PHOTOS: Australia's new $120 million research vessel Investigator in Antarctic waters

The Aurora Australis from the RV Investigator. Image: Marine National Facility and Stewart Wilde

RV Investigator, the new Marine National Facility research vessel, has returned to Hobart after successfully completing cold water trials south toward Antarctica.

The ship, a 94-metre purpose-built research vessel, capable of travelling 60,000 nautical miles in a single voyage, carrying up to 40 scientists and support staff, went to 65 degrees south which is about 2500km south of Hobart.

Toni Moate, the executive director of the project to build and test the vessel, said the voyage to the ice-edge tested out key capabilities to ensure the ship can operate in low water temperatures.

RV Investigator

The ship has been designed to operate in water temperatures of -2ºC to +32ºC, from the Antarctic ice edge to the tropics.

On board were scientists from the Queensland University of Technology, Melbourne University, CSIRO and the University of Wollongong, testing atmospheric research capabilities and equipment.

Deploying weather balloons from RV Investigator. Image: Marine National Facility and Stewart-Wilde

The research will generate the most complete picture of the atmosphere over the Southern Ocean to date and improve our ability to predict future changes to climate by measuring the smallest of atmospheric particles – with a diameter less than a thousandth of a human hair.

“Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air which cloud and fog droplets cling to – without aerosols, clouds and fog simply cannot form,” said QUT Institute for Future Environments researcher Professor Zoran Ristovski, who helped design and test the labs.

RV Investigator. Image: Marine National Facility and Stewart Wilde

“Clouds play a big part in climate modelling due to their ability to reflect incoming sunlight back into space.

“The Southern Ocean is a key driver for Australia’s climate and weather – understanding more about the atmosphere in this part of the world will allow us to create far more accurate climate models for this region.”

The Marine National Facility is owned and operated by CSIRO.

Investigator’s first research voyage is scheduled to leave Hobart on March 22 to deploy deep sea oceanographic moorings in the Southern Ocean.

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