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The story about AURORA


Aarhus University research vessel AURORA is a multifunctional research vessel with emphasis on flexibility in interior design, equipment and work tasks.

In the design of the vessel, intensive work has been done to reduce noise both in the ship and in the water. The propellers from Hundested are specially designed for seismic tasks and for the new vessel. All engines and gears are placed on noise and vibration damping rubber feet, and the gear is selected on the basis of the noise profile. The accommodation is designed with particularly noise-reduced panels and cladding in all rooms in order to keep the noise level below the Danish Maritime Authority's recommended level.

To further increase comfort, the ship is equipped with a roll damping tank and a bulb bow.

The aft deck has a total area of 75 m2 and stretches into the wetlab (25 m2) through a rolling gate without frame height. The aft deck and wetlab are covered by a 0.5*0.5 m bolt grid. In this grid, equipment such as winches, cranes and containers can be clamped so that the location can be optimized for the individual task. Users therefore have the opportunity to bring and install their own equipment.

The dry laboratory is 16 m2 and contains a fume hood. AU also has an isotope-certified laboratory container, which will be able to expand the laboratory capacity if desired.

The mess room (30 m2) is the ship's primary living space and can also function as a teaching room with smartboard.

In the wheelhouse, a survey area has been set up from which, among other things, CTD, ROV and seismic operations can be controlled. From here there is good contact with the navigator and a view of the crew on deck. On the wheelhouse roof, a screened observation post with access to navigation data and the ship's internet has been arranged 8 meters above the waterline.

The Planning

The ship has been under planning since 2007, but the concrete planning and layout did not really pick up speed until 2009, when the money for the ship was found. Aurora was officially baptized and started operating on April 25, 2014.

See drawing of the ship.

The ship was, when it was built, the first Danish research ship built in more than 30 years, and it does not only benefit Aarhus researchers. The whole marine research community has the opportunity to rent the ship for expeditions.

AURORA is built at A/S Hvide Sande Skibs- og Baadebyggeri, which specializes in both high-tech ships and traditional wooden vessels, and was completed in March 2014.

Trade area

The ship is approved for a trade area within the North Sea east of 3 degrees East and south of 62 degrees North and in the Baltic Sea.

Inboard profile

Main deck

Previous annual reports and statistics

Annual Report 2016

The research ship RV AURORA and its crew have had a busy and exciting 2016. The year was characterised by long-term cruises, which make special demands on the ship, the crew and the many researchers who participate. Twenty days in a limited space with tight research plans and weather conditions, where you are literally shaken together, can be a challenge. The ship and crew have handled every challenge in the most prominent way.

RV AURORA was also in 2016 the setting for a number of public events and dissemination activities both in Aarhus and in the many other cities the ship visited. The ship group prioritises showing Danish marine research to all interested parties. In addition, to disseminate the knowledge that the researchers generate and about how new knowledge is used to solve a number of the major environmental and societal problems. Nowhere can narratives from the world of research be made more present than on the deck of a modern research vessel.

During 2016, there has been a special effort on the part of the skipper and crew to spread awareness of RV AURORA and its facilities. Many researchers and teaching staff from various departments at Aarhus University and other higher education institutions have been invited onboard for a guided tour and subsequent conversations in the fair. This has already led to exciting collaborations and project applications with e.g. Aarhus School of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Engineering, School of Engineering and Marine Archeology. This helps to secure RV AURORA's position as a shared facility at Aarhus University. Thanks to everyone for a great 2016 and see you in 2017.

On behalf of RV AURORA, the crew and the ship group

Peter Grønkjær, Associate Professor

Aurora in numbers 2016

  • 162 sailing days, as well as 75 days with activities in port, tests and expedition preparation
  • 638 expedition participants and a crew of 2-5 people per expedition
  • 29 nationalities on expedition
  • Expedition participants from AU (318), SDU (23) and KU (9) as well as several foreign universities
  • External earnings: DKK 2.8 million
  • Almost 10,000 nautical miles sailed
  • 94,086 liters of fuel consumed
  • 30+ features about the ship and the research on board newspapers, television and radio
  • 8,000+ visitors at public events

Annual report 2015

2015 was the first year with RV AURORA in normal operation. A year with lots of activities that fully exploited the ship's many functions and opportunities. Hydrographic data, soil samples, plankton and sediment cores have been collected, guinea pigs and seismic signals from the bottom have been listened to and thousands of visitors have been taught, told and explained about the sea and marine research. Both crew and ship group have gained a wealth of valuable experience with both the practical operation and with the planning of the ship's activities. And we were confirmed that AURORA is the perfect multifunctional research ship.

