Authored by: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

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Muster stations

Muster stations are designated areas where you are to go when an emergency signal sounds. The location of your muster station is shown on a notice on the inside of your cabin door. Read the notice when first entering your cabin and make sure that you know the quickest way to your particular muster station.

Safety and lifeboat drills

The vessel's master is required to ensure that you are thoroughly conversant with the drills and responsibilities assigned to you.

It is vital, and mandatory, that practice drills are held whenever expeditioners board the vessel during the voyage. It is equally vital that you attend drills when they are called, and that you are properly prepared and equipped to follow instructions given to you by crew members at your muster station.

Whatever the weather, always dress warmly for drills. Keep your life jacket and suitable clothing in an easily accessible place in your cabin. When packing, include in your cabin baggage a warm hat, wool socks and mitts, warm jumper, trousers, soft-soled shoes and your issued outer clothing. You will need to keep these items in your cabin to use when you go out on deck in low temperatures.

Emergency signals

Alarms are sounded by either the vessel's whistle or alarm bell, or both.


Survival equipment

Life jackets

Your life jacket is stowed in your cabin. Additional life jackets are stowed in lockers adjacent to the lifeboats.

Each jacket is fitted with a whistle, retro-reflective tape and a light powered by a water-activated battery. You must know how to wear your life jacket correctly; instructions are displayed in your cabin.


Lifebuoys are stowed so that they can be quickly thrown overboard in an emergency, including a person falling overboard. At least half the lifebuoys on the vessel have self-igniting lights, and on each side of the vessel there is at least one with a 27.5 metre buoyant line attached.

A lifebuoy fitted with a combined light and orange smoke signal is carried on each wing of the bridge.

Immersion suits

Immersion suits help reduce the loss of body heat and shock on entering cold water, immersion suits are critically important life saving appliances.

The suit covers the wearer's body with the exception of the face, and should be worn over warm clothing. Immersion suits used on many ships have an inherent buoyancy and an inflatable supporting collar.

The vessel carries enough immersion suits for everyone on board unless you have already been provided with a suit by the Antarctic Division. They will be handed to you by the crew if necessary.

The suit's use will be demonstrated to all expeditioners prior to embarkation at Hobart or on departure from stations. Immersion suits must always be used with approved life jackets.

To put on an immersion suit:

1. Take the suit out of its bag and fully open.

2. Put it on as you would a normal overall, taking care to avoid damaging the suit.

3. Kneel to fasten the leg zips.

4. Fasten the waterproof zip fully to the neck.

5. Pull the hood over your head.

6. To vent the suit, turn valve anti-clockwise and press down.

7. To vent all air, adopt a crouching position and operate the valve.

Life rafts

Inflatable life rafts are carried on the vessel in enclosed fibreglass containers. They are strapped to deck fittings and are designed to be thrown overboard and boarded in the water. The securing straps incorporate a hydrostatic device designed to release the life raft from its fitting when at a depth of about 3 metres. Should the vessel sink with a life raft in its stowed position, the hydrostatic release activates and allows the raft to rise to the surface fully inflated. Releases can also be operated manually.

While the vessel's crew will normally release inflatable life rafts, the classification of the vessel requires that all expeditioners have a knowledge of life raft release procedures. In summary these are:

1. Remove any lift-out railings or safety chains which will hinder the life raft's release into the water.

2. Check that the painter is connected to the hydrostatic release. Remove the securing strap by releasing the Senhouse sliphook.

3. Await orders for launching. Check that the water below the launching point is clear and, on instruction, throw or roll the life raft overboard.

4. Pull the painter to initiate inflation. The raft will inflate in 20 to 30 seconds.

5. Use the painter to pull the raft alongside the vessel, and board using a ladder or other means. Avoid immersion.

Davit-launched life rafts

Aurora Australis carries six davit-launched life rafts which are designed to be boarded at deck level before being lowered to the water. Each davit services three life rafts, each of twenty-five person capacity. Like other life rafts, davit-launched life rafts are enclosed in fibreglass containers and are secured to their deck mountings by hydrostatic releases. Also, like other life rafts, davit-launched life rafts will float free and inflate should the vessel sink. While the vessel's crew will normally launch these rafts, the classification of the vessel requires that all expeditioners have a knowledge of davit-launched life raft release procedures.

In summary these are:

1. Remove any lift-out railings or safety chains which will restrict the life raft's release into the water. Wind the davit outboard keeping the hook secured inboard.

2. Position the life raft, attach bowsing lines (which keep the raft parallel to the side of the vessel), and the inflation line. Attach the davit hook to the life raft suspension link. Lock the hook.

