20 m
Ocean depth in metres
4,600 m

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Australian Government | Australian Antartic Program Logo

Part 1 Ship of the future

For more than a century, Australia has conducted research and exploration in East Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, relying on ships to navigate some of the stormiest seas and the most formidable ice barriers on the planet.

Today, Australia’s new Antarctic flagship, RSV Nuyina, embodies 110 years of Antarctic and maritime history and knowledge, making it the most advanced polar research ship in the world.

As an icebreaker, scientific research platform and resupply ship, RSV Nuyina will help position Australia as a global leader in Antarctic science, environmental stewardship and logistics.

For the next 30 years, it will allow us to explore the deep ocean and its ecosystems, the sea ice and atmosphere, and extend our reach further into the icy continent.

The knowledge we gain from this 25,500 tonne ‘floating research station’ will enable us to better understand and manage threats to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region.

From the frontline of future global change, our science will inform climate and conservation policies of significance to Australia and the world.

Click continue to scroll down and learn more about this incredible ship.

The deck plan (desktop only) and menu at right will take you to the start of each chapter in the feature.

Loader GIF

RSV Nuyina (pronounced ‘noy-yee-nah’) is 50 metres high, 160.3 metres long, and boasts 11 decks!

The word nuyina means ‘southern lights’ in palawa kani, the language spoken by Tasmanian Aborigines.

The ship is designed to answer the critical scientific questions of today and flexible enough to cope with future research and operational demands during its 30-year life span.

It can carry 117 expeditioners, 32 crew, 1200 tonnes of cargo, and 1.9 million litres of fuel.

The ship is owned by the Australian Government (Australian Antarctic Division), and operated and crewed by Serco.

RSV Nuyina cost $528 million to design and build. A further $1.4 billion covers its operation and maintenance over the next 30 years, representing the single biggest investment in the history of Australia’s Antarctic program.

Continue scrolling or use the navigation arrows at the bottom right of the screen. You can also click on the menu to the right to explore the chapters and view the deck plan.

The deck plan is best viewed and navigated on a desktop.

How do you pronounce Nuyina?

Listen to Nuyina’s horn

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 2 Crow’s Nest & Monkey Deck

The domes on the crow’s nest and ‘monkey deck’ protect radar and satellite systems used for navigation and communication.

The decks also host a range of meteorological sensors that measure wind, pressure, temperature and humidity. Scientists also run instruments that measure solar radiation and clouds, and have access to heated observation boxes for the study of seabirds, whales and other marine mammals.

It’s also a great place to take photos.

Scroll down to watch a video about the meteorological instruments on the monkey deck, with science systems engineer, Angus Cummings.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 3 Bridge

Through windows running the length and height of the bridge, RSV Nuyina’s Masters have a bird's eye view of current and impending weather, waves and icebergs in all directions around the ship.

Instruments on the bridge display a range of information collected by sensors and instruments around the ship, needed for navigation and decision-making.

Other consoles operate equipment such as the ship’s lights, drop keels, acoustic instruments (for seafloor mapping) and the dynamic positioning system (which holds the ship in position during resupply or rough weather).

RSV Nuyina currently has two Masters – Captain Gerry O’Doherty and Captain Paul Clarke.

Scroll down to the next video to meet Captain O’Doherty.

RSV Nuyina can cruise efficiently in open water, operate silently (in ‘Silent R’ mode) during scientific operations, or continuously break ice up to 1.65 metres thick.

To do all these things the ship uses a hybrid propulsion system.

At its maximum speed of 16 knots, the ship uses two V16 diesel engines, which each provide 19,200 kilowatts of power to the two propellers.

When cruising at more economical speeds of 12–14 knots, it can use its four electric motors (7,400 kW each), powered by diesel generators.

When breaking ice, the ship uses all the power available to it, with both diesel engines, electric motors and diesel generators in operation.

In Silent R mode, for seafloor mapping or fish and krill detection, noise from the ship is minimised by slowing the speed to 8 knots and using just the electric motors and diesel generators. The generators have a flexible mounting system to absorb noisy vibrations. The ship’s hull has also been designed to minimise bubble sweepdown from the water surface, which interferes with the acoustic instruments.

Scroll down to watch an animation on how RSV Nuyina's propulsion system works and then hear from Captain O’Doherty as he describes what it’s like to ‘drive’ the ship.

More information is also available in Chapter 11 – Engine Room.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 4 ‘Sky Lounge’

The observation deck or ‘sky lounge’, like the bridge, provides panoramic views across RSV Nuyina’s bow. After a hard day's work, expeditioners can relax in the comfortable lounge setting and watch passing icebergs or wildlife.

The space has books, games, a small tea room and an adjacent meeting room. It’s also a great venue for social events.

