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Buffalo City student sets off on icy adventure

East London's Armand van Zuydam (top, left) and his fellow Stellenbosch University engineering students who will be conducting research on the SA Agulhas II polar vessel.

East London engineering Master’s student Armand van Zuydam will be joining South Africa’s polar research and supply vessel, the SA Agulhas II, on its next Antarctic mission.


Armand, who matriculated from Grens High School in 2014, is part of Stellenbosch University’s Sound and Vibration Research Group.

He will join three other Stellenbosch Master’s students in studying how the steel structure of the Agulhas responds to the slamming of waves as it navigates rough seas towards the polar regions. They will also investigate how passengers experience the subsequent vibrations and movements caused by the wave action and ship engines.

As part of his research, Armand is building a scale model of the Agulhas. Once completed, it will be tested in a special water-filled towing tank in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, where wave motion can be artificially generated.

The scale model and specific computational software will be used to simulate how the ship reacts in the water when travelling through different sized waves and carrying different loads.

“Wave slamming occurs when a vessel’s bow or stern emerges from a wave and re-enters the water with a heavy impact. It greatly influences the comfort of passengers and crew members aboard a ship,” Armand explains.

“I am excited but at the same time slightly terrified to encounter big swells in the Southern Ocean."

Research focus

Armand and his fellow students’ research focus is on measuring full-scale vibration, how the ship’s shafts are twisted by ice- and water- interaction with the propellers, and how people experience such vibrations.

Around 200 different measurements will be taken during voyage to collect real-time data.

To prepare for their trip, the students have already put in place specifically designed sensors and computer software.

“A unique aspect of this instrumentation is a 30-sensor acceleration system, which was custom developed by Stellenbosch University,” says team leader, Professor Annie Bekker.

“This enables researchers to track the displacement and deformation of the ship’s structure as she encounters the harsh environment.”

“In a world where climatic changes are probable, and where the prediction of such changes relies greatly on knowledge and understanding of the ocean, the SAA II is strategic as a world-class research platform.”

Prof Bekker’s team have over the past few years already measured aspects such as the pressure of the ice, and the resulting force it has on the ship’s hull and propulsion system, ice-induced structural vibrations and noise, whole-body vibration comfort, ship dynamics in ice, global ice loads, underwater noise and mechanical and physical sea ice properties.

Source: Stellenbosch University

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