Australia’s premier oceanic research vessel the RV Investigator will be coming back to Montague Island off Narooma in mid-September to conduct more research.
Professor Iain Suthers of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science said last September the vessel came quite close to shore to investigate the distribution of small fish and plankton around Montague Island.
In the process, the CSIRO vessel’s swath mapper revealed the reefs off Bermagui in unprecedented detail, and also located two previously unknown large submarine islands off Montague. The tops of both mountains are 1500m below the surface and both are about 50 per cent bigger than Mount Gulaga.
The RV Investigator again steamed past Narooma in May this year on a mission called “Sampling the Abyss” designed to uncover the mysterious life that inhabits the abyss off eastern Australia – an almost unexplored habitat 4000 metres below the surface.
Now the vessel will return to continue its studies of the East Australian Current, which has strengthened in recent decades, such that the waters around Narooma are characteristic of what used to occur off Sydney decades ago.
“This year we return to repeat the transects north and south of Montague Island and to tow plankton nets looking for larval lobster and larval sardine,” Prof Suthers said. “This time we intend to quantify the entire pelagic ecosystem from bacteria to fish and seabirds in relation to satellite imagery.
“Of course, we will always keep an eye on the magnificent swath mapper looking for new, undiscovered mountains off the NSW coast. We intend to be close to Montague Island, in daylight, between September 15-17, so do not be alarmed at seeing us so close to shore.”
RV Investigator is a distinctive 94m-long, 6000-tonne vessel with a large round weather radar on its top mast. It has a ship’s crew of around 20 and a science crew of nearly 40.