The German RV Sonne has one of the best deep-water multibeam mapping systems in the world, the Simrad EM120. The vessel was contracted by Leibnitz-Institute for Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) to conduct a series of oceanographic and marine geology expeditions in the Western Pacific during October to December 2009. Townsville was chosen as a convenient port to do a crew change-over and so the ship would have to transit across the Coral Sea to Australia. The Chief Scientists agreed to conduct a deep-water seabed survey with the EM120 multibeam system during the transit between PNG and Australia.
The deep-water multibeam survey collected new depth data over a vast area of the Coral Sea that had never been surveyed before using such modern technology. The depth data will contribute to the new high-resolution depth model being developed for the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea area, called Project 3D-GBR.
Prior to the survey commencing, I liaised extensively with the various Australian and PNG Government environmental agencies to organise the approval of the scientific research permits. The surveys were a success and large seabed features, such as canyons and undersea landslides, have now been revealed for the first time.