Today in Transportation History – March 23, 1979: A New Icebreaker for the Argentine Navy

The Argentine Navy icebreaker ARA Almirante Irízar, which was built and launched in Finland, first arrived in Argentina. The vessel was named in honor of Admiral Julián Irízar, who played an important role in modernizing the Argentine Navy’s fleet. He also commanded the ARA Uruguay when the gunboat rescued members of the 1903 Swedish Antarctic Expedition after they had become stranded on an island in Antarctic waters south of Argentina.

ARA Almirante Irízar has performed numerous missions in the time since she went into service as the replacement for the Argentine Navy’s longtime icebreaker ARA General San Martín. These missions have included transporting personnel to and from various Argentine Antarctic scientific research stations and resupplying these outposts. The ship has also been used for passenger tours to both this part of the world and Patagonia (a region at the southern end of South America). In 1982, ARA Almirante Irízar performed double duty during the 10-week Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom when she served as a troop transport and then a hospital ship.

In 2002, ARA Almirante Irízar achieved what has arguably been her greatest claim to fame so far when she took part in efforts to rescue a cargo ship. Magdalena Oldendorff, a vessel operated by a German shipping company, became stuck in ice in the Bay of Muskegbukta in the vicinity of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. While ARA Almirante Irízar was not able to break up enough ice to allow Magdalena Oldendorff to freely leave the area at the time, she did manage to move the still-constrained cargo vessel to a safer location in the bay. ARA Almirante Irízar subsequently delivered food, medical personnel, and other supplies to the cargo ship until a sufficient amount of ice melted and the vessel could return to open sea.

ARA Almirante Irízar has been inactive since a major fire on board nearly sank her in 2007, but it is expected that the now-repaired ship will eventually be placed back into service.

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