Researcher Profile: Phil Vandenbossche
By Jamie Menzies
Today the Geophysical Survey and Mapping (GSM) team, responsible for helping the Science Team map the seafloor, had one of their instruments bitten by a shark (probably). Find out about one of the Investigator’s GSM scientists, Phil Vandenbossche, Marine Geophysicist/Hydrographic Surveyor.
Can you describe what your job involves on board the RV Investigator?
My job involves supporting the Science Team on board by providing mapping and geophysical support, such as making maps of the seafloor and supplying geophysical voyage data. Every voyage is different so the work I do is pretty varied, but the multibeam bathymetry systems are something that are always running, as is the sub-bottom profiler and the water column systems. These help scientists see what the shape of the seafloor looks like, what type of material is down there and what the water column consists of. The Geophysical Survey and Mapping (GSM) team keep this happening all the time, and it is the mandate on the ship to always collect this data wherever we go in Australian waters.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Getting to explore new parts of the seafloor. A lot of the places we visit are uncharted and have never been mapped before – new seamounts, lots of interesting features in this detail.
What inspired you to a career in marine science?
I’ve always been a keen surfer so have always loved the ocean and geography was my favourite subject in school which of course involved a lot of mapping. Also, my mother worked for the Oceanographic Research Institute in South Africa, and had the privilege of meeting underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau which interested me growing up. A career in ocean science was always something I was drawn towards.
What qualifications and previous experience led you to working on the RV Investigator?
My scientific background was originally in physical oceanography, and after university I worked offshore in the oil and gas industry, and then joined the Council for Geoscience (formerly the Geological Survey) in South Africa where I began my career in geophysics. Through on the job training I learnt more about marine geophysics and hydrographic surveying, after which I completed a masters degree in the subject. After many years working in the survey industry worldwide, I joined CSIRO and have been supporting RV Investigator voyages for the past 15 months.
What has been your most memorable experience at sea?
I was part of a large survey team searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean, on a vessel called Go Phoenix and thereafter Dong Hai Jui 101. We used deep tow Synthetic Aperture SONAR towing up to 9 kilometers of cable very close to the seafloor. This accurate mapping technique was the only feasible way to search for the aircraft following a multibeam survey. We had to ‘fly’ the towed body and steer it over and around underwater seamounts, which was very intense and exciting.
How many science cruises have you participated in?
I’ve participated in very many coastal surveys and longer deep sea voyages throughout my career. It’s taken me from the African jungle in tiny boats on rivers and lakes to the exciting scientific voyages of the RV Investigator. I enjoy working on Investigator as no two voyages are the same.
What skills are necessary to cope with a long voyage at sea onboard the RV Investigator?
Working well within a team, and coping with being away from home for extended periods of time. You don’t get to choose the people you work with but so far the scientists and crew of Investigator have always been lots of fun to work with.
This is the perfect job for someone who…
loves spending time at sea, enjoys marine science and has a sense of adventure.