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Management through measurement

Much of Australia's vast ocean territory is unknown, with less than 25% of it mapped to a modern standard. There is an extensive array of advanced geophysical instrumentation on RV Investigator that allows bathymetric, biological and geophysical data to be collected in 3D and faster than ever before. The combination of systems allows high quality and quantity data to be collected from any ocean depth in our marine estate, from shallow coastal regions to full ocean depth.

Seafloor map of Frederick Reef in Coral Sea.

Many of these systems are housed in the vessel's gondola, a wing-like structure suspended beneath the hull that is designed to minimise acoustic interference and ensure best performance from these systems. The vessel also has two drop keels, which carry an array of scientific instruments.

All datasets collected on voyage are made accessible for the benefit of researchers, resource managers and other decision-makers to better inform the conservation and management of Australia's marine estate. As well as making this data publicly accessible, we also contribute to both national and international programs, including AusSeabed and the AODN Portal.

Key equipment and capabilities

RV Investigator is equipped with a range of fixed and portable acoustic equipment. Housed in the vessel gondola are two multibeam echosounders, a sub-bottom profiler, and a multibeam water column bio-acoustic echosounder.  Further acoustic equipment is housed in vessel’s drop-keels or can be added to meet voyage research needs.

Multibeam echosounders

RV Investigator has three different discrete multibeam echosounders (MBES), two of which are permanently mounted in the gondola (Kongsberg EM 122 and Kongsberg EM 710 systems) and one portable system which can be added to the drop keel (Kongsberg EM2040c system).

The Kongsberg EM122 is a deep-water bathymetry system, which works best from 300-400 m to full ocean depth. The area of seafloor mapped in a single pass can be up to six times the water depth, delivering a strip (swath) up to 30 km wide at full ocean depth.

The Kongsberg EM710 is designed for acquiring high-resolution, relatively shallow bathymetry and backscatter data on the continental shelf. It works best to 600-700 m depth but can work to a maximum depth of 2000 m.

The Kongsberg EM2040c is a portable system which can be fitted to the vessel drop keel to capture high resolution imagery in shallow water up to 600 m.

Geophysical equipment

A Sub-Bottom Profiler (SBP) on the gondola can be used to investigate the thickness and composition of the sediments and rocks that make up the seabed to a depth of 24 m. The SBP can be operated in conjunction with either the EM710 and the EM122 multibeam systems.

A gyroscopically stablised gravity meter is in the centre of the vessel and used to measure variations in the Earth's gravitational field.

Bio-acoustic equipment

The vessel has a range of bio-acoustic equipment for fisheries and biological research. This consists of a scientific echo sounder for estimating fish abundance and plankton, a high definition fish finding sonar for finding and identifying fish and a scientific multibeam echo sounder for water column analysis.

A Kongsberg EK60 singlebeam scientific echo sounder can be used to target many different fish species for biomass estimation in the water column.

A fish finding sonar is designed to locate a range of fish including those located near the surface and close to the bottom without the need for passing over the fish.

A ME70 scientific multibeam echosounder located in the gondola combines the large and flexible sampling volume of the multibeam swath with the accuracy of the quantitative scientific echo sounder. This system spreads a signal in a fan shape to 120 degrees, collecting data to 500 m depth and 3000 m wide.

Access the data

The Marine National Facility provides specialist support on each voyage to operate on board systems and process, interpret and visualise bathymetric, biological and geophysical datasets. 

Find out more about our data products.

See how we're putting our seafloor on the map

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