In the next video, see some of the scenery that can be enjoyed from the observation deck.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 5 Cabins & Medical Facility

Accommodation for the Captain, voyage leaders, officers, crew and expeditioners, is spread across five decks.

Those in senior roles reside on deck 8, directly below the observation deck, for quick access to the bridge.

The ship’s doctors run a medical facility on deck 7, which also has direct access to the helideck in case a patient needs to be evacuated.

The majority of expeditioners share two-bed cabins in the lower and more stable part of the ship – decks 6 and 5, and a small number on deck 4.

Cabins have bunk beds, two desk spaces, cupboards and drawers, and an ensuite bathroom.

Read on to learn more about RSV Nuyina’s medical facility and helideck.

Medical expertise honed over decades in Australian Antarctic and maritime environments has been channelled into RSV Nuyina's medical facility.

At full capacity RSV Nuyina will carry a total of 149 people on voyages for up to 90 days, so the ability to provide medical care is critical.

The ship’s medical facility has an emergency room, operating theatre, X-ray machine, consulting room and a two-bed ward, all with telemedicine links, situated on the same level as the helideck for ease of patient transport.

As well as treating sea-sickness and minor injuries, the medical facility has capability to support blood transfusions, general anaesthetics and surgery in emergencies.

Telemedicine support is provided by the Polar Medicine Unit at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart, and Centre for Antarctic Remote and Maritime Medicine (CARMM) partners in Tasmania, enabling the ship’s doctors to respond to most emergencies.

In the next video, take a tour of the facility with Dr Mal Vernon, a veteran of marine science voyages and seven seasons at Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations.


The helideck and heli-hangar on deck 7 provide room for four AS350 B3 helicopters or two medium-sized helicopters similar to the Sikorsky S-92.

The helicopters are used to help resupply Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations, transfer personnel between the ship and stations or field sites, support research in the Southern Ocean, and extend our scientific reach further inland.

The ship’s helicopter capacity also enables it to be utilised by a range of other agencies outside the Antarctic season, including for humanitarian missions.

The B3s (pictured here) can sling load up to 1,200 kilograms at a time from ship to shore. Four helicopters can operate at a time, with one potentially landing on the aft helideck, another sling loading cargo from the front, and two others in transit or off-loading ashore.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 6 Small boats

A fleet of small watercraft are an essential support to RSV Nuyina’s scientific and logistic capabilities.

The smaller support craft – a science tender, two personnel transfer tenders, a stern tender and two barges – form part of the ‘ship system’.

This system consists of dedicated stowage positions, small cranes to lift and secure the vessels, power outlets to charge batteries and warm engines, and facilities for refuelling.

The 10.3 metre-long science tender provides a powerful new research capability that works independently or in parallel with RSV Nuyina’s scientific systems.

Like a mini-RSV Nuyina, it has a moon pool to deploy instruments through the hull, an A-frame to tow instruments behind the vessel, and a small crane to launch instruments in rough seas.

The tender can conduct science and reconnaissance in shallower, uncharted waters, and closer to the front of glaciers – an area of interest for climate scientsts – and stream data to the ‘mother ship’ over wifi.

The science tender accommodates up to 6 people and 500 kilograms of cargo.

The two aluminium personnel transfer tenders move up to eight expeditioners and 150 kilograms of baggage from the ship to Antarctic stations. They have two five-cylinder diesel engines, two fuel tanks, radar, GPS, a chart plotter and an electronic identification system.

The identical stern tender is located at the stern of the ship to access the pool of open water behind the ship when it’s locked in ice. This is important for safe helicopter operations and to support deployments of some scientific equipment over the stern.

At eight metres long the transfer tenders are too big to handle in the surf at Macquarie Island, so inflatable rubber boats remain the vessel of choice to get people ashore in the sub-Antarctic.

On the cargo hatch covers near the bow of RSV Nuyina are two 16.3 metre-long, 6.2 metre-wide barges, each capable of carrying more than 45 tonnes of cargo.

The aluminium barges can operate in calm seas and up to 50 knots of wind, at a speed of eight knots.

Each barge has two 448 kilowatt (600 horsepower) engines and a water jet propulsion system that provides greater manoeuvrability than propellers.

The barges are not built for the open ocean, but to carry general cargo from ship to shore in Antarctica. They can operate in grease ice and they have rubber fenders that can be used to carefully nudge bergy bits out of the way.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 7 Mess & Galley

The mess and galley are the heart of RSV Nuyina, where catering crew prepare three main meals a day. Meals are topped up with freshly baked treats and snack supplies, if expeditioners or crew are feeling peckish, or can't make the set meal times.

