In a sad turn of events, CSIRO's RV Investigator, a dedicated marine research vessel that winded up construction and testing earlier this year, will now spend a few months under the employ of BP and Chevron sniffing out black gold... while also studying the ocean and sea floor.
A "lack of government funding" has reportedly found the Investigator spinning its turbines in port and with nothing else to do, will be out exploring the Southern Ocean for natural gas and oil, according to Fairfax's Andrew Darby.
The article mentions Chevron will be the customer number one, starting in mid-October, followed by BP in December. It won't all be about fossil fuels however — CSIRO will use the opportunity to operate the ship for its original purpose — studying the ocean and sea floor:
CSIRO marine geoscientists will collect sea floor core and rock samples from a depth of up to 4500 metres, and biologists will work on marine life, using Investigator's state-of-the-art equipment.
"The program will provide a better understanding of the (Ceduna) Basin's geology and petroleum prospectivity, to reduce exploration risks and costs," a government statement said.
"It will also improve understanding of the ecology and provide baseline data to inform environmental assessments."
Unsurprisingly, some found the ship's hiring by BP and Chevron odd, considering one of the reasons for building Investigator was to better understand and measure water acidity and carbon dioxide absorption:
Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said it was clear the public's ship was being used by the energy companies to reduce their commercial risks, or for potential green-washing.
"I would say the use of this boat to aid commercial hydrocarbon interests is certainly a most powerful signal in terms of the government's approach to climate research," Senator Whish-Wilson said.