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AMC graduates set sail under Southern Lights

Tasmania is a gateway to the Antarctic and also a gateway to a career on the sea, with several alumni of the Australian Maritime College (AMC) finding key roles with Serco aboard Australia’s new 160-metre-long icebreaker, RSV Nuyina.

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Katrina Beams (AdvDipAppSc (NS) 2012) is the ship’s second officer, having already been to Antarctica numerous times aboard the ship’s predecessor, the RSV Aurora Australis.

Katrina describes the joy of seeing scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division, the University’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and elsewhere board the new icebreaker for the first time.

“For a lot of them, they are seeing what they have been dreaming of for years coming to life,” she said, speaking of the ship’s unique capabilities, which include a moon pool and an ingenious wet well.

The moon pool is a vertical shaft which extends from the science deck, through the hull of the ship to the open ocean, allowing deployment of scientific equipment in a protected environment. The wet well takes in seawater from large inlets at various depths. The water then feeds on to filter tables that catch krill and fragile life forms such as jellyfish and salps for study by scientists.

“It’s exciting seeing the scientists’ dreams come true … it’s quite warming,” she said. “It’s so important to their careers and lives and it’s what they are passionate about.”

The RSV Nuyina is designed to break 1.65-metre-thick ice at a continuous speed of 3 knots and handle waves over 14 metres.

It is the main lifeline to Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations and the central platform of our Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research. Nuyina means ‘southern lights’ in the Tasmanian Aboriginal language palawa kani.

“I just love the Antarctic experience – every time is memorable in its own way,” Katrina said.

Photo of AMC graduates Katrina Beams (2nd Officer) and Henry Goodfellow (Chief Off icer) aboard Australia’s new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina Photo: Peter Allen
AMC graduates Katrina Beams (2nd Officer) and Henry Goodfellow (Chief Officer) aboard Australia’s new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina
Photo: Peter Allen

“I can still take a thousand photos in a trip.”

When asked for highlights of a life on the sea, Katrina describes the reflections you see from the ship in Antarctic waters, “You’d never realise there are so many shades of white.”

It has been a career journey too for Katrina, who started her maritime career as a Steward, including sailing as Chief Steward aboard the RSV Aurora Australis, where she later became a Deck Officer.

“To return to Antarctica on our new vessel was really exciting. Not only in terms of ice navigation but also the resupply operations,” Katrina said.

“We completed an extensive resupply of Macquarie Island last Antarctic season and it was great to see how it all came together with the interaction of helicopters and watercraft.

“The size, capabilities and technology of this vessel are greater than the Aurora Australis … It is fitted with an Integrated Bridge System. There are no more paper charts.

“We have a good mixture of experience on board with crew from various backgrounds including Antarctic and offshore operations.”

Other AMC former students on board the ship, which carries up to 149 people, include Chief Officer Henry Goodfellow (BAppSc (NS) 2016) and Third Officer Brett Cross.

Henry adds that the opportunity to go to Antarctica for work is “a real privilege that provides experiences that cannot be found anywhere else”.

“It feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity, but we get to do it over and over again,” he said.

“One of the best parts of the job is the wide variety of operations we undertake, from science through to the cargo and resupply missions in some of the most unique locations in the world.”

Katrina says being on board with people who have never been to Antarctica before is special.

“You get to re-live that moment of seeing Antarctica again for the first time through them,” she said.

RSV Nuyina in Antarctica | Photo: Pete Harmsen
RSV Nuyina in Antarctica | Photo: Pete Harmsen

Written by Katherine Johnson for Alumni Magazine Issue 53, 2022.

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Top of page: RSV Nuyina in Antarctica. Image:  Pete Harmsen