RV Investigator update – leaping multiple projects in a single bound

By Matt Marrison

7 April 2016

Radiosonde weather balloon goes up, up and away.

Our radiosonde weather balloon goes up, up and away. Image: Stewart Wilde.

Don’t be fooled, Investigator’s mild-mannered steel exterior hides a custom-built super ship packed with enough technology to rival the Batmobile.

Demonstrating this capability, Investigator recently broke new ground in ‘blue-water’ research by tackling not one, not two, but three major projects in a single voyage.

Undertaking multiple major projects around Australia’s vast marine estate has previously not been possible, but for Investigator it’s just another busy day at sea.

The current projects include a suite of studies to collect information about Southern Ocean carbon dioxide cycles, atmospheric composition, and eddy patterns. This important research will help increase our understanding of ocean and atmosphere interactions, and the impacts of climate change.

The studies have been putting state-of-the-art equipment to good use: not just the equipment aboard the Investigator, but equipment brought along by the research teams, as well as equipment already in the environment such as multi-year deep sea moorings and satellites for synchronising data.

The technology involved would make Batman envious!

Aurora Australis puts on a stunning show over the Southern Ocean, as seen from the Investigator.

Aurora Australis puts on a stunning show over the Southern Ocean, as seen from on board Investigator. Image: Robert Strzepek.

More than just a research platform, Investigator is also a safe home and workplace for a community of 40 intrepid researchers and support staff, and 20 marine crew who work together on voyages of up to 60 days.

The current team on board includes researchers from eight Australian and two international universities, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

As well as our own highly skilled people, of course!

These voyages into wild and remote areas may provide logistical and personal challenges, but they also foster an important spirit of collaboration, innovation and cooperation among those on board.

After all, you can’t swing by the local hardware store for a spare part when you’re in the middle of the Southern Ocean!

Our heroes on Investigator are all about getting the job done and the ship’s spirit of collaboration is fundamental to the science being undertaken.

And the benefits to the nation are up, up and away!

So where is Investigator right now?

Investigator departed Hobart on the current voyage on 15 March 2016 and is due to return in mid‑April.

Find out where the ship is by visiting the near real-time display of Investigator’s current position here.

And how can I do research on Investigator?

Investigator, as part of the Marine National Facility (MNF) is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation under direction of an independent Steering Committee.

The 78th MNF Steering Committee (MNFSC) meeting was held in Hobart on 26 February 2016.  At this meeting, important decisions were made about principles of access to Investigator as well as enhancements to the assessment of national benefit as part of the MNF applications process.  This information is of interest to existing and aspiring ship users in the Australian research community and their industrial and international collaborators.

The Communique from the MNFSC meeting is now available here.