Meet the superwomen of the seas
AS Australia's $120 million national research vessel RV Investigator left Hobart on Thursday, the loudest voice on the shore came from a child shouting a farewell to her auntie.
A power line-up of women waved from the deck as the Investigator headed off on a three week mission to chart changes in water temperatures in the Southern Ocean.
The vessel, which is doing research up to 300 days a year, had only just returned from a six week voyage surveying the impact of warmer weather on marine life.
About 60 people take part in these trips, including 40 scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organisation (CSIRO).
Among the women are an oceanographer, a doctor, a marine geophysicist, a voyage manager, a captain and a leader who oversaw the construction of the ship itself.
On board the latest trip is Tegan Sime, the voyage manager, who got her sea legs after finishing high school.
"I've never really followed the same path as everybody else. Being a late bloomer isn't necessarily a bad thing … I've just taken my time to really figure out what I want to do. And I'm there now. I've got a great job, a great career, and I love it."
When Tegan finished Year 12, she volunteered at a sailing school. She loved the adrenaline and excitement of sailing, so volunteered on Young Endeavour.
It was her first taste of tall ship sailing. "Being out on the middle of the ocean, in the quiet, on a creaky ship that was designed hundreds of years ago-there's a romance to it. And it was so much fun! I just loved it."
At 23, Tegan was eager to study marine biology at university, but she hadn't done so well the first time around at school. Determined, she did Year 12 again, got her high school certificate, started university, and did her honours aboard our former research vessel, Southern Surveyor.
Now she is the key liaison between the crew of the ship and the scientists-she brings their work together. She also plays a key role in the mood of the people aboard the ship: "I guess I'm a bit of an amateur counsellor and I try to help people get through the tougher times when we're out there."
There's no typical day at sea. She tells a story about her recent birthday.
"We were down near the ice-edge in the Antarctic. I woke up at 3am, it was pitch black, but when I peeked through my curtains I could see the Aurora lighting up the sky! I raced up the bridge and there were a couple of people taking photos and footage, and they all started singing happy birthday to me under the Aurora. It was a really special experience."
Martina Doblin studies microscopic organisms called microbes - the first organisms on the planet.
"When I was studying in Hobart I had the opportunity to volunteer on a voyage to Antarctica. I was really moved to see this pristine part of the planet. It changed me. I came back and the world looked different. I knew I'd chosen the right career path."
As she points out, "If there were no microbes on the planet there'd be no people."
Sheri Newman is the ship's doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and counsellor. "It's a huge responsibility and one that I cherish."
Mid-way through her exhausting medical training, Sheri decided that she "hadn't had enough adventure" in her life at that point, so she took a year off and went to Antarctica as medical officer. "The experience was incredible."
She's since been to more than 17 countries, as a doctor, medical student and intrepid traveller.
Tara Martin's work links her back to the explorers: she maps the deep dark seafloor, as a marine geophysicist aboard RV Investigator.
"I get immense satisfaction in my job. It's not a normal job - I like that."
She maps the deep ravines, plateaus and peaks of our uncharted seafloor, up to 11 000m below the ocean's surface.
"We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the sea floor.
"Australia has the third largest ocean zone in the word, and we've only mapped 25 per cent of it," she explains.
Recently Tara's team revealed a diverse chain of volcanic seamounts in deep water about 400km east of Tasmania.
"Our job links us back to the explorers," she says.
Madeleine Habib is a Ship's Captain. She is part of a very small group of women seafarers in Australia: less than 1% of the workforce.
"I am drawn to working on ships that have a purpose - I want my work to have purpose. Being a captain…it's not always easy. There are times when you are literally making decisions that affect the survival of the people on board the vessel."
She began her seafaring career at 22: "I was enchanted - suddenly I'd found this mix between a physical and mental challenge and I felt really confident that that's what I wanted to pursue." But she had to break down some entrenched gender biases.
"Everybody just assumed I was a cook, and I really resented that-just because I was a young woman on a boat, that shouldn't be the only role open to me. So when I returned to Australia, I went for my first Captain's licence. I wanted to be taken seriously in the maritime industry."
Women currently represent less than 1 per cent of the total number of seafarers in Australia. Madeleine is part of this pioneering group. "To young women I'd like to say that a life at sea is a viable career. It's so important to believe in your own potential, and only be limited by your own imagination."
Toni Moate oversaw the building of the research vessel Investigator.
"Like many women, when I was first offered the opportunity to lead the project, I didn't think I had the skill set. Now, when I see the Investigator, I feel incredible pride."
In 2009, Toni was chosen to lead the build of Investigator. She spent the next five years propelling the creation of the $120 million ship.
"It took 3 million (wo)man hours, and some tense discussions in a male-dominated industry to build the ship." Toni is so familiar with Investigator that it "feels like I'm walking around my house!"
Toni left school at 15, at the end of Year 10. At that stage, she'd never left Tasmania. She went into the public service, and hoped to be a secretary one day.
Through her leadership role with the ship-build project, she's shown her young daughters "that women can do a lot more than they think they can do."
"My daughters took away a lot of life lessons. I think they learned that hard work pays off; that you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. They feel as proud of that ship as I do."
In 2017, she was awarded the Tasmanian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. She is now Director, National Collections & Marine Infrastructure.