The mess provides relaxed café-style dining, and includes a large self-servery, and adjoining scullery with industrial dish washing facilities.

The galley boasts a full-scale commercial kitchen, containing ovens, cooktops, microwaves, dishwashers, stainless steel sinks and a bread maker.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 8 Scientific ‘Disneyland’

RSV Nuyina enables research that will enhance our understanding of critical issues, including climate change, human impacts in Antarctica, wildlife conservation and the sustainable management of Southern Ocean fisheries.

To ensure RSV Nuyina can support research demands over its 30 year life span, scientists did a bit of crystal ball gazing to identify ship capabilities needed to support future science.

The result has been described by the Australian Antarctic Division's Chief Scientist as a “Disneyland for scientists”.

Deck 4 is where many of the scientists' dreams are answered. Among the clever technologies and features on or near this deck are:

  • a moon pool to deploy instruments and robotic vehicles in sea ice or rough seas
  • acoustic instruments to map the seafloor and detect krill and fish
  • a unique wet well to catch krill and fragile organisms in perfect condition
  • a containerised aquarium
  • ship-based and mobile container laboratories
  • a trawl deck with winches, lifting equipment and a range of services

Scroll down to learn more.

Moon pool

There’s something thrilling about a doorway to the deep ocean, in the middle of a ship, where scientists can explore a vast, unknown, watery world.

The moon pool on RSV Nuyina provides such an opportunity to explore the ocean beneath metre-thick sea ice, with a range of autonomous or tethered instruments.

The 13 metre-long shaft is 4 × 4 metres wide, providing a versatile deployment point in all weathers and ice conditions.

The moon pool will enhance data collection in the ice and marine realms, informing research and policy on climate, marine ecosystems and conservation.

Click ‘more’ to watch a video showing how the moon pool works, then use the ‘back’ button to return to this page.


RSV Nuyina uses sound to ‘see’ into the deep ocean and the seafloor below.

This capability allows scientists to measure the distribution and abundance of krill and fish to inform conservation and fisheries management.

It also allows them to understand the glaciological and geological history of an area, or to map the seafloor (pictured) to understand habitat or produce navigational charts.

A range of acoustic instruments are mounted in the hull, and in two drop keels that can be lowered up to three metres beneath the ship.

The instruments send out 'pings' of sound into the environment, and listen to the returning echos (like a dolphin or bat) to build a picture of the marine environment.

In the hull, a large low frequency multibeam echosounder can map swathes of the seafloor up to 25 kilometres wide and 11,000 metres deep.

In the hull and drop keels, a higher frequency multibeam maps shallower continental shelves, while other instruments detect fish and krill, or listen for marine mammals.

The drop keels get the acoustic instruments past the noisy bubble layer around the hull, which can interfere with the instruments’ ability to detect their targets.

Click 'more' to watch a video about the ship's acoustic capability, then use the 'back' button to return to this page.

Wet Well

One of the most ingenious additions to the ship’s scientific capability is a sampling space known as the ‘wet well’.

This unique watertight space, below the waterline on deck 2, is connected to the ocean by large inlets in the hull. Water can also be piped from the moon pool and trawl deck.

Seawater gravity-feeds into the space and on to a prototype ‘filter table’, allowing scientists to catch krill in perfect condition as the water flows over the table.

The krill are then transferred to a specially designed containerised aquarium for immediate study, or for return to the Australian Antarctic Division's land-based aquarium for breeding and future research.

Antarctic krill are a ‘keystone’ species of the Southern Ocean because they convert energy from the sun (via single-celled floating plants, called phytoplankton) into food for many larger marine species, including whales, penguins, seals and seabirds.

While Antarctic krill are tough, resilient animals, climate change and fishing pressures could have huge impacts on their reproduction and survival.

Australian Antarctic Division research aims to understand how krill, and the charismatic species that prey on them, are affected by changes in their environment.

The ability to catch krill in pristine condition, via the wet well, provides animals for research as close to their wild state as possible, giving scientists confidence in their results.

In a future filter table design for the wet well, viewing tanks will be added above each table to allow operators to watch for fragile life forms - such as jellyfish, salps and fish larvae - and collect them with a net before they get damaged.

Some of these species could become more prominent ecosystem players if krill are negatively affected by climate change in the future. The ability to study these fragile organisms – previously only captured in perfect condition by divers – is an important avenue of future research.

Click 'more' to watch an animation about how the wet well works, then use the 'back' button to return to this page.


Krill and other marine animals caught in the wet well, or a trawl, are kept in two specially designed containerised aquariums on board RSV Nuyina.

From here they can be used in on-board experiments, or kept in pristine condition until they can be returned to the Australian Antarctic Division’s land-based aquarium in Tasmania.

