On 8 January 2016 the CSIRO research vessel Investigator left Fremantle for a major IMAS voyage to research the link between active volcanoes on the seafloor and the mobilisation of iron which enriches and supports life in the Southern Ocean.
Led by IMAS Professor Mike Coffin as Chief Scientist, the voyage to the subantarctic Heard and McDonald Islands will systematically map the seafloor on the Kerguelen Plateau.
This research will allow identification of submarine volcanoes and the source of iron-enriched waters which support phytoplankton blooms, the foundation for marine life which contribute at least half of the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere.
Concluding in Hobart on 27 February, the international collaboration includes 26 scientists and students from IMAS, the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, the University of Tasmania, ANU, CSIRO, the University of New South Wales, the Pierre and Marie Curie University/CNRS's (France) Microbial Oceanography Laboratory (LOMIC), the University of Western Brittany's (France) European Institute for Marine Studies (IUEM), and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.
This Project is supported through funding from the Australian Government's Australian Research Council and Australian Antarctic Science Grant Program.
Follow the voyage
Already scientists on board Investigator have witnessed an eruption of the Big Ben volcano on Heard Island and taken unique footage and high-quality photos of this rarely seen event.
They've also identified more than 50 potential underwater hydrothermal plumes using shipboard sonar systems that image the seafloor and water column.
They're now using a deep-tow camera to photograph and video the sea floor, and are carrying out water and seafloor sampling to establish if the plumes represent hydrothermal systems associated with active underwater volcanoes.
RV Investigator is owned and operated by CSIRO on behalf of the nation and available to all scientists employed by an Australian research organisation and their international collaborators.
Investigator is a 94 metre purpose-built research vessel, capable of travelling 10,000 nm in a single voyage, accommodating up to 40 scientists and support staff, from the equator to the Antarctic ice-edge. Find out more at www.mnf.csiro.au or www.csirofrvblog.com