The Southern Ocean is the least studied of the Earth’s oceans, with sparser data coverage than anywhere else. The use of research ships with ice-breaking capabilities allows researchers to undertake research cruises in this remote and inhospitable region.
The ocean is inextricably linked with ice shelves and outlet glaciers flowing into it as well as with the atmosphere above and seabed below. Gathering data from both above and below the ship therefore offers a “holistic”, atmosphere-to-seabed approach to oceanographic research.
RRS Sir David Attenborough will be equipped with winch systems that can deploy CTD arrays weighing up to 10 tonnes either over the side of the ship or via the moon pool.
One of the CTD arrays on the ship will be a standard stainless steel facility. A second CTD array, made of titanium, will use a specially designed winch system and metal-free cables in order to enable it to undertake trace metal detection work at depth.
Both CTD systems will be equipped with the following instruments:
- Secondary temperature & conductivity meters
- SBE43 dissolved oxygen sensor
- SBE18 pH sensor
- Chelsea Instruments Aquatrack III fluorometer
- WET Labs ECO-Puk fluorometer CDOM
- WET Labs TC-Star transmissometer
- Satlantic Cosine PAR sensor
- Valeport VA-500 altimeter
- Lowered Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (LADCP)
- 12 litre OTE bottles
Within the water column, a range of CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) probes and acoustic Doppler current profilers will be on board to study vertical and horizontal current velocities. Passive remote systems include a range of mooring systems – some of them bespoke in-house constructions – that can support one or more instruments and can be deployed at depths of up to 3,000m.
Furthermore, her increased capability to support unmanned and remotely operated technologies will enable studies of the ocean in previously very inaccessible locations, such as underneath ice shelves and in front of glacier calving faces.