Antarctic bottom water production in the past: Records from marine sediments, East Antarctica

Understanding past changes in Antarctic bottom water production to help predict how a warming climate will impact future ocean circulation.
Voyage No


07 Jan, 2022


03 Mar, 2022




Chief Scientist

Dr Alix Post


Geoscience Australia

CANYONS voyage feature livestream

STAY TUNED! During our CANYONS voyage led by Geoscience Australia, we'll bring you exclusive livestream events from RV Investigator. Follow @Canyons_voyage on social media for updates.

Voyage summary 

Research voyage out of Hobart, traveling to the East Antarctic margin to investigate past changes in Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) revealed by seafloor sediment records.

The voyage (called 'CANYONS') has two main scientific objectives: 1) to understand past changes in AABW production by collecting long sediment cores from the seafloor that span multiple climate periods; and, 2) develop an improved bathymetry (seafloor mapping) model to support oceanographic modelling of AABW pathways. Sediment core records of previous warmer interglacials (when Antarctic air temperatures were 2 to 4.5°C warmer than today) will provide an analogue for understanding the impact of any future changes in AABW production associated with a warming climate.

Potential voyage track from Hobart to primary survey area off Cape Darnley, East Antarctica.

Scientists will recover long sediment cores from the continental slope off Cape Darnley, East Antarctica. These will provide palaeoceanographic records over multiple glacial-interglacial cycles. This research will combine sedimentological, geochemical and biological proxies (variables that can be used to infer climate) as evidence of the nature and timing of past changes in AABW production, and associated variations in meltwater input, and the extent of the Cape Darnley polynya (open water surrounded by sea ice).

AABW has previously been associated with unique and diverse benthic (seafloor) ecosystems, including hydrocorals. Scientists will use a deep-towed camera to investigate the presence and distribution of hydrocorals, and, if present, analyse their carbonate skeletons to understand past water mass variability over recent centuries, complementing sediment core records. The seafloor biodiversity assessment will provide information for future management of the proposed East Antarctica Marine Protected Area . The voyage has been approved as GEOTRACES Process Study

There will be 6 other projects included on this voyage:

  • #Sea2SchoolAU Education Program: bringing at-sea science into Australian classrooms via live video broadcasts during the voyage (Ms Joline Lalime, Education Queensland)
  • Evolution of marine life in Antarctica: extracting DNA from phytoplankton samples from the ancient sea floor: (Dr Linda Armbrecht , UTAS)
  • Cloud Aerosol Precipitation Radiation Interactions eXperiment (CAPRIX): study of aerosol and atmospheric data over the Southern Ocean (Dr Alain Protat, BOM - on shore)
  • Argo float deployments: deployment of five standard and three biogeochemical (BGC) Argo floats (Prof Pete Strutton, UTAS; Prof Tom Trull, CSIRO; Dr. Peter Oke, CSIRO) 
  • Deep ocean camera: unique study of seafloor biota via deep ocean camera attached to CTD instrument (Dr Rob King, AAD, Dr Andy Carroll, GA)
  • Natural iron fertilization of oceans around Australia: research linking terrestrial dust and bushfires to marine biogeochemistry (Prof Andrew Bowie, UTAS - on shore). 

The voyage will be led by Chief Scientist Dr Alix Post from Geoscience Australia . It is being delivered in partnership with the University of Queensland, University of Tasmania and Australian National University, in collaboration with other Australian and international universities and CSIRO. The voyage is also being supported by the Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science (ACEAS).

The science team on this voyage includes 35 participants from 8 institutions, including one international and 5 Australian universities.

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#Sea2SchoolAU Education Program

During February 2022, Australian students have the opportunity to experience the excitement of research at-sea through the #Sea2SchoolAU Education Program. This program will share voyage science with classrooms across Australia via live ship-to-school video broadcasts. Bookings are free and invited from teachers in Australian primary and secondary schools, and colleges. Contact the #Sea2SchoolAU teacher for more information.
Contact #Sea2SchoolAU teacher (via email)

COVID-19 Protocols

To safeguard the health and well-being of participants, strict COVID-19 protocols will apply to all activities on this voyage, including testing of all participants for COVID-19 prior to departure.

For further information about the MNF COVID-19 Protocols, visit Restart of at-sea operations following COVID-19 shutdown

Voyage outcomes

A summary of voyage outcomes will be published approximately 3-6 months after the completion of the voyage.