The aquaria are run by a mechanical plant, housed in its own container, which controls the temperature of the seawater in each aquarium, anywhere between −1.5°C and 15°C.

Being in containers, the aquaria can be configured on land to suit the required research once at sea. They can then be loaded on to the ship and plugged directly into the ship’s power, water and alarm systems.

Scroll down to learn more in the next two videos.

Container laboratories

As well as the two containerised krill aquariums, another three 20-foot shipping containers have been re-imagined to house a general purpose laboratory, a temperature controlled laboratory, and an analytical laboratory for the use of hydrogen.

Like the aquaria, these three ‘science modules’ are an integral part of the ship’s design and plug directly into the ship's services - power, water, alarms, vacuum and air.

RSV Nuyina has room for up to 15 laboratory containers and nine containers for storage and mechanical equipment.

The containers provide added flexibility and future-proofing, alongside the ship's four fixed laboratories - the wet and dry laboratories, an air chemistry space, and a meteorological laboratory.

Click 'more' to watch a video about RSV Nuyina's containerised capability, then use the 'back' button to return to this page.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 9 Floating Internet of Things

All the scientific deployments, acoustic instruments and environmental sensors on board RSV Nuyina collect vast amounts of data that will contribute to improved weather and climate models, biodiversity models, navigation charts, and global efforts to map the world’s oceans by 2030.

In fact, there are so many ways to collect data on RSV Nuyina that Australian Antarctic Division ‘big data’ scientist, Dr Johnathan Kool, likens the ship to a “floating internet of things”.

The data are captured on two portable, ruggedised storage devices that can each hold 80 terabytes.

To make the data useful to end-users, Dr Kool and his team format and organise it to comply with the Antarctic Division’s onshore data management system, and at the end of each voyage the data are uploaded to a cloud for anyone to access.

Click 'more' to watch a video about the floating internet of things.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 10 Trawl Deck and Winches

The trawl deck (deck 4) is the scientific heart of RSV Nuyina, where nets, sediment corers, rock drills, cameras, mooring systems, robotic vehicles and many other oceanographic instruments, are deployed using a variety of winches and cranes.

Most deployments are achieved using the 30 tonne A-frame (pictured), using winches housed below deck and protected from the elements. If required, crew can safely control the deployment from a small office overlooking the trawl deck.

Scientists can monitor their deployments from their smart phones or computers, anywhere on the ship, through data and/or vision provided by cameras and sensors mounted on equipment, and via fibre-optic winch cables.

Click 'more' for a video tour of the ship's heavy lifting capabilities, with Chief Integrated Rating, Jonathon Lumb.

For best results, we recommended using an up-to-date browser such as the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

Part 11 Engine Room

RSV Nuyina has a diesel-electric propulsion system that provides different levels of power depending on the task.

In icebreaking mode RSV Nuyina uses its full propulsion system – two V16 diesel engines (19,200 kW each), and 4 electric motors (7,400 kW each) powered by diesel generators.

In its 12–14 knot cruising mode, the ship relies on the electric motors.

The engine room on deck 2 is split into two separate rooms to provide an enhanced level of safety and redundancy.

Each room houses an 87 tonne V16 diesel engine and two diesel generators (one room pictured here).

The propulsion system (including 5.65-metre diameter propellers, 12.7 metre-long shafts, clutches and flywheels) is also split into two rooms. Each of these rooms also contains two advanced electric drives.

Click ‘more’ to see a video about RSV Nuyina’s engine and propulsion system.

Environmental footprint

A big Antarctic icebreaker doesn’t have to have a big environmental footprint.

A range of features designed into RSV Nuyina will help it sail lightly on the Southern Ocean.

The ship complies with mandatory Antarctic environmental regulations, as well as at least 12 voluntary ‘eco’ standards that deal with ballast water, grey water, refrigeration systems, exhaust emissions, and the ship’s energy efficiency management.

Click ‘more’ to see a video about RSV Nuyina’s environmental credentials.

Part 12 Antarctic debut

Australia celebrated the arrival of RSV Nuyina in its home port of Hobart in October 2021.

The ship successfully completed its first five-week Antarctic voyage in January 2022 and a second Antarctic voyage between February and March 2022, delivering supplies and helicopters to Davis and Macquarie Island research stations, and nearly one million litres of fuel to Casey.

While the ship and its complex systems are still being tested and commissioned, the vessel has already notched up an impressive list of firsts. These include:

  • capturing 15,000 Antarctic krill;
  • mapping 93,155 square kilometres of the seafloor; and
  • processing 2.65 terabytes of data.

It's an exciting debut for Australia's Antarctic ship of the future.

Check out our website dedicated to all things RSV Nuyina to learn more.