habitat.”

He said he could cope with being away from home for a number of months because he had been at a boarding school. “There are a lot of benefits that come with this job. You have a better chance of getting employment and you get to travel the world for free.

“It’s a challenging environment and not for everyone. If someone wants to try it, you’d better have resolve. You have to know and research it before you go into it. It’s something new for many people.”

Sikelewa Nogabhe, a student from Paarl, added that she hadn’t done anything like this before. “I am excited about the trip. We are going 70 degrees south, (where it) is very cold. I’m looking forward to that and I’ve got some warm clothes with me. Besides that I’m very happy about the experience we are going to gain.

“The purpose of this is to gain experience to be the navigators of tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Once the working vessel returns, the cadets will be expected to complete the Marine Fire Fighting (FF), First Aid At Sea (FAAS) and the Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR) courses in 2018.

Captain Merwyn Pieters, a seaman with almost 46 years of experience working on various vessels, said the cadets were enthusiastic and keen.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for these young people – a trip like this would normally cost over $50 000, and they are being afforded this opportunity to learn under some of the most trying conditions.

“Between the other training officer and I we are honoured to pass on our expertise and knowledge.

“It takes guts of steel to be away from your family and loved ones. For this group, this journey is new to them, and it would come with many new experiences, including building team spirit,” he said.