HEADING HOME: South African ice-breaking polar research ship SA Agulhas is expected back in Cape Town within 10 days.
DURBAN - THE South African Maritime Safety Authority celebrates International Seafarers Day on Monday, as they welcome back 30 cadets who sailed to London.

The theme for the celebratory function to mark the international day would be “communication”, said Kgomotso Mphahlele, who facilitates the training of cadets.

“We are so fortunate because today we can communicate with our families via Skype and on social networks (while at sea),” Mphahlele said.

“Seven years ago it was impossible to do so. So communication will be the highlight for the day.”

Sharing his experiences at sea with the Independent on Saturday, Siyabonga Mgojo, a chief officer on the SA Agulhas, said he had dreamed of working on ships and sailing the seven seas while growing up in the small town of Matatiele.

The 26-year-old father of one child was among the first batch of cadets who travelled through Africa and Europe, and sailed to the Antarctica on board the SA Agulhas - an ice-strengthened training ship and former polar research vessel - six years ago.

The cadets’ voyage to Antarctica was dubbed “the Coldest Journey”.

“The Coldest Journey was the first ever attempt to cross Antarctica in winter.

“It was a trip that took us to the end of the earth, and one that definitely set us apart from ordinary seafarers,” said Mgojo.

“I was fortunate to be part of the programme because it was through that journey that I had the opportunity to learn about and witness ice navigation, which is one skill most training cadets across the world do not have.

“I felt privileged because many people don’t get the opportunity to travel to the South Pole, and being a boy who grew up in Matatiele, this transformed my life.

“This journey also opened doors for me in the maritime industry. “No words can describe how beautiful Antarctica is.

“It felt like a dream for me at first because, here I was just a local township boy far away from home experiencing what I grew up seeing on television.”

SEA LEGS: Siyabonga Mgojo recounts his experience of travelling on the SA Agulhas to Europe and Antarctica.

The trip to Antarctica helped him and the other cadets gain valuable experience in working on ships, as they were taught how to complete tasks step by step, and worked hand in hand with trainers to complete practical work.

An ice research team from Europe joined Mgojo and the other cadets on the voyage to Antarctica.

Mgojo completed his maritime studies at the Durban University of Technology. After his training on the SA Agulhas ended in 2013, he received his class three (international ticket) in October 2014 - which enables him to work on any vessel in the world.