Researcher at work

Preparing for a voyage

You have been informed you are going on a research voyage on Investigator. So what happens next?

As a member of a science team you will have a manager called a Lead Principal Investigator.  If there is only one science team then this person will also most likely be the Chief Scientist.  If there is more than one science team then the Chief Scientist will often be one of the Lead Principal Investigators on board.

The Chief Scientist will be in charge of all the science teams on the voyage and be responsible for planning the scientific operations on the voyage.

To assist the Chief Scientist, a Voyage Operations Manager from the Marine National Facility will be appointed to the voyage. They will assist in planning, mobilisation, demobilisation and all voyage and post-voyage reporting responsibilities.

On a voyage there will be voyage participants (science teams, MNF support staff) and the marine crew.  Voyage participants will normally work with their Lead Principal Investigator or the Chief Scientist.

There are three types of voyages and depending on which one you are on will determine if you require a pre-voyage medical examination and what type of medical.

When preparing for a voyage there are many things to consider.  Below are some of the issues - more information is available in the Participants Manual.


What you take will depend on the region you will be operating in.  Investigator can operate from the tropics down to the ice edge of Antarctica.  Taking the right mix of clothes is important.

On voyages that go above 50oS special clothing will be required for the colder conditions in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.  This will be coordinated through the Voyage Operations Manager to ensure everyone has what they need.

There are washing machines and dryers on the vessel but water is limited so you will need to be careful in their use.


There are no shops on board so it is important that you take adequate consumables such as toiletries and medications for the voyage.

Investigator is a dry ship so there is no alcohol or illegal drugs allowed on board.


The vessel has lounge rooms with televisions and DVD players.  There is also a fully equipped gym.

Most people take books, music and movies to watch in their own time.  For music players, radios and computers used for sound or video, headphones are recommended to avoid disturbing others.


There is limited storage on the vessel so you will need to pack light.  Take only soft luggage that can be easily carried down narrow corridors and through watertight doors with high sills, and can be stowed away in a small space.


Current passports with at least six months left before expiry should always be carried if the voyage goes outside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Even if not entering another country’s waters, there may be a need to medivac someone who is ill or injured to the closest hospital and that may not be in Australia.

Sea sickness and medications

Sea sickness is a possibility so be prepared by bringing adequate medication and remedies.

If you take medications ensure you have enough for the voyage plus additional to cover any possible delays in return. A good practice is to take at least 50% more than you need for the period.


The vessel operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Some people sleep well on a ship and others take time to adjust.  A good idea is to take ear plugs and an eye masks to block out the light. The latter is particularly useful if you are working at night and trying to sleep during the day.

Social media

Satellite bandwidth is limited and expensive from the vessel.  It is used for a wide range of vessel functions so what is available for personal use needs to be controlled.

There is email on board but large incoming or outgoing files may be blocked and attract charges.  Social media and internet phone services from personal computers are not allowed so you will need to plan accordingly.

Let your family and friends know what is happening so they have realistic expectations about your communications.

Taking work for the quiet periods

On most voyages there are quiet periods as the vessel steams to the work area or is returning to port.  As you may be away for several weeks, consider what work you can do in the quiet periods and make sure you have the necessary files with you.


Do not forget your water bottle! There are filling stations around the vessel.


You will be at sea, so if you forget something you cannot jump in your car and go down to the shops. What you do not have, you will have to do without once on the voyage.

Updated: 20 November 2018