RV Investigator: A science lab goes to sea

RV <em>Investigator</em> at sea. Image: Ben Arthur, CSIRO/Marine National Facility.

RV Investigator at sea. Image: Ben Arthur, CSIRO/Marine National Facility.

Investigating Australia’s oceans

Commander Matthew Flinders and the crew of HMS Investigator spent three years circumnavigating Australia. From 1801-1803 a team of British sailors, soldiers, artists and scientists and an Aboriginal man, Bungaree, from the Guringai area around Broken Bay, just north of Sydney, charted the coastline and analysed marine and terrestrial flora and fauna. To support scientific observations the ship was outfitted with a greenhouse, microscopes, and a library. The cartographic and hydrographic work conducted by HMS Investigator stands as a meticulous record of the natural composition of our coastal nation and its surrounding waters.

215 years later, at the behest of the Australian public, CSIRO Marine National Facility (MNF) blue-water research vessel RV Investigator, is rewriting history as it pieces together the most complete modern map of our territorial waters. It is capable of hosting 40 scientists on sea voyages up to 60 days over a 10,000 nautical mile radius from the icy waters of Macquarie Island to the Coral Sea. A modern version of its historic predecessor, RV Investigator is outfitted with laboratory spaces, acoustics and scientific winches to accommodate all aspects of atmospheric, oceanographic, biological and geosciences research. Plus, onboard cameras beam back live images from its current voyage every 10 minutes.

Here at the museum, we also have a keen interest in exploring the oceans; scientific and environmental issues and actions as well as cultural understandings of the ocean sphere. Luckily for me, I’ve recently started at the museum as the inaugural Curator of Ocean Science and Technology, just in time to score a berth on board the vessel for last week’s eight-day transit voyage (14-21 May 2018) from Brisbane to Hobart.

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