Research vessel Astrolabe

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The Research Vessel Astrolabe is a French icebreaker. Among its duties are to bring personnel and supplies to the Dumont d'Urville research station in Antarctica.[1][2][3][4][5] [6] The vessel has been making regular voyages between Hobart and the Dumont D’Urville research station for fifteen years.

The vessel has also traversed the Northeast passage.[7] The European Space Agency reports a 1992 traverse:

...was the first civilian expedition through the NSR since the Russian revolution.

The Astrolabe was escorted by Russian icebreakers.

The vessel was serviced in the Tasmanian shipyard Southern Marine Shiplift.[8] The yard's maximum ship displacement is 2150 Tonnes.[9]

The Astrolabe would be among the smallest research vessels working in Antarctic waters.

2005 Man overboard incident

On January 27 2005 a crew member was found to have gone overboard.[6] The missing crew member's body was found. During the recovery of his body the second engineer's hand was seriously injured, and he was at risk of losing his thumb. A report by the Australian Transport Safety Board concluded his injury would have been avoided if the block he was using to recover the ship's boat had been equipped with hand holds. The report noted that the deceased crew member was found with a high blood alcohol level. He had been seen to be depressed, prior to his death, and the report concluded he had jumped or fallen overboard under the influence of alcohol.


Length 65.36 metres[6]
Beam 13.06 metres[6]
Moulded depth 5.36 metres[6]
  • 1,700 GRT[5]
  • 949 deadweight tons[6]
  • 525 Net tonnage[6]
  • 5 officers[6]
  • 7 other crew
  • 35 passengers
service speed 12 knots[6]
engine power 2 x 2,300 kilowatts[6]
bow thruster 500 bhp[6]
aircraft equipped with a helipad atop the enclosed cargo area[6]


  1. SCAR Report No 16: Appendix 7, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Retrieved on 2008-04-21. “Potential cooperative studies can be established between the Australia, France (Ice breaker Astrolabe supplies yearly the Dumont D'Urville base which can do some geophysical work in the way back and the Marion D'Ufre, not an icebreaker has multibeam, side scan sonar and a long-45 m- piston coring system), Italy and the US.”
  2. Research shows Southern Ocean wind currents weakening, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Monday February 18, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-04-21. “Volunteers and crew on the French research vessel, L'Astoblobe have been measuring temperature and salinity during regular trips between Hobart and the French research base in Antarctica, over the past 15 years.”
  3. Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03, University Of New South Wales. Retrieved on 2008-04-21.
  4. The wind, climate change and the Southern oceans, Coastal Watch. Retrieved on 2008-04-21. “Called SURVOSTRAL (Surveillance of the Ocean Austral), the joint Australian-French-US program has produced a 15-year dataset based on readings taken by the volunteers and crew of the 65-metre French ship, L’Astrolabe, on regular voyages between Hobart and the French base at Dumont D’Urville.”
  5. 5.0 5.1 Infrastructures et moyens: L'Astrolabe, Institute Polaire. Retrieved on 2008-04-21. translation
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 Independent investigation into the man overboard fatality and subsequent lifeboat accident on board the French registered Antarctic support vessel L’Astrolabe in the Southern Ocean 27 January 2005, Australian Transport Safety Board. Retrieved on 2008-04-21.
  7. ICEWATCH - REAL-TIME SEA ICE MONITORING OF THE NORTHERN SEA ROUTE USING SATELLITE RADAR TECHNOLOGY, European Space Agency. Retrieved on 2008-04-21. “The Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, Norway first demonstrated use of ERS-1 SAR data for near real-time ice mapping in the NSR in August 1991, only a few weeks after the launch of the ERS-1 satellite. SAR derived sea ice maps were then sent by telefax to the French polar vessel L´Astrolabe during her voyage through the Northeast Passage from Norway to Japan (Johannessen et al., 1992). This was the first civilian expedition through the NSR since the Russian revolution. This demonstration was evaluated as very interesting by the captains and sea ice experts onboard the Russian icebreakers which escorted L'Astrolabe through the ice-covered parts of the route.”
  8. Southern Marine Shiplift: photo gallery. Southern Marine Shiplift. Retrieved on 2008-04-21.
  9. Southern Marine Shiplift: Repairs. Southern Marine Shiplift. Retrieved on 2008-04-21.

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