Filmed interview about R/V Electra with Professor Martin Jakobsson, Department of geological science

Electra af Askö

She was named after a small moss animal, but Electra is 24 metres long and crammed with high-tech equipment. In the middle of June, the research vessel travelled to Sweden across the Baltic Sea from the shipyard in Estonia. Before the vessel can be put into operation, however, there is still some work to be done, as well as tests, permits and calibration of the equipment.

As far as research vessels go, Electra af Askö is not a large ship, but it is well adapted to Baltic Sea research and just as well equipped as a modern research vessel for the world’s oceans. However, the draught is small in order to allow navigation in shallow waters. The smaller size also means lower fuel consumption and an overall lower cost of use for the researchers.

Lena Kautsky has had many requests to balance in her role as senior advisor.

“I have been involved all the way and discussed all the details. It has been really exciting to see the ship evolve from the skeleton she was the first time I was at the shipyard. Electra af Askö opens the door to research in the Baltic Sea that no one has been able to do before,” she says.

Catalyst for research

Martin Jakobsson, professor of marine geology and geophysics, is one of several researchers involved in the planning. He will use the ship in his research going forward, for example, in order to study ongoing groundwater discharges and traces of the last glaciation in the Baltic Sea. He sees the combination of different instruments and the opportunity to integrate different kinds of research as the greatest advantage of Electra.

Photo: Anna-Karin Landin
Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

“I believe that Electra can work as a catalyst. When researchers from different fields can meet in one place, this can lead to the fusion and development of the research,” says Martin Jakobsson.

Electra replaces the more than 40-year-old research vessel Aurelia. The crew and the researchers describe it as going from the Stone Age into the future. The instruments include the following: a multi-beam echo sounder for detailed mapping of the seabed; a penetrating echo sounder that can see into sediments more than 100 metres deep; an echo sounder for mapping biology in the water; a CTD probe that measures conductivity, temperature and depth; and an acoustic Doppler sonar for measuring ocean currents. Together, all the instruments on Electra provide information from the water’s surface and down to well below the seabed. What is more, Electra can handle significantly larger samplers than Aurelia due to larger cranes and an A-frame mounted at the edge of the aft deck. Read more about the equipment.

“One major advantage is that we can see everything directly on our screens. Before, we used to operate blindly and did not see our results until we came back. Now it is like being able to see under water. For example, we can see exactly where there are higher concentrations of chlorophyll (a sign of algal blooms), where the thermocline is, or where the oxygen runs out, and take core samples right there,” says Christoph Humborg, scientific director of the Baltic Sea Centre.

Text by: External Relations and Communications Office