Cool photos from the Antarctic ice-edge taken on board RV Investigator

On the recent voyage to the Antarctic ice-edge on board the Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator, one of our IT specialists, Stewart Wilde took some great photos.

He also managed to capture the Aurora Australis, which was  no mean feat while on a moving research vessel!

Check out the very cool photos! (pun intended)

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Investigator completes cold water trials in Antarctic waters

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The new Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator has returned to Hobart after successfully completing its cold water trials, which took the vessel to 65°S 146°E, which is about 2,500 km south of Hobart.

The Executive Director of the project to build and test the vessel, Toni Moate said the voyage to the ice-edge tested out key capabilities of the ship, to ensure the vessel can operate in low water temperatures.

The ship has been designed to operate in water temperatures of -2ºC to +32ºC, from the Antarctic ice edge to the tropics.

“On this cold water commissioning voyage we tested everything from the winches to the dynamic positioning system, to make sure they were operational in very cold conditions,” Ms Moate said.

The voyage left Hobart in late January and returned this week. Work that occurred on board included:

  • Commissioning equipment in the Atmospheric and Air Chemistry Laboratories. Investigator is the first Australian research vessel to have laboratories dedicated to collecting aerosol data.
  • Testing and opportunistic seafloor and sub-seafloor sonar mapping in areas not previously surveyed.
  • Testing and opportunistic gravity meter readings, which will improve understanding of the crustal structure of the region
  • Operating on-deck scientific equipment handling systems such as winches, A-Frame, coring boom and CTD boom.
  • Operating communications systems and video conferencing live from the ice-edge.
  • Testing cold water survival and ship manoeuvring systems.

One of the Marine National Facility’s Operations Officers, Max McGuire, was on board for the voyage.

“It’s the most southerly voyage any Marine National Facility vessel has ever travelled, so everyone was really excited to reach the 65 degree south line, which is around 90 nautical miles from the Antarctic continent,” Mr McGuire said.

On board were scientists from the Queensland University of Technology, Melbourne University, CSIRO and the University of Wollongong, who were testing atmospheric research capabilities and equipment.

Under direction of an independent Steering Committee, the Marine National Facility is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation.

Investigator’s first research voyage is scheduled to leave Hobart on 22 March to deploy deep sea oceanographic moorings in the Southern Ocean. The voyage is a collaboration between the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, the Integrated Marine Observing System, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and will be led by CSIRO’s Professor Tom Trull.

Ocean research vessel returns from the ice edge with first-of-its-kind atmospheric measurements

RV Investigator's cold water trial voyage


Scientists have commissioned Australia’s first permanent ship-based labs to study the influence of both natural ocean emissions and human emissions on the composition of air over the Southern Ocean.

The research will generate the most complete picture of the atmosphere over the Southern Ocean to date, and improve our ability to predict future changes to Australian weather and climate by measuring the smallest of atmospheric particles – with a diameter less than a thousandth of a human hair – which have a profound influence on both human health and climate.

Scientists from QUT, the University of Melbourne, CSIRO and University of Wollongong were on board CSIRO’s new $120 million research vessel Investigator, which has just returned to Australia from Antarctica’s ice edge (65 degrees south) after testing how the vessel and its systems performed in frigid water temperatures.

“Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air which cloud and fog droplets cling to – without aerosols, clouds and fog simply cannot form,” said QUT Institute for Future Environments researcher Professor Zoran Ristovski, who helped design and test the labs.

“Clouds play a big part in climate modelling due to their ability to reflect incoming sunlight back into space.

“The Southern Ocean is a key driver for Australia’s climate and weather – understanding more about the atmosphere in this part of the world will allow us to create far more accurate climate models for this region.”

The Aerosol Laboratory contains specialised equipment to measure even the smallest of particles, less than one nanometre – a billionth of a metre – in diameter, while the Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory contains instruments to analyse the composition of the atmosphere in detail, including trace amounts of gasses from human activities.

Dr Robyn Schofield from the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences led a team that launched 10 meteorological balloons from the ship, in the demanding conditions of the Southern Ocean.

“We used this voyage, in part, to plan for future scientific voyages that will be examining storm fronts over the Southern Ocean,” Dr Schofield said.

“Being so far from populated areas, atmospheric data collection in the Southern Ocean to date has been difficult and these labs will make a real difference to the quality of observations to test our climate models.

“Our politicians depend on accurate climate models to make good decisions about our future.

“The unique data sets these laboratories will provide will give the most complete picture of the atmosphere over the Southern Ocean and significantly improve our ability to predict future changes to Australian weather and climate.”

Atmospheric research scientist Dr Melita Keywood, from CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, said the equipment in the laboratories performed above expectations.

“The instruments ran extremely well during the voyage, and we collected some really interesting data which show us the influence of both natural ocean emissions and of human emissions on the composition of air over the Southern Ocean,” Dr Keywood said.

“The Aerosol Laboratory is located in the ship’s bow, underneath the mast to minimise any sampling losses. We weren’t sure how its instruments would cope in 10-metre waves until we tried it.”

Investigator is a 94-metre purpose-built research vessel, capable of travelling 60,000 nautical miles in a single voyage, carrying up to 40 scientists and support staff, from the equator to the Antarctic ice-edge.

The Marine National Facility is a blue-water research capability funded by the Australian Government. Under direction of an independent Steering Committee, it is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation.

Collecting samples with nets on board RV Investigator!

Marine biologists on board Investigator will be able to study ocean life, including things like phytoplankton, sea cucumbers, worms, crabs, jellyfish, squids, sponges, and algae, and commercial fishery species like southern bluefin tuna.

They’ll collect samples to better understand the life cycle and ecosystems of marine plants and animals.

Why don’t you check out the animation that explains how?

MNF – RV Investigator – Collecting samples with nets

Fancy a tour of RV Investigator?

Australia’s new Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator looks pretty spectacular inside and out!

Why don’t you come on a tour with one of the MNF’s Operations Officers, Max McGuire?

RV Investigator – tour with Max McGuire transcript


Season’s Greetings

Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane tours RV Investigator

The Welcome to Port Celebrations were absolutely fantastic on Friday 12 December, starting with our Minister, the Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane, touring the new Marine National Facility research vessel, Investigator.

The Minister declared the ship to be the best research vessel in the world and we’re inclined to agree!

Check out the photos!


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