Science

Launch: New harbour cruise highlights science

Associate Professor Emma Johnston on the inaugural cruise
Tuesday, 26 March, 2013
Deborah Smith

Associate Professor Emma Johnston has launched a new harbour cruise called Underwater Secrets - Sydney Harbour Revealed, which focuses on scientific research into the iconic waterway.

The unique cruise – a 3-hour trip aboard a 1902 steamship, Lady Hopetoun - was developed by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science in collaboration with the Sydney Heritage Fleet, and will run once a month.

SIMS scientist, Dr Inke Falkner, will provide scientific insights into the underwater world surrounding the passengers as they tour areas including Watson’s Bay and Lavender Bay, which provide different habitats for the harbour's many marine creatures.

Associate Professor Johnston, who is director of the Sydney Harbour Research Project, says Sydney Harbour is one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the world and home to a greater diversity of fish than the Mediterranean.

“Below the surface we find extensive kelp forests, sweeping seagrass meadows, rocky reefs and vibrant sponge gardens all teeming with life,” she says.

Yet it also is a busy port at the heart of a big city, with has led to widespread contamination and modification of ecosystems.

Associate Professor Johnston, of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, says the cruise will provide people with “a glimpse into the work of marine scientists, the extraordinary marine life of Sydney Harbour and some of the challenges this remarkable estuary is facing.”

The tour also takes in Clark Island, where UNSW students make regular field trips to survey the biodiversity, following in the footsteps of William Haswell, a leading biologist who studied the area in the late 1800s.

The Sydney Harbour Research Program is a 5 year, $10 million project that will provide the information needed to more effectively manage the harbour and its vast natural and economic resources.

Research will provide greater understanding of the threats that can have an impact on the waterway, characteristics that provide resilience to these threats, and approaches to restoration and remediation that can protect its future.

SIMS was founded in 2005 as a partnership between UNSW and three other universities - the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, and the University of Technology, Sydney.

The Lady Hopetoun, with its Edwardian grace and style, served as the VIP launch for the NSW State government for many years. The cruise will include a light lunch and can be booked through the Sydney Heritage Fleet, www.shf.org.au.