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Ship of the Firsts – Australian Antarctic Program


AAD Travel Leader Lloyd Symons said the trip was a great success.

“Our main priority was to deliver nearly one million liters of fuel to the Casey Research Station, to allow the station to continue its important work for another year,” he said.

“With teams working in teams of Nuyinathe supply ship Happy Dragon, and the station, we delivered the fuel in less than 36 hours.

“We also successfully delivered two helicopters and their crews to Davis Research Station, and performed a series of marine science commissioning tasks, including scientific equipment deployments off the trawl deck and at across the lunar basin.”

Discoveries of the seabed

The first stage of scientific commissioning was to test the ship’s acoustic instruments mounted in its hull and drop keel, including the multibeam sounder used to map the seabed.

Just south of Tasmania, the acoustics team mapped the top of an underwater mountain or ‘seamount’, higher than Mount Kosciuszko, at around 2500 meters above sea level.

Near Casey, the team discovered a canyon at least 55 kilometers long, 2200 meters deep and 2000 meters wide at the front of the Vanderford Glacier.

“Although we’ve been visiting this area for decades, we didn’t have the ability to do this kind of detailed mapping before,” said Acoustics Manager Mr. Floyd Howard.

“It’s a privilege to be able to install these instruments and make sure they’re working properly and are calibrated so that we have a future facility for Australian marine science.”

Enchanted for krill

Another major first was the capture of the first Antarctic krill in by Nuyina unique ‘well wet’.

The wet well is a watertight room at the bottom of the vessel, connected to inlets in the hull which allow water to gravity feed into the room and through a filtration table at approximately 2,000 liters per minute.

Krill and plankton are delivered to the water current in perfect condition for research, without the need to tow trawls or stop the vessel.

“The best animals to experiment with are those that are freshly caught and in pristine condition, so we can be sure that our results reflect what is actually happening in nature,” King said.

“We caught over 15,000 krill and tested the wet well in various sea states and ice conditions.

“It was fantastic to wake up in the morning, walk 200 meters from my cabin to the wet well and flip a switch for live Antarctic krill to be delivered instantly.”

The krill were transferred to a specially designed containerized aquarium, awaiting delivery to the Australian Antarctic Division’s land-based aquarium.

The specimens will contribute to furthering scientists’ understanding of Antarctic krill and their critical role in the ecosystem, which will strengthen conservation efforts and ensure sustainable management of krill fisheries in the Southern Ocean.

Deep Sea Gate

Like Nuyina pushed through the ice, the team performed the first deployment of an oceanographic instrument across the ship’s lunar basin.

The lunar pool is a 13-meter, four-square-meter vertical shaft that runs through the ship’s hull to the ocean.

When its upper and lower hatches are open, the lunar pool allows the deployment of oceanographic equipment such as CTDs (conductivity, temperature and depth instruments), nets and robotic vehicles, in the relative comfort and protection of the ship.

Technical Services Manager Michael Santarossa oversaw the successful deployment of the first CTD just above the seabed, 2600 meters below.

“Antarctic scientists are very keen to sample Antarctic bottom water which is normally, as the name suggests, near the bottom, so you have to test your nerves a bit and lower the package pretty close,” he said.

“During this voyage, I am here to confirm that our equipment will serve the scientists who will use this ship for the next 30 years.

“On our first deployment, we tested our nerves, got there and all the systems worked.”

NBN on the high seas

Going forward, many oceanographic deployments will be linked to a new deep-sea power and data system, developed by Australian Antarctic Division engineers led by Kym Newbery, and tested on the voyage by Mr Newbery and Will Rigby.

NUTTS – Nuyina Subsea Towed Termination System – will provide a connection between instruments and electro-optical cables which can lower instruments to depths of up to 8000 meters.

“NUTTS will allow us to send a kilowatt of power to subsea systems, and we can use the fiber optic lines in the towline to get more data down the cable than was possible in the past. “said Mr. Rigby.

“This means that we will be able to simultaneously receive multiple 4K video streams as well as tons of data from sensors such as altimeters, sonars or sensors on oceanographic instruments, all in one go.”

All data collected by NUTTS and the large number of sensors on the ship are stored in an advanced portable data storage system.

floating internet of things

Antarctic Division data center director and ‘big data’ scientist Dr Johnathan Kool said there were so many data collection sensors on Nuyina that it could be considered a “floating internet of things”.

Nuyina a game-changer in terms of the range of sensors it has and the amount of information it collects,” he said.

“And because we collect so much information, we have to think big about how we manage it and distribute it on a much larger scale than anything we’ve done before.”

Free access to data collected on Nuyinaand elsewhere in Antarctica, will contribute to improved weather and climate models, biodiversity models, navigational charts and global efforts to map the world’s oceans by 2030.

“I strongly believe that better information leads to better decisions,” Dr. Kool said.

“There is a wide range of people who will end up using the data collected on by Nuyina travel, including atmospheric scientists, meteorologists, biologists, climatologists and members of the public.

“Over time, my vision is that we can open up our entire collection of Australian Antarctic data for big data research.”

It’s a good start for Australia’s Antarctic ship of the future.

“Bringing Nuyina and its wide range of complex and advanced systems commissioned is a very important step forward in understanding the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region and advancing Australia’s interests there,” said the travel leader Lloyd Symons.