International Indian Ocean expedition

In the 1960s, Australia made a significant contribution to the first International Indian Ocean Expedition through repeated voyages along the 110°East meridian in the southeast Indian Ocean. Now, nearly six decades later, a major voyageis underway to repeat this 110°East meridian line voyage as part of the second International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2).

“From May 13 to June 14 2019 a multi-institutional team of 30 oceanographers from around the world will headed offshore from Fremantle on board the 93m Australian Research Vessel Investigator. “We will be studying the oceanography of the southeast Indian Ocean,” said Lynnath Beckley, Professor of Marine Science at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, who is originally from Port Elizabeth and an alumna of the University of Port Elizabeth, now Nelson Mandela University.

Beckley is leading the multi-national study. “We’ll travel about 6 500km from temperate areas through to the subtropics and tropics, sampling a whole range of water masses, 550km away from the west Australian coast.

“On the month-long voyage we will repeat the 110°East line to examine multi-decadal changes in the physics, chemistry and biology of the water column, investigate microbes, biogeochemistry and nitrogen sources, and study the pelagic food web from plankton through to the little-understood mesopelagic lantern fish.

“Lantern fish are the ‘sardines’ of the open ocean. About 10cm in length, they occur in the deep, dark waters where sunlight does not penetrate, but they rise towards the surface waters at night to feed. They are highly abundant and there are about 250 different species of them, with an estimated global biomass of 10 000 million tonnes. They are an extremely important component of the marine food web, but we know very little about their ecology,” said Beckley.

This will be part of the research, as will all sorts of other research missions such as conducting acoustic surveys of whales.

The May/June 2019 RV Investigator voyage can be tracked on website, where there will be updated news every day.

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