Waypoint Spring 2015

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Largest AIMS research vessel now open to the public – virtually!

Largest AIMS research vessel now open to the public – virtually!


RV Solander in Exmouth harbour. Credit: AIMS, Patrick Buerger

This October marks eight years since AIMS launched its largest research vessel – the 35-metre RV Solander – and it’s now open for tours, virtually.

Most people only know the Solander from her photographs, but AIMS invites you to explore this exceptional research vessel and her facilities through a virtual tour online.

Since her very first research voyage, Solander has been helping to define the previously unknown workings of the reefs, shoals and coastal marine communities of Australia’s north and north-west.

Solander supports the health and wealth of Australia’s oceans by enabling multi-disciplinary marine research in open waters. Because it can accommodate 18 people for up to 21 days, it also gives other organisations’ scientists and students opportunities to contribute to AIMS’ goals.

“RV Solander allows AIMS to work closely with science collaborators and industry partners to explore the unique ecosystems of northern Australia,” said Dr John Chappell, Operations and Infrastructure Manager at AIMS.

“By using an array of high tech tools, we’ve been able to see first-hand what makes these environments tick – and to understand how they differ from the better known reefs in eastern Australia.”

She has a massive range – 2700 nautical miles (5000 kilometres!) – and features a wide range of scientific facilities: wet and dry laboratories, a diver access platform, a walk-in freezer to store samples, winches for deploying oceanographic instruments, and an internal moon pool (unusual for a vessel of this size) used to mount instruments under the hull at sea.

Solander is certainly helping us to pave the way for Australia to sustainably use, manage and protect these rich and diverse environments,” Dr Chappell said.

You can explore her latest and past voyages in her Voyage Tracker.

“During our next trip on Solander, we’ll be conducting a series of benthic surveys on the Evans and Tassie Shoals [off Darwin], using an array of towed video cameras,” said Dr Andrew Heyward, AIMS Research Scientist and research cruise leader. “Then we’ll go on to survey the mid-continental shelf between Darwin and Bathurst Island.”

AIMS is grateful to Patrick Buerger, who did incredible work with the ship’s crew to take more than 1000 still images and, using intricate software, create this fascinating virtual tour.