3. Await the order to inflate the life raft. When given, operate the davit winch to pull the life raft outboard. Inflate the raft by pulling on the painter (remember that the painter is 25 meters long).

4. When fully inflated, adjust the securing lines and inspect the raft. Before boarding remove shoes and any other objects likely to cause damage. Embark personnel seating them alternately forward and aft with feet towards the center.

5. When the life raft is loaded, release the securing lines and check that the water below is clear.

6. Lower the life raft using the davit winch.

Someone inside the life raft should pull the red lanyard when the life raft nears the water. This allows the hook to release when the life raft reaches the water. The winch crew will retrieve the hook for the next launching.

7. Hold the painter. The life raft should then be secured to any other rafts nearby.

8. The remaining life rafts are launched in the same way and secured to others already alongside.

9. The launching crew of the last raft should untie the bowsing lines and board and lower the raft using the self-lowering device. The hook is released when near the water and the raft is secured to others once afloat.

10. Untie or cut any lines joining the life rafts to the vessel. A knife is fixed to the inside of the upper buoyancy tube close to the canopy entrance.

Clear the rafts from the vessel's side with paddles. Stream the sea anchor or drogue.


Aurora Australis is also equipped with enclosed lifeboats. Each side of the vessel has sufficient lifeboat or davit-launched life raft capacity for the entire complement of crew and expedition personnel. Each lifeboat is mounted on a pair of davits, allowing the lifeboats to be lowered by gravity once the restraining brake is released.

The vessel's crew will normally operate the equipment for lowering the lifeboats. Your involvement in launching and use of the lifeboat will be demonstrated to you before or on your departure.


Survival in the water

Prepare yourself

  • Put on as much warm clothing as possible making sure, in particular, that your head, neck, hands and feet are covered.
  • Replace heavy boots or shoes with soft-soled footwear such as sandshoes.
  • Put on an immersion suit and life jacket.
  • Take anti-seasickness tablets. (Vomiting accelerates dehydration, and seasickness can make you more prone to hypothermia.)
  • Drink as much water as possible.
  • Avoid jumping into the water. If you have to jump, get out of the water as soon as possible.

Entering the water

Whenever possible board survival craft directly from the vessel's deck or by using the embarkation ladders. If this is not possible, use a rope or fire hose in preference to jumping.

If you have to jump, enter the water from the lowest possible point of the vessel and swim to the survival craft. If the ship is listing to one side, try to leave by the bow, or the stern if the propeller is not turning.

Ensure that your life jacket is securely tied. Keep your elbows to your side and cover your nose and mouth with one hand while holding the wrist with the other hand.

If it is necessary to jump onto a survival craft (and this should be avoided if at all possible), care should be taken to avoid jumping onto people already in the craft. Shoes and sharp objects should be removed first.

Immersion in water

Hypothermia resulting from immersion, particularly in the low temperature waters south of Australia, represents the greatest threat to those forced into the water during abandonment. In cold water the skin and peripheral tissues become cooled and then the deep body temperature falls: this is hypothermia. It is important that personnel are recovered from the water as soon as possible and their temperature restored.

If it is not immediately possible to board a survival craft adopt the Heat Escape Lessoning Posture - `HELP' position.

This position minimizes heat loss, keeps your head clear of the water and gives an increase in predicted survival time by nearly fifty per cent. The inner sides of your arms should be held tight to your sides. Hug your legs.

Once in a survival craft, huddle together, minimize ventilation and share dry clothing to provide body heat to those suffering from hypothermia. Wring any wet clothing and put it back on if dry clothing is not available.

Righting a life raft

When an inflatable life raft inflates upside down it may be righted by one person in the following manner:

1. Pull the raft around until the gas bottle is down-wind.

2. Climb onto the inverted floor of the raft.

3. Set your feet on the gas bottle and heave the raft over by pulling on the righting strap.

The initial situation

Immediately after abandoning the vessel and entering the survival craft survivors are likely to be cold, wet, exhausted and in varying degrees of shock. Mental and/or physical let-down leading to collapse is a possibility, but must be resisted at least until the situation of all survivors is consolidated.

Every effort must be made to take immediate action to enhance your chances of survival and rescue. The person in charge of each survival craft should decide the order in which these actions are undertaken. Many actions may be performed concurrently, for example, rescuing survivors in the water, joining the survival craft together, treating the injured and preventing sea- sickness.

Some actions are of greater importance than others in this initial phase, such as rescuing survivors from the water and gathering the craft together. Measures for the comfort of survivors follows.