Day 8: An all-nighter!

By October 11th, 2019

By Greta Creed

The timing of science on board the RV Investigator follows a timetable of arrival at a location, rather than office hours. Last night, scientists pulled an all-nighter at Wessel Marine Park located offshore from the Wessel Island archipelago (Northern Territory). Data was actively collected for four projects, with a large number of scientists and other participants, crew, Marine National Facility technical staff and the Educators on Board involved.

Little data had previously been collected about the seafloor or the range of habitats in Wessel Marine Park. However, that changed overnight. The ship’s multibeam echosounding equipment was used as the ship followed a systematic track off Cape Wessel. In doing so, a near blank canvas became more filled with detail about the seafloor.

Launching the Deep Tow Camera. Photo: Chris La Rosa

Launching the Deep Tow Camera. Photo: Chris La Rosa.

The Deep Tow Camera, an array of still and video cameras, was lowered overboard four times throughout the night. From this, imagery and data about some of Wessel’s marine habitat was collected. Life forms observed include a range of soft corals, sea stars, fish, squid, stingrays and sponges. The transects surveyed proved to be quite turbid, with lots of sediment movement due to currents.

The CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) rosette was also deployed twice to collect water samples amidst the mapping and camera work. And while the ship was stationary for the CTD, further samples were collected for the Trichodesmium project.

Trichodesmium in Wessel Marine Park. Photo: Greta Creed.

Trichodesmium in Wessel Marine Park. Photo: Greta Creed.

So much data! So many participants! So many coffee cups! And so many hours of lost sleep. It was amazing to share the Operations Room with people who were all equally fascinated by what life forms lay on the sea floor. The team work involved in ensuring that each project was able to continue unhindered by the needs of the others was also wonderful to observe. It was also fascinating to observe the seamless operation of the ship where project requirements required changes in the ship’s speed from stationary to up to 8 knots when mapping. I have also discovered the ideal job for those of you who are amazing at working game consoles – remotely driving a camera array at a depth of 1m above the seafloor.

As dawn broke, those of us who were still awake went up to Deck 5 to observe the sunrise over Wessel. Others got up to commence their new day of data collection for ongoing projects. Needless to say, there were lots of naps taken once the ship was underway, heading for the final destination of Darwin.

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