The Southern Ocean is the world’s least studied ocean due to its remoteness and inhospitable nature. Research ships with ice-breaking capabilities therefore play a critical role in allowing scientists to access and study this remote and inhospitable region.
The ocean is inextricably linked with ice shelves and outlet glaciers flowing into it, and 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‘s winch systems can deploy conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) arrays weighing up to 10 tonnes either over the side of the ship or via the moon pool.
One of the ship’s CTD arrays will be a standard stainless steel facility. A second CTD array, made of titanium, uses a specially designed winch system and metal-free cables, enabling it to detect trace metals at depth.
Both CTD systems are 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
A range of CTD probes and acoustic Doppler current profilers are on board to study vertical and horizontal current velocities within the water column. 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.
The ship’s 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.