Recent upgrades to RV Investigator capability and systems

The recent long maintenance period has allowed several capability enhancements and system upgrades to be progressed on RV Investigator.

A key principle in the design of research vessel (RV) Investigator is modularity and flexibility. Supporting this is our capability investment framework, a forward-looking program of capability and system upgrades to ensure we meet the evolving needs of our marine research community.

The recent long maintenance period in port has allowed several capability enhancements and upgrades to be progressed, including progressing maintenance projects impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heavy ocean towing system
Two cranes on a ship suspend a long frame that looks like a girder over the ocean.

Testing of the new giant piston corer and core pipe handler during IN2021_E01. Image: John Hooper.

The heavy ocean towing system (HOTS) is a capability upgrade supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF). A new fibre optic cable has been installed on the vessel to allow fully instrumented deployments of heavy towed equipment down to 6500 m. This will more than double the previous achievable depth for such deployments. This significant upgrade is the first step in readying the vessel for more advanced deep-water research capabilities.

Upgrades to the towed body winch have also been completed with a new 6000 m wire installed. 

Deep piston corer

Coring cradle which holds the 24m giant piston corer for deployment and recovery. Image: Mark Lewis.

The deep piston coring capability has been upgraded to allow researchers to collect sediment cores up to 24 m long from 6000 m below the ocean surface. The new system includes a new Ocean Scientific International Ltd (OSIL) giant piston corer and Triplex core handling system that provides a more robust capability. The new system enhances the safety of coring operations with less manual handling and better recovery of usable sediment cores. This combined system is also in use on the JAMSTEC RV Kaimei and a similar system has been installed on RSV Nuyina , allowing for inter-operability of systems between the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and the MNF.

An upgrade to the vertical sediment winch will see an increased capability to 6000 m for deployments from this winch.

Seismic infrastructure

Load testing of the new trawl gallows on RV Investigator. Image: David Witzke.

Improvements to the fixed seismic infrastructure have been made on the vessel to improve modularity of this capability. The seismic lines have been rerouted to the port side to support efficient transition between deployments of large-scale equipment on the back deck, in particular transitioning between piston coring and seismic operations at sea. 

Additional capability upgrades

Other recent capability and system upgrades on RV Investigator include:

  • installation of new point of care COVID-19 test machine in the ship hospital, allowing immediate testing of symptomatic cases while at sea
  • upgrade of K-Bridge/K-Chief integrated software systems to provide enhancements to vessel control, navigation capability and safety of operations
  • IT upgrades to the PABX and Iridium Certus
  • upgrades to geoscience capabilities including a new Box corer and Kasten corer
  • updated trawl nets and balloon launcher
  • installation of larger trawl gallows on the back deck to support wider, more efficient and safer operations
  • development of new molecular biology sampling capability on the vessel, including a modular eDNA unit to collect samples at depth from the deep tow camera.

Capability and system upgrades on RV Investigator made during the recent long maintenance period will be tested, calibrated and/or commissioned on a series of sea trial and calibration voyages out of Hobart during November and December 2021.

Further explore the scientific capabilities of RV Investigator.