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.

Continue reading

A long lost message in a bottle

An old bottle found recently on a West Australian beach contained a message from 1886. Image: ©<a href="www.kymillman.com">Kym Ilman</a>. 

An old bottle found recently on a West Australian beach contained a message from 1886. Image: © Kym Ilman.

On the 12th of June 1886, a crew member of the German barque Paula performed what was a routine task on voyages around the world at the time – he dropped a tightly sealed glass bottle, containing a piece of paper, overboard. The paper was a printed form letter that was filled out with hand-written details of the ship and its location. It included instructions for anyone who might find the bottle washed ashore: they were requested to send the note to the Deutsche Seewarte (German Maritime Meteorology Institute) in Hamburg, or to their local German Consulate.

In early 2018, 132 years after the Paula’s note had been dropped in the ocean, a Western Australian woman Tonya Illman was strolling along the sand dunes on a beach near Wedge Island, 180 kilometres north of Perth. She noticed something sticking out of the sand, it was the Paula‘s message in a bottle, still with the paper inside and with some hand-writing still faintly legible. Tonya had stumbled across the longest known unfound message in a bottle in the world.

Continue reading