Skip to content

Saving a life at the edge of the world – the RSV Nuyina Antarctic rescue mission

Published: 8 Dec 2023

We are proud to have designed, built and now operate Australia's new Antarctic research and supply vessel, the RSV Nuyina. Based out of Hobart, Tasmania – home to the Australian Antarctic Program – the Nuyina is operated by the Serco Defence Antarctic Supply Research Vessel (ASRV) Team on behalf of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) of the Australian Government.

In September 2023, the ship was undertaking systems commissioning off the Tasmanian Coast. These voyages were intended to be the last before the Nuyina launched on its first full Antarctic season (October 2023 to February 2024).

All plans had to change immediately when the AAD launched an urgent 'medical evacuation' (medevac) operation to recover an expeditioner needing medical attention from Casey Station, Antarctica – more than 2000 miles away. Our colleagues, the ASRV team, supported the emergency rescue mission.  

Such a rescue had never before been undertaken so close to the Antarctic winter. Expected sea ice conditions were a major concern.

Our team immediately set about pivoting from their existing schedule to the new mission. All logistical, crewing and regulatory compliance arrangements were swiftly overhauled and future impacts accounted for; advanced technology systems enabled rapid route and risk planning; extensive training drills commenced, continuing on the journey south – not just to complete the mission but also to care for the expeditioner; and throughout, our colleagues, the Master and Chief Mate, monitored and managed the ship's progress through the Antarctic winter conditions around the clock.

Delivered at minimal notice in challenging conditions, the mission was a success.

One of the most advanced vessels of its kind, the Nuyina is a scientific research platform, 'icebreaker' and resupply ship, all in one. From the Nuyina, scientists can contribute a wealth of new climate and biodiversity knowledge to the world.

The AAD refers to the Nuyina as ‘the main lifeline to Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations’. We are immensely proud of our ASRV colleagues for all that they do to deliver that service, whether they are providing unprecedented and extended access to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica or saving a life at the edge of the world.


Image: Robert Darvall, Chief Mate RSV Nuyina