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Voyage Number


Voyage Dates

30 Jun, 2021 to 29 Jul, 2021

Voyage Location

Darwin to Hobart

Chief Scientist

Dr Tim O'Hara


Museums Victoria

CSIRO has taken the difficult decision to suspend the current voyage of research vessel (RV) Investigator. Please refer to the following statement:

Statement about RV Investigator Indian Ocean voyage [Issued 20 July 2021]

Research voyage from Darwin to Fremantle, traveling via Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands to undertake a marine biodiversity survey of the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) that belong to Australia.

We know almost nothing about the biodiversity values of Australia’s IOT around the remote Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This project will undertake a world-first investigation of the marine biodiversity of the massive underwater mountains (seamounts) that make up these islands. These seamounts are mostly of late Cretaceous age (65-80 million years ago) and may harbour ancient endemic communities. Marine habitats on seamounts are also easily damaged by human activities and this voyage will gather important data for their conservation and management. The Australian Government has recently announced a process to create new marine parks in these regions. An experienced team of scientists will describe the marine life from these remote seamounts, use advanced DNA techniques to study their origin, and evaluate the conservation significance of these unexplored habitats.

The voyage will be led by Dr Tim O'Hara from Museums Victoria and is being conducted in partnership with Parks Australia, as well as leading Australian museums and research collections including the Australian National Fish Collection.

There will be two other projects included on this voyage:

  • Exploring the genomics of convergent snout elongations in deep-sea fishes (Dr Will White, CSIRO - not on voyage)
  • Bush Blitz outreach program (Dr Kate Grarock, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

The science team on this voyage includes 33 participants from eight institutions, including three Australian museums and three Australian universities.

Map showing voyage track (red) and existing Australian Marine Parks (green).

COVID-19 Protocols

To safeguard the health and well-being of participants, strict COVID-19 protocols will apply to all activities on this voyage, including testing of all participants for COVID-19 prior to departure.

For further information about the MNF COVID-19 Protocols, visit Restart of at-sea operations following COVID-19 shutdown

Voyage outcomes

Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) differ from all other Australian maritime environments in that they are remote localities in the western Indian Ocean. They support numerous ancient seamounts and islands emerging from an abyssal oceanic seafloor. The IOT experience the full intensity of the south equatorial current, powered by the strong flows from the Pacific via the Indonesian Through Flow (ITF) as well as the circulating south and north Indian Ocean gyres. They were considered highly likely to support distinct biotic unique communities within the Australian marine estate.

In June 2021, the Australian Government announced its intention to create two new large marine parks in the Exclusive Economic Zone in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories around Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. These regions were a major geographic gap in National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA).

Except for inshore waters around the islands, very little was known about marine life in this region prior to this voyage. Consequently, Parks Australia provided operational funding for voyages to the region in order to obtain data on offshore conservation values for inclusion in future management plans. 

Voyage media

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