Profile: Nigel Townsend

By June 5th, 2018

By: Chad King

Lieutenant Commander Nigel Townsend is a Staff Officer Quality Control at the Australian Hydrographic Office. After joining the Navy, he undertook a Marine Science degree, and then qualified as a seaman officer driving ships. Shortly after, he joined the hydrographic service and completed additional training to become navigator, before qualifying as a Level one hydrographic surveyor.

As the current Chief Scientist on board the RV Investigator, Lieutenant Commander Townsend’s role is to act as the Client Representative and Senior Charge Surveyor to provide quality control of all data being collected that will be uploaded onto the Australian survey charts. On this current voyage, the primary role is to update the hydrographic survey coverage in this region as it is a high-density shipping channel. Previous charts collected in circa 1970’s used a single beam echo sounder which collects data at a line spacing of about 200m but now this information will be improved upon using a multibeam echo sounder which is collecting full coverage with multiple points per metre.

Some of the personal qualities that Lieutenant Commander Townsend feels would benefit from someone who wants to spend time at sea include being able to deal with motion and also being confined on ship. In his experience he finds that some people find it alien, whilst some find it engaging, so “either you take to it or you don’t”. The favourite thing about his job is spending periods of time out at sea, as well as collecting the data and putting all the pieces together to get to the final product of what the seafloor looks like.

Whilst he admits that surveying can be a little tedious at times, Lieutenant Commander Townsend states that you have to keep the bigger picture in mind, be methodical, have an eye for quality and strong desire to map an area and see what is there. Moreover, he believes that this is the perfect job for someone who has a sense of adventure, wants to do something different (mix of office work and trips to sea) and ideally for someone who loves the water.