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At about 0400 on 27 January 2005, a crew member on board the French Antarctic support vessel L'Astrolabe went missing prior to going on watch. At the time, the vessel was in the Southern Ocean, 235 nautical miles south of the Tasmanian port of Hobart. The vessel was returning to Hobart from the French Antarctic research base of Dumont D'Urville. After a search of the vessel and sea, the crew member was found in the ocean near the position of the vessel at the time he was last seen on board. When found, he was deceased.

In the subsequent operation to recover the deceased crew member, the second engineer suffered a severe laceration to his right hand, almost severing the thumb, when it became caught between the lifeboat fall block and the hook assembly on the after end of the lifeboat.

L'Astrolabe continued its voyage to Hobart where it berthed on the morning of 28 January. The deceased crew member was taken ashore by local authorities. The second engineer was admitted to hospital and underwent bone graft surgery that evening to reattach his thumb.

The report concludes that the crew member jumped or fell overboard after a period of time during which he was exhibiting signs of being depressed. Neither the fall block nor the suspension ring had 'hand holds' attached to them, necessitating the crew in the lifeboat to manhandle the blocks and rings directly.

It is also considered that, while L'Astrolabe was not required to have foul weather recovery strops on board, their presence would have removed the danger swinging fall blocks presented to the lifeboat crew.

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[ Download PDF: 1.32MB]
General details
Date: 27 January 2005 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: UTC +11  
Location:Southern Ocean Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: International Occurrence type: Fatality 
Release date: 27 March 2006  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: Fatal 
Vessel details
Vessel: L'Astrolabe 
Flag: FAT 
IMO: 8418198 
Type of Operation: Multi-purpose offshore support vessel 
Damage to Vessel: Minor 
Departure point:Hobart
Fatal: 1001
Serious: 1001
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Last update 19 May 2016