Research endeavours of the Sound and Vibration Research Group in Antarctica

Research endeavours of the Sound and Vibration Research Group in Antarctica

The SANAP relief voyage of 2023-2024 was a pivotal moment for four Stellenbosch University students from the Faculty of Engineering embarking on a remarkable expedition aboard the SA Agulhas II. Gerhard Durandt, a mechatronic engineering PhD candidate and junior lecturer, Micaela Melim, a master’s student in mechanical engineering, Chante van der Spuy, a master’s student in mechatronic engineering and Yaxuan Zhu, a PhD student from Aalto University, all part of the Sound and Vibration Research Group, teamed up to contribute to crucial research endeavours while immersing themselves in Antarctica’s marvels firsthand.

The voyage began on 24 December 2023, although adverse winds delayed departure until 26 December 2023. “The cruise was an incredible adventure and a privilege to be able to experience the natural beauty in such a way,” expressed Gerhard. The initial leg from Cape Town to Marion Island lasted five days, and navigating rough seas challenged the crew’s resilience. “As a recent mechatronic engineering graduate from Stellenbosch University, I had the remarkable opportunity to participate in an Antarctic research expedition aboard the SA Agulhas II”, shared Chanté. Following a brief stop at Marion Island, the team sailed to Penguin Bukta, Antarctica, where they aided a group of oceanography students from the University of Cape Town in data collection.

Arriving in Antarctica on 7 January, the crew swiftly commenced cargo operations to replenish the SANAE base, facing stringent deadlines due to earlier setbacks. A memorable highlight was the visit to the SANAE base, facilitated by modified Challengers, which are tractors designed to operate in snow-covered terrain, offering a 16-hour long journey through the region’s landscapes.

After a month in Antarctica, the ship returned to Marion Island to gather supplies and staff members. It then followed the crossroads line back to Cape Town via Mossel Bay, reaching Cape Town on 20 February 2024.

The voyage marked a significant chapter in a full-scale vibration measurement campaign aboard the SA Agulhas II. Chanté, responsible for exploring shaft dynamics amidst ice impacts for insights into vessel resilience, emphasized, “the experience surpassed traditional classroom learning, providing an invaluable opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in a real-world context.” Gerhard focused on vibration measurement to comprehend hull fatigue from slamming phenomena. Micaela’s study on motion sickness due to ship vibrations shed light on occupant well-being, while Yaxuan studied the structural response of the hull due to ice loading.

Reflecting on the voyage, Micaela shared, “Professor Annie Bekker’s mentorship has sparked a passion that will continue to inspire me to strive for excellence”.  Professor Bekker’s instrumental role in orchestrating and guiding the expedition highlighted the Faculty’s dedication to enriching research experiences. Her leadership, combined with the students’ commitment, propelled the voyage into a realm of scientific excellence and personal growth.

These students’ contributions not only advanced scientific understanding but also inspired future generations of researchers to push the boundaries of knowledge.

Photograph: Captivating moments from the SANAP relief voyage of 2023-2024.