Report on the Unveiling of the J. Lauritzen Lines – Denmark / Australia National Antarctic Research Expeditions Commemorative Plaque held at the Mission for Seafarers, Melbourne Docklands, Australia  on 12 December 2023 at 12 noon.

Before a crowd of 70 invited guests from the Joint project group;,  Offshore and Specialists Ships of Australia Ltd (OSSA); the ANARE Club Inc and the Friends of the Nella Dan – Denmark, the gathering witnessed the Unveiling of the J. Lauritzen Lines Commemorative Plaque by the Honorary Danish General Consul Melbourne, Mr Jan Ravnholt on behalf of Her Excellency, the Danish Ambassador to Australia, Pernille Dahler Kardel.

The Plaque’s cast bronze one metre diameter inscription, showing the Dan ship’s global polar voyage tracks  and ship effigies, paid , ‘A TRIBUTE TO ANTARCTIC SEAFARERS AND THEIR SHIPS’, commemorated the association with the Port of Melbourne’s maritime history when the famous ‘Dan” ships – M/vs Kista Dan, Thala Dan, Magga Dan, and Nella Dan; docked at the Old North Wharf site during the annual summer resupply of Australia’s Antarctic and Sub -Antarctic Research Stations during the years 1953 to 1981. 

The event was held in the Mission to Seafarers, Melbourne Docklands, adjacent to the former North Wharf complex in its current centenary building erected in 1917 as part of the organisation known worldwide as the Mission to Seafarers 

The date chosen for the Unveiling commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the departure of the first ‘Dan’ Ship, M/v Kista Dan to Macquarie Island on 12 December 1953. On return, the Kista Dan departed on 4 January 1954 for Heard Island and then on to establish Australia’s first Post War Antarctic Research Station, Mawson at Mac.Robertson Land, Australian Antarctic Territory, opened by Dr Phillip Law (1912-2010), First Director of ANARE on 13 February 1954. Mawson is now the longest continuously operating station in Antarctica and the oldest south of the Antarctic Circle.

Opening and Welcome Address 

The ceremony was opened by Mr Ross Brewer, Chairman, Off Shore & Specialist Ships of Australia Ltd (OSSA), who welcomed guests to the historic occasion and in addition to welcoming Mr Jan Ravnholt Honorary Danish Consul General, Melbourne, he especially welcomed former Lieut. Anthony Hall OAM, member of the R.A.A.S.C. who sailed on the Kista Dan’s first voyage to Macquarie Island which had departed 70 years ago today.

The plaque was a result of an earlier suggestion made by OSSA and ANARE Club member Ray McMahon (former Station Leader at Mawson 1963) and Finn Wollesen and Rasmus Nygaard (Association of the Friends of the Nella Dan -Denmark), during a visit some years earlier to Denmark. The Offshore & Specialist Ships Australia Ltd (OSSA) decided to commemorate the proud history of ANARE Antarctic shipping of the J. Lauritzen Line Polar Ships, and the ANARE Club and the Association of the Friends of the Nella Dan – Denmark, joined with OSSA as project partners to plan and manage the Project.

The following speakers were invited to share their recollections of their associations with the Dan Ships and contribution the ships had made to Australia’s efforts in research and discovery in Australia’s Antarctic Territory. 

Mr Phillip Boxall, Branch Head, Assets & Technology, AAD, representing Ms Emma Campbell, Head of Division, Australian Antarctic Division, Tasmania, spoke of the contribution which shipping had had on the development of the early years of the  ANARE and later Antarctic programs. With the advent of the polar ice breaking capability of the Dan ships and the subsequent advances on polar ship design that followed with the Aurora Australis and the RSV Nuyina, had provided enormous operational support to Australia’s Antarctic program.

Mr David Dodd, President, ANARE Club spoke of the emotional attachments which ANARE expeditioners and the Australian public experienced in the association with the annual summer voyages and exploits of the Dan Ships, mentioning that many attending former expeditioners here today would have, like himself, sailed south on the Dan Ships during their years of service. With Denmark being one of the three northern hemisphere polar nations, which do not have bases in Antarctica and it was essentially through the operations of this proud shipping line, that the Dan ships forged an historic ’Danish presence’ in   Australian Antarctica.


Mr Jorgen Berg, former Officer, Dan Ships, now resident in Melbourne, mentioned his personal experiences in sailing with the Lauritzen lines ships both in the Arctic and Antarctica and that Dan ship’s captains had to serve a season with ANARE before returning the following year as Ship’s Captains. Many crew members participated in successive annual Australian voyages and their around the clock work commitments, enabled the success of these annual re-supply and exploration voyages.

Mr Rasmus Nygaard, Chairman, Association of Friends of the Nella Dan, Denmark outlined the history of the J. Lauritzen line shipping and the end of the operation of polar shipping in Antarctica following the loss of the Nella Dan where as a Deckhand he had witnessed the loss of the ship. He had brought with him from Denmark especially for the occasion, the Lauritzen Company Flag, the Danish Flag from the Nella Dan, removed before she was scuttled at Macquarie Island. He also returned an ANARE Club Green and Gold pennant given to him by a former Nella Dan crew member in Denmark, with that un-mistakeable smell of diesel fumes from the ship’s engines as the pennant was flown from the mast head.  

Following the speeches and the unveiling, guests inspected the plaque and the many photographs and banners on display and enjoyed the fellowship of the occasion. A selection of Photographs and the specially prepared Philatelic envelopes cancelled that morning at the Docklands Post Office available as a lasting memento of the occasion, are shown as Appendix A

Concluding Address

In delivering the concluding address. the Chairman, Ross Brewer on behalf of the Joint Project Group, thanked everyone for their attendance and personally thanked Rasmus Nygaard and his wife Ikke for joining the event all the way from Denmark and for his with the development of the plaque concept.

The Chairman specifically wished to record the grateful thanks to the Lauritzen Foundation for their support through the Friends of the Nella Dan and to The Australian National Maritime Museum whose grant help enable the project to go ahead  and the ANARE Club. He went on to thank his own OSSA team for their support and likewise to the ANARE Club President, David Dodd and his team.

Danish seafarers and their ships would have been proud to have been remembered in acknowledging this historic maritime association with Australia’s Antarctic endeavours and the friendships remaining between Australia and Denmark.

The Plaque will be ultimately installed in the ‘Seafarers Rest’ Park, part of the City of Melbourne’s re-development and beautification of the old Port of Melbourne, North Wharf Site.

Due to delays withe the overall construction of the park it is anticipated that the landscaping associated with the completion of the ‘Seafarers Rest’ Park will not be ready for the installation of the Plaque and other historic maritime exhibits until approximately October 2024. In the meantime, the Plaque will be displayed at Seaworks Maritime Museum in Williamstown.