Natural iron fertilisation of oceans around Australia

Transit voyage from Sydney to Broome including project to study the link between terrestrial dust and bushfires, and marine biogeochemistry.
Voyage No


24 Sep, 2017


08 Oct, 2017




Chief Scientist

Dr Andrew Bowie


University of Tasmania

Voyage summary

Transit voyage from Hobart to Sydney to relocate the vessel in preparation for IN2016_V05. During the transit, a number of research, outreach and training projects will be undertaken, including a project to quantify the importance of iron-rich aerosols from the Australian landmass for marine biogeochemistry and ocean ecosystem health.

This project will sample and conduct experiments on atmospheric particles containing terrestrial dust and bushfire smoke that are transported from Australia to its surrounding oceans. These data will contribute to larger integrated ship and land based observations for trace elements and nutrients in oceans around Australia in order to determine the geochemical nature, solubility and biological availability of atmospherically delivered trace elements.

The voyage will include education and outreach projects, as well as a number of scientific projects including:

  • Characterisation of the macro-mechanical behaviour of offshore sediments (Dr Ryan Beemer, University of Western Australia): Research into the properties of sediment samples collected from Norther Australian waters.
  • Shipwreck survey for SS Macumba (David Steinberg, Northern Territory Government): Seafloor survey to locate the wreck of the WWII freighter SS Macumba.
  • Spatial and Temporal Variability in the Distribution and Abundance of Seabirds  (Dr Eric Woehler, BirdLife Australia): Project to study the spatial and temporal distribution of seabirds and marine animals in the oceans around Australia (multi-year project).

Voyage blog: Settling in to life at sea, the crew, and the deep towed camera

Already it’s been a week since RV Investigator snuck out of Port Jackson on Sunday night. Around 8 pm the ship was towed out silently, sliding through the waters of Woolloomooloo with us standing on the foredeck in the dark, passing by the glass-fronted lounge rooms lit up by TVs. Those of us who’d never been on a voyage crowded outside excitedly, whispering about dolphins and tropics, mega waves and seasickness. We took pictures and hopped about while the rest of the crew got on with work inside.
Read more on CSIROscope
Two dolphins seen from above the boat breaking the waves

Voyage impact

The voyage collected data that will provide better understanding of the delivery of trace elements and nutrients from atmospheric aerosols into the oceans southeast of Australia. A program was also commenced to investigate the role of atmospheric transport in providing vital mineral and nutrients for marine ecosystem health and fertility in ocean basins surrounding Australia.

The shipwreck SS Macumba, a merchant ship sunk by Japanese air attack during World War II, was successfully located using RV Investigator's advanced multibeam sonar systems. Location of the shipwreck was reported to the Northern Territory and Australian Governments, and the data collected about the vessel's posotion and collection will be used to further investigate and ensure appropriate management of the site.

A wide range of seabird and marine animal observations were made during the voyage. This data will contribute to the wider project dataset, and provide important information about the spatial and temporal distributions of these animals.