The economy is solid and the interest in booking the ship in the future is great. We can therefore confidently look forward to AURORA being safe, functional and up-to-date in terms of research equipment and capabilities in the future. 

With this annual report, we say thank you for a fantastic 2015 and see you to the many guests, researchers and colleagues who were part of RV AURORA's many activities in the past year.

On behalf of RV AURORA, the crew and the ship group

Peter Grønkjær, Associate Professor

Aurora in numbers 2015

  • 127 sailing days, as well as 80 days with activities in port and various test sailings
  • 971 expedition participants and a crew of 2-5 people per expedition
  • 29 nationalities on expedition
  • Expedition participants from AU (614), KU (42), SDU and DTU (8) as well as several foreign universities
  • External earnings: DKK 2.35 million
  • 8434 nautical miles sailed - corresponding to the distance between Aarhus and Hobart in Tasmania
  • 130,000 liters of fuel consumed. Can drive a WV Up around the Earth at the Equator 70 times
  • More than 7,000 visitors to the Open Ship at Folkemødet on Bornholm and to Aarhus Festuge
  • Over 70 features about the ship and the research on board newspapers, television and radio

Previous research projects

Fish larvae survey onboard AURORA

Research project investigates the presence of fish larvae from AURORA in Spring 2021.

Spring spawning in the Kattegat takes place in step with the spring flowering of algae and aquatic fleas, which ensures plenty of food and good conditions for the offspring of the fish. Eggs and larvae from many species of fish can be found floating around the Kattegat. However, since this marine area is heavily affected by water transport between the North and Baltic Sea, it is complicated to identify exactly where, when and which species spawn inside the Kattegat, and how much of the offspring are operating from the outside.

Distributed over the spring of 2021, RS Aurora conducted five three-day research expedition with focus on illuminating the spawning in the Kattegat. The collection of fish larvae took place at 15 stations, distributed across the entire Kattegat, to provide a complete overview of the sea area. Using CTD and features with vertical grids, we collected data on how salinity, temperature, fluroscence and zooplankton composition varied with water depth. Multina trawling made it possible to gather at several different depths, where up to nine fine mesh nets could be used at their depths. Using these methods, it was possible to collect fish larvae at specific depths related to halocline. The halocline is a relatively small water layer with a major change in salinity, and is generally what separates the north and Baltic Sea water into the water column in the Kattegat. By taking exams in specific water masses, we can predict which general direction the collected fish larvae have driven; such as the south of the North Sea or north from the Baltic Sea.

Fish larval collection is a part of Kris-Emil Mose Jørgensens PhD project.

Methods and equipment used:

  • CTD-sonde (Conductivity, Temperature and Density)
  • Multinet trawling
  • Vertikal net sampling

North Sea Wrecks

The project brings together geophysics and geochemical analyzes of sediment from AURORA in Spring 2020.

The North Sea Wrecks project is an EU Interreg North Sea Region-funded research project aimed at investigating the risk of wreck and ammunition in the North Sea. The research consortium consists of partners from countries around the North Sea, including Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, and Denmark where Department of Geoscience Aarhus University is involved.

The project is based on the North Sea as a Blue Growth area for wind energy, marine raw materials, transport and fisheries as well as recreational activities along the coasts. In connection with such activities and in order to ensure a sustainable development of the North Sea, it is important to understand the risk from the many wrecks and bombs that have been left in the North Sea during the two world Wars. A large part of the North Sea Wrecks project is therefore about collecting new data from selected wrecks, which can be used to shed light on the extent to which the risk is and to develop a risk assessment tool that will be made available to all actors in the North Sea.

