The SA Agulhas departs Cape Town harbour. File picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - SA Agulhas 1 on Friday embarked on a mission to retrieve the body of a Gough Island electronic technician who died earlier this month, the department of environmental affairs said.

It would take about eight days for the ship, which is now used for training cadets, to reach the island, spokesman Zolile Nqayi said in a statement.

Johannes Adriaan Hoffman, a member of the Gough53 over-wintering team, died last Tuesday. He worked as a radio technician and was on his second expedition to the weather station when he died. The cause of his death was being investigated.

Each year, six to eight people are sent to Gough Island as part of the SA National Antarctic programme (SANAP), which monitors a South African weather station. The island is one of the most remote places in the world with a constant human presence.

Nqayi said an SA National Defence Force counsellor would meet the remaining team and that additional telephonic counselling would be provided.

Previous expedition members gave an insight into life on the island on the SANAP website.

“Remember a sense of humour, you’ll need it for take-over (the period when the new team arrives to relieve the previous team).”

Another warned that fish was the only fresh food to be had for the year's sojourn.

Animals, plant materials and firearms were some of the items strictly prohibited on the island.