top of page

Survival Suits in Malina Bay

August 23, 2023

The students practice putting on their survival suits.

We carry more than the minimum required safety gear on the Endeavour. We have life jackets, throw lines, flares, a go-bag, a self-inflating life raft, radios, an EPIRB (a self-deploying distress beacon that gives our location and the ship’s identity to a satellite network), and we have survival suits.

Survival suits are oversized red rubber wetsuits with built-in hoods, inflatable collars, boots, and gloves. They look ridiculous but they save lives. The colder the water, the more important they are. Even if you have a life raft bobbing nearby, a survival suit gives you time to climb on board the raft. The trick, though, is getting your suit on, and knowing how to help someone else get theirs on. This takes a little practice.

Before crossing the open water of Shelikof Strait, we anchored in Malina Bay on Afognak Island. Sarah, my crewperson, climbed into her survival suit, showing the kids how it is done, and then we had the kids put theirs on. Each of them helped someone else. Then they all jumped in the water and flopped around, looking like bloated vermillion rockfish, laughing and splashing at each other.

But it wasn’t just fun. I know a woman who some years ago was on a crabbing boat that sank. She had a survival suit, her companion didn’t. She floated for hours and then reached shore and survived two more days, protected by that rubber suit. She was rescued. Her companion was never found.

Safety is knowing what to worry about and how to prepare for it.

-- Bill Urschel

Safety training in Malina Bay.


Ray Troll – paleontologist, ichthyologist, musician, storyteller, and Alaska’s most beloved artist – has just published a collection of his artwork called The Fin Art of Ray Troll. He once gave a slide show on the Endeavour of a few hundred pieces of his artwork, and we all wanted him to slow down so we could absorb it. This book lets you absorb it, and it is magnificent. Click on the image below to visit Ray’s site and buy this book! It is a masterpiece.

bottom of page