With a blast of the ship’s horn and three cheers from the gathered crowd, our research vessel (RV) Investigator recently departed for a major milestone – its 100th voyage!
Since the ship arrived at CSIRO just under a decade ago, there have been amazing discoveries and a bounty of important data collected on board to better understand our oceans and atmosphere.
To celebrate the milestone, we asked two members of our Marine National Facility team to share some of their favourite memories and discoveries from these 100 voyages.
Let’s toot our own horn.
Going back to the future
RV Investigator burst onto the marine science scene back in 2014. After a two-year build, this shiny new science ship’s first voyage was its delivery from Singapore to Hobart, its home port.
Hugh Barker was on board that first voyage. With a touch of serendipity (or perhaps good planning), Hugh is also on the 100th voyage.
No one from our team has spent more time on RV Investigator than Hugh. He’s been out at sea for more than 600 days on 35 separate voyages.
In that time, Hugh has literally travelled from the equator to the Antarctic ice edge on the ship. This means he’s been an important part of some epic voyages and big discoveries. In addition to the delivery voyage,
Hugh's memorable moments have included:
- visiting Heard Island in the Southern Ocean on the ship’s first extended voyage and seeing Big Ben erupt
- travelling to the ice edge on the ship’s first Antarctic research voyage
- discovering the wreck of SS Macumba during a transit voyage to Darwin, especially as he was the Voyage Manager on that trip.
However, Hugh said one of his biggest highlights was on the 2017 Antarctic voyage when a humpback whale was ‘spy hopping’ next to the ship. Spy hopping is when a whale pokes its eye above the water to see what’s going on above the waves.
"Making eye contact with a whale is a pretty remarkable thing, especially with icebergs in the background!" Hugh said.
So, what does Hugh do? Most of the time, he’s a senior technical officer onboard, looking after the ship’s impressive IT systems and all the data collected. No small job given the ship collects about 20 terabytes of data every year. Hugh also sometimes works as a Voyage Manager on board.
The Odyssey of a Voyage Manager
Margot Hind first joined RV Investigator as a student on a research voyage. Now she leads them!
Margot is one of our Voyage Managers, who leads epic journeys at sea for us. Put simply, Voyage Managers, or VMs as they’re known, are responsible for looking after everything and everyone on board.
While being one of the newest members of the team, Margot’s already been involved in several major voyages and discoveries. Some of her most memorable moments include:
- a world-first voyage to explore the marine life of the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands, particularly as it was Margot’s first voyage as VM
- collecting over 700 shark teeth in a dredge from the seafloor during a surprising final operation of a voyage
- confirming the location of the MV Blythe Star and then immediately doing a sweeping pass at sunset up the Tasmanian coastline for seafloor mapping.
Margot said while that last memory was pretty special, all time spent at sea is memorable. No matter what the voyage.
"The thing that always sticks out is the comradery on board, with every voyage a special and unique experience," Margot said.
“Even after eight weeks in the Southern Ocean on my first voyage as a student, the love of it didn’t wear off and it sparked something that led me to my current role.”
Next January, Margot will be leading another epic voyage on RV Investigator. It will be a 60-day research voyage to study the ocean and atmosphere around Antarctica. This will be the longest single voyage ever done by the ship.
That's ferry impressive
One of the remarkable features of these 100 voyages has been the diversity – the people and partners, the destinations, and the science outcomes delivered. One month, RV Investigator might be among the icebergs in Antarctica and the next month chasing storms in the tropics!
Joining us onboard have been more than 1300 participants from 130 institutions in our collaborative science teams, including more than 270 students. This also includes international collaborators from more than 20 countries.
So far, the ship has travelled about 460,000 kilometres on its science voyages. This is equivalent to 12 trips around the planet.
Plank you very much
One hundred voyages is only the start for RV Investigator. It is still several years away from the halfway mark of its intended lifespan. Many more discoveries and memorable moments await our intrepid science teams aboard Australia’s dedicated ocean research vessel.
Thanks to all those who have collaborated in this journey so far – including our amazing ship’s officers and crew – to deliver this ship ton of science!