It may not sound like cutting-edge science, but a large aft deck, with a matrix of attachment points, good winches and lifting equipment, and a range of power supplies and water, are keys to enabling a wide range of science and future-proofing the ship.

The aft deck supports a wide range of activities including:

  • deploying many types of fishing nets and dredges
  • seismic mapping of the layers of sediment and rock under the ocean
  • extracting sediment cores up to 24 metres long
  • deploying hose and pump systems to collect large volumes of water from hundreds of metres below the ocean’s surface
  • deploying large instrumented mooring systems
  • operating autonomous underwater vehicles
  • deploying many types of towed and lowered camera and instrument systems.

The aft deck also supports fourteen 20-foot containers and six 10-foot containers, which can be positioned by overhead cranes. These containers will house specialised scientific equipment, with eight of the containers having services for laboratories of the future — negating the need to build specialised laboratories into the ship for research that hasn’t yet been conceived.

The heavy lifting equipment (winches, cranes and an A-frame) can lift and move items up to 10 tonnes around the deck and over the stern, and pull over 30 tonnes when extracting sediment cores from the bottom of the ocean. The different attachment points on the deck mean that scientists can install their own specialised winches and other large equipment onboard, and safely secure items when not being used.

Scientists studying trace metals, such as iron, in the ocean, will have access to the clean water they need (free from trace metal contamination associated with the ship and instruments). Krill researchers will be able to fill tanks, housed in aquarium containers, with seawater cooled to as low as −1.8°C, to keep collected krill in pristine condition. Glaciologists will be able to process and store ice cores. Biologists will be able to grow cultures in culture cabinets and store, ice algae and other cooled or frozen samples at different temperatures down to −135°C. Geoscientists will be able to store and power specialised equipment, and refrigerate many sediment core samples in containers.

See a video of some of the scientific capabilities on a virtual representation of the aft trawl deck.