In Spring 2020, Department of Geoscience sailed out with the research vessel Aurora to two wrecks in the North Sea. In this context, background samples and geophysical data were collected with both the fixed acoustic equipment on the Aurora and the equipment from SeisLab Aarhus, which was drawn after the ship. Based on Multibeam Bathymetri scans and side-scan sonar data, we have set up models of the two investigated wrecks and sedimentation conditions around them. The new data and results will be included in the risk assessment tool. The project lasts until October 2022.

Contact: Katrine Juul Andresen

Methane conversion

The Baltic Sea 30 May - 8 June 2016
Expedition leader: Hans Røy

In June 2016, the Center for Geomicrobiology headed a consortium of participants from Denmark, Germany and the USA to study the conversion of methane in the seabed east of Bornholm. The geochemistry in the area is known after mapping expeditions conducted in 2014 to 2015, so on this expedition we were able to conduct radio-tracer experiments and store RNA and DNA from selected sediment layers directly onboard RV AURORA.


Kattegat, The Belt Sea, Øresund and Western Baltic Sea, 4 - 24 July 2016
Expedition leaders: Signe Sveegaard and Jonas Teilmann

SCANS-III (Small Cetaceans in European Atlantic waters and the North Sea) was a pan-European census of whales from both ships and aircraft. The census was previously conducted in 1994 and 2005 with the aim of estimating the number and distribution of whales as well as population changes over time. In Danish waters, mainly guinea pigs are observed, and RV AURORA was to cover the Kattegat, The Belt Sea, Øresund and the Western Baltic Sea. On board the RV AURORA, the whale sightings took place from a specially made observation post in front of the bridge. The results showed that the guinea pig population in the area is reasonably stable and that after a decline in 2005 it is now up to the same level as in 1994. 

Testing of new 3D seismic system at the Department of Geoscience

Aarhus Bay
Expedition leader: Per Trinhammer

In December 2015, the Department of Geoscience received a grant to purchase a new 3D seismic system. The basic part of the system is purchased through Geometrics (more info at www.pcable.com). In close collaboration with this company, we would try to improve several parts of their setup. This resulted in several test runs in which Geometrics participated in the first. The first test showed that we could find significantly better solutions than the ones originally chosen. Subsequently, short test trips have been sailed during 2016, so by the end of 2016 we have a system that is ready for the first two, and crucial, cruises in May 2017.

Knowledge sharing

Through the entire 2016, RV AURORA has laid decks for a wide range of inquisitive audiences. The research ship is a permanent base for the entire activities of Aarhus University for four days at the Folkemødet on Bornholm. During Aarhus Festuge this year, RV AURORA also laid the groundwork for the event 'Ask Aarhus University' where six researchers answered questions from the audience. The event, which was a popular success, was broadcast on TV2. High school classes from Aarhus and Silkeborg visited RV AURORA during Aarhus Festuge, where they were presented with new, exciting teaching courses.

DEPONS project

North Sea, 7 - 24 August 2016
Expedition leaders: Signe Sveegaard and Jeppe Dalgaard Balle

The DEPONS project aimed to study the distribution of guinea pigs and whether their distribution and behavior are determined by the fish species that constitute their main food source. Using stationary listening posts (C-PODS) and hydrophone cables that were towed after RV AURORA, we listened to the guinea pigs' characteristic clicking sounds while at the same time using advanced sonar equipment and trawling measured the size and composition of the individual fishing shoals. The results should be used to improve our knowledge of the guinea pigs' behavior and be used in a larger model that can describe the human impact on the guinea pigs.


Skagerrak, 2 - 9 April 2016
Expedition leader: Peter Grønkjær

With the DeepFuncEcol project, RV AURORA was on a seven-day cruise in the Skagerrak. The purpose was to investigate changes in the fauna's structure and food sources from shallow water to the deepest parts of Norske Rende, where there are more than 700 meters to the bottom. The hydrography was examined with CTD and ScanFish III, the supply and characteristics of organic material were examined with sediment traps and bottom catches, and the fauna was collected with box-corer, bottom trawl, pelagic trawl and MultiNet. The cruise has contributed important new knowledge about the fauna in the deepest parts of Danish waters.

