Instrumentation aboard RV Investigator

By June 6th, 2018

By: Thomas Coad

Whilst travelling on board RV Investigator, one has the opportunity to engage with user-friendly interfaces and beautiful audio-visual displays of underway data. Whilst one might be inclined to breeze past these, not sparing a thought to the underlying mechanics behind such a complex collation of scientific instrumentation, Educators on Board had the opportunity to peel back the curtain and have a chat with the wizard behind Investigator’s suite of seagoing operations.

Will Ponsonby is an electrical engineer onboard Investigator who’s primary responsibility surrounds that of seagoing instrumentation. Will facilitates the installation, integration, calibration, maintenance and repairs of an array of onboard systems required in scientific data collection. He is also one of the persons involved in the modification and mounting of generic instrumentation lacking the degree of robustness required for seamless integration. Will states that one of his main engineering objectives aboard Investigator is to design and implement systems that are user friendly and increase automation, thus reducing the impact of human error on the quality of data collected.

Inspired by a close friend who was an engineer, Will pursued his dream through the completion of a Diploma of Electronic Engineering at TAFE in Hobart Tasmania. Following this, Will worked his way through a variety of jobs, including working for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Darwin. Whilst Will’s vision of working aboard Investigator began as a means to return to his island home of Tasmania, it rapidly evolved into a passion for adventure and a love for life at sea.

Nearing five years with Investigator, Will’s most beloved aspect of his job is that the only constant is change. With continuous rotations of researchers and operations personnel from various institutes and universities, there are always new stories to hear and knowledge to be gained. Among Will’s many adventures, one of his most memorable voyages involved the sampling of the abyssal zone off Australia’s East coast. This voyage sampled depths up to 4800m and collected over 100 fish species, many of which had never before been identified in Australian waters. Among these was one particularly memorable yet peculiar species known as the faceless fish. Having the opportunities to be part of such discovery, as well as working alongside experts in their respective fields, is just another reason why Will loves his job.

Will suggests that if you have a love for engineering, scientific discovery and working with new and exciting people, then a place aboard a scientific research vessel might be for you.