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The AUV Sirius beginning a mission in the waters off western Kangaroo Island. Credit: G. Grammer, SARDI Aquatic Sciences.

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The AUV Sirius returns to South Australia

After 10 years, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sirius has returned to South Australia to expand the IMOS integrated benthic monitoring program into the region.

In May, a team of scientists led by Dr Gretchen Grammer of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) successfully completed a voyage with the Sirius in the coastal waters around the Sir Joseph Banks in Spencer Gulf and in shelf waters off western Kangaroo Island. The scientists used the Sirius to explore and record imagery of seafloor habitats from eight different locations. The team included Professor Stefan Williams and George Wakeham from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) at the University of Sydney and the IMOS AUV Facility, Paul Malthouse (SARDI, SAIMOS), Dr Paul van Ruth (SARDI, SAIMOS) and the crew of the RV Ngerin. The South Australian Department for Environment and Water (DEW) was a funding partner for the voyage.

The sites around the Sir Joseph Banks were first surveyed with the Sirius in 2008. Four of those sites were re-surveyed during the current trip and new ground was explored in the deep water off Kangaroo Island (80-115 m). The new sites were located in the protection and general use zones of the State and Commonwealth Marine Parks in close proximity to the IMOS Kangaroo Island National Reference Station (NRSKAI).

Before making the 10 hour steam from the Sir Joseph Banks to the Kangaroo Island sites, the new eSA-Marine nowcast/forecast system (http://pir.sa.gov.au/research/esa_marine) was used to check sea conditions and bottom currents on the shelf to make sure it would be possible to deploy the Sirius. The eSA-Marine predictions were spot on and all missions were a resounding success.

eSA-Marine was developed through a collaboration between SARDI, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Adelaide, with extensive use of IMOS data for calibration and validation. Another voyage with the Sirius is scheduled for May 2019, and Dr Grammer and the ACFR team are also planning to be part of an expedition to Pearson Island led by DEW in November 2018 to establish benthic monitoring sites in State and Commonwealth Marine Parks in the region.

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Return of the AUV Sirius to South Australia. Voyage team members: Standing left to right: Darren Nohlmans (master, RV Ngerin), Prof. Stefan Williams (ACFR), Paul Malthouse (SARDI); kneeling left to right: Jason Nichols (crew, RV Ngerin), Dr Gretchen Grammer (SARDI), George Wakeham (ACFR), Chris Small (crew, RV Ngerin), Andrew Sellick (crew, RV Ngerin). Credit: G. Grammer, SARDI Aquatic Sciences.