Image of the Master of the RV Kaharoa, Capt Evan Solly, and Australian Argo project leader, Dr Susan Wijffels, hold a plaque presented to the ship for its contribution to 'seeding' the oceans with more than 400 robotic profiling floats.

The Master of the RV Kaharoa, Capt Evan Solly, and Australian Argo project leader, Dr Susan Wijffels, hold a plaque presented to the ship for its contribution to 'seeding' the oceans with more than 400 robotic profiling floats.

Littlest ship an ‘ocean science giant’

Reference: 06/225

Australian climate scientists in Hobart and their international colleagues are celebrating the feats of a tiny New Zealand research vessel that is transforming the study of oceans and climate in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • 10 November 2006

Measuring just 28 metres from stem to stern, the Kaharoa, is operated by the National Institute of Water and the Atmosphere (NIWA).

The Kaharoa has earned its fame among global climate and oceanography communities by deploying more robotic ocean profilers – called Argo floats – than any other research vessel. 

Of the 2,573 floats reporting every 10 days on sub-surface ocean conditions, the Kaharoa has deployed more than 400 Argo floats in the past three years in remote parts of the South Pacific and Indian oceans.

"This is an especially significant effort that is allowing scientists to get a handle on ocean conditions in the Australasian region," says Australian Argo project leader, Dr Susan Wijffels, from the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship.

She said the distribution of heat in our neighbouring oceans strongly affects Australian rainfall and the Indian-Australian monsoon season.  When fully developed, the Argo network will provide a climate warning system.

“The Argo program is primarily reliant on commercial, naval and research vessels to deploy the robotic instruments, however, in nearby ocean basins such as the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans, shipping traffic is limited. We have therefore had to rely in great part on the Kaharoa to deploy New Zealand and US robotic profilers on trans-Pacific and trans-Indian Ocean voyages, and well south into the Southern Ocean,” Dr Wijffels says.

The Kaharoa’s Argo deployment voyages are jointly sponsored by US Argo and NIWA. US Argo is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the University of Washington and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).

“The Argo program is primarily reliant on commercial, naval and research vessels to deploy the robotic instruments, however, in nearby ocean basins such as the Southern, Indian and Pacific Oceans, shipping traffic is limited.”

US coordinator, Dr Dean Roemmich, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography UCSD, says without this collaboration, Argo coverage of the little-travelled mid-South Pacific Ocean could not have been achieved.

Australia presently has 105 floats, with commitments to deploy another 50 or so in the next 12 months.

The ship’s Master, Capt Evan Solly, and his crew of four will be the centre of attention at a welcoming function at CSIRO Marine Laboratories tonight.

NB News Editors - Broadcast quality footage and photographs of recent deployments are available at http://www.argo.net/argo.net.

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