Hydrographic and maritime heritage survey of Bass Strait

Improving seafloor mapping and safe navigation for vessels in Bass Strait, and uncovering shipwrecks in the region.
Voyage No

IN2019_V07

11 Apr, 2019

to

24 Apr, 2019

Hobart

to

Hobart

Chief Scientist

Emily Jateff

Institution

Australian National Maritime Museum

Voyage summary

Research voyage to undertake a bathymetric (seafloor) survey in Bass Strait in vicinity of Hogan Island Group and conduct a program of surveys for shipwrecks in the region.

Much of Australia's vast marine estate has not been surveyed to a modern standard, presenting challenges for navigation by surface and, particularly, subsurface vessels. This also creates challenges for policy makers, marine managers and industry in ensuring the protection, conservation and sustainable management of our marine environment and its resources.

The survey will collect data using RV Investigator's advanced multibeam mapping capabilities to contribute towards mapping of a primary shipping route to a modern standard. The voyage will also include a targeted survey to confirm the location of SS Federal, an 88 m steamer that was lost in 1901. The general location of this wreck has been provided by recreational divers but the vessel identity and location is yet to be confirmed by maritime heritage agencies.  Opportunistic surveys of five other unidentified targets in the area may also be conducted during the voyage to identify other ship wrecks.

The voyage also includes the following research projects:

  • Spatial and temporal variability in the distribution and abundance of seabirds (Dr Eric Woehler, BirdLife Australia): Study of the variability in the distribution and abundance of seabirds in the marine environment around Australia.
  • Australian Microbiome Initiative Sampling and Filtering (Australian Microbiome Initiative): Project to collect samples for genomic analysis to expand spatial coverage from oceans surrounding Australia.
  • Beagle Marine Park Mapping (Parks Australia): Project to undertake opportunistic seafloor mapping in Beagle Marine Park.

The science team on this voyage includes 12 participants from four institutions.

Voyage outcomes

The hydrographic survey was successfully completed to a modern standard and data will be used by the Australian Hydrographic Office to update nautical charts for this area. The seafloor mapping confirmed the location of a number of shipwrecks during the voyage, including the primary target, SS Federal. Of note, another significant historic shipwreck was also located during the voyage, SS Iron Crown. This was a WWII coal transport that was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in 1941 with the loss of 38 lives. 

Mapping data collected on this voyage will assist in facilitating safe navigation for international and coastal shipping, and improve confidence for subsurface navigation in Bass Strait. The location and seafloor mapping data for shipwrecks discovered will now allow maritime heritage authorities to better manage and conserve these sites.

A range of seabird observations were made during the voyage, with more than 1500 individuals recorded. This data will contribute to the wider project dataset, and provide important information about the spatial and temporal distributions of seabirds. Of note, observations of marine debris are also recorded during this survey. The Beagle Marine Park mapping project provided additional data to marine park managers to increase their spatial coverage of the area. Various data was collected for the Australian Microbiome Initiative, including data from the east coast of Tasmania and in the Bass Strait region, an area for which there is limited coverage, especially in deep water.