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Southern Surveyor

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Southern Surveyor

Stories from Onboard Australia's Ocean Research Vessel

Michael Veitch  

Colour illustrations, Colour photographs
272 pages, 234 x 153 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

    Paperback - October 2015
ISBN: 9781486302642 - AU $ 35.00

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'The deepest trenches, highest mountains, biggest earthquakes, most explosive volcanoes are all associated with these places. We’re discovering things all the time.'

For ten years, the RV Southern Surveyor represented the vanguard of Australian marine science. On over 100 voyages, this former North Sea fishing trawler with her distinctive blue and white livery carried scientists and technicians across the Southern, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the waters off northern Australia. She conducted physical, chemical, geological and biological investigations and deployed state-of-the-art instruments to map vast unexplored tracts of the seafloor.

Over the course of a year, prior to her final voyage, Michael Veitch interviewed the Southern Surveyor's former captains and crew, support staff and scientists. The result is a warm, engaging and sometimes dramatic account of their adventures — finding sunken WWII shipwrecks and swirling coastal vortexes, 'undiscovering' islands and watching pre-dawn fireworks from undersea volcanoes. But these are also stories of discovery which tell the legacy of scientific innovation and impact that Southern Surveyor left in her wake.


  • Stories of adventure and discovery onboard the nation's research ship
  • Photographs of life onboard the ship and research undertaken


Tom Trull Physical oceanographer
Bernadette Sloyan Oceanographer
Nathan Bindoff Physical oceanographer
Anya Waite Oceanographer
Martina Doblin Biological oceanographer
Iain Suthers Biological oceanographer

Ian Taylor Ship’s Master
Fred Rostron Chief Engineer
Kel Lewis Integrated Rating (crew member)
John Barr Ship’s Master
Seamus Elder Engineer
John Boyes (‘Boysey’) Chief Mate

Neville Exon Sedimentary geologist
Robin Beaman Marine geologist
Tom Hubble Marine geologist
Patrick De Deckker Geologist/zoologist
Colin Woodroffe Coastal geomorphologist
Andrew Heap Marine geologist
Steven Micklethwaite Geologist/geophysicist
Richard Arculus Igneous petrologist

Alicia Navidad Hydrochemist
Steve Thomas Electronics technician
Matt Sherlock Electronics engineer
Ian Hawkes IT manager
Jeff Cordell Electronics support technician
Lindsay Pender Physicist/marine systems engineer
Mark Lewis Equipment specialist
Tara Martin Geophysicist

Chris Wilcox Marine ecologist
Brian Griffiths Marine biologist
Rudy Kloser Marine biologist

Lisa Woodward Voyage manager
Ron Plaschke Director, Marine National Facility
Don McKenzie Operations manager

Toni Moate Executive Director, Future Research Vessel Project

List of interviewees


 "The book is a fine acknowledgement of the work of the men and women who went to sea in the Southern Surveyor."
Bill Condie, Cosmos, March 2016, pp 90

"Presented in the form of a number of vignettes arising from interviews with crew members and scientists who worked aboard her, her fascinating life is well told."
Ausmarine, April 2016, pp 38

"For anyone wanting to understand a working research ship, the interviews build up an evocative picture of the very different working environment provided by a research ship at sea."
Bernadette Hince, Historical Records of Australian Science, Vol 27(1), pp 94-95


 Michael Veitch began his career writing and performing in television comedy, before working as a newspaper columnist and regular broadcaster for ABC radio. He presented the national arts program, Sunday Arts, on ABC television for five years. In addition to numerous television, film and theatre credits, he has written four books: Flak, Fly, The Forgotten Islands and Heroes of the Skies. 

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