Marine ecology

Aarhus Bay, 1-5 October 2016
Expedition leader: Torben Vang

As part of the Marine Ecology course, students must carry out a study in which the biomass of fish in a defined area of Aarhus Bay is assessed using standardized trawl traits. The students learn to analyze the catch. They are also conducting a food survey to assess the overlap in diet between the most common flatfish in the bay. The purpose of the trip is to give students insight into how the basis for stock analyzes, and ultimately management tools such as fishing quotas, are created.

The Vejlefjordbro project

Vejle Fjord, 9-11 February 2015
Expedition leader: Egon Nørmark

As a preliminary study for a possible new Vejlefjord bridge, the Department of Geoscience collected high-resolution seismic data in Vejle Fjord for the Danish Road Directorate to interpret the nature of the seabed.

Basin reflection seismic

Kattegat, 19-24 October 2015
Expedition leader: Egon Nørmark

32 students were taught in Bassin Reflection Seismic while sailing between Sjælland, Samsø and Fyn, where structural geological interpretation was studied using reflection seismic with airgun and kicker as source. After the trip, the students on the course processed the many data.

The AuBo15 expedition

The Baltic Sea, 15-17 June 2015
Expedition leader: Hans Røy

The Center for Geomicrobiology visited the Bornholm Basin for the second year in a row to study the methane cycle in the deep and oxygen-poor area northeast of Christiansø. For this purpose, a series of long sediment cores were taken from the top 10 meters of the seabed. The cruise was a preparation for an upcoming cruise in 2016 where AURORA will return to the same positions with an international team of researchers from the USA, Germany, England and Denmark.

Knowledge sharing throughout the year

Throughout 2015, AURORA has laid decks for a wide range of inquisitive audiences. At Folkemødet on Bornholm in June, there were more than 6000 guests in a single day, where the theme was "Discover the Sea". During Aarhus Festuge in September, there was an open house where researchers showed what they were doing on board AURORA. Two evenings in a row, there was a full house for the event "Ask a researcher", where researchers from Aarhus University answered questions from the audience. The event became a TV broadcast on TV2-Østjylland. In late October and early November, AURORA was the cornerstone of the expedition "The Sailing University", where the ship and researchers visited a number of high schools in Østjylland and had seven intensive teaching days for approx. 250 students.

Control in the Danish Straits

The inland Danish waters, 7-19 April 2015
Expedition leader: Morten Holtegaard Nielsen

‘Internal hydraulic control’ occurs when stratified bodies of water are forced through an abrupt constriction such as in the deep Østerrende between Sprogø and Halsskov. The phenomenon gives a strong mixture between the upper and lower water masses. On the trip we found two and possibly three more places in Storebælt, where ‘internal hydraulic control’ occurs. This indicates that hydraulic control is the primary source of the mixture between the water masses and thus the ecosystem in Danish waters. The cruise included both physical and biological studies, including at the ship's Scanfish, which for the expedition was equipped with a DVL (an acoustic current meter) and a series of fluorometers.


Skagerrak and Kattegat, 24-28 August 2015
Expedition leaders: Sofia Ribeiro and Kaarina Weckström

The OUTFLOW project will reconstruct

  1. changes in freshwater discharge of Gøtaelven and
  2. determine variations in the salt content of the surface water of the Baltic Sea over the last 8,000 years.

This should lead to a reconstruction of Holocene climate change in southern Scandinavia with a particular focus on precipitation and the hydrographic response in the Baltic Sea. The OUTFLOW expedition collected water samples and CTD data, as well as sediment cores using Rumohr Lot and gravity cores in the coastal sea areas north of Gøteborg.

Bottom fauna monitoring

The inland Danish waters, 20-26 April 2015
Expedition leader: Jørgen L.S. Hansen

As part of the Danish Environmental Monitoring programme, NOVA NA, bottom fauna samples are collected from 22 stations in inland Danish waters. The stations have been visited since 1994. At 8 of the 22 stations, C.G.J. Petersen also took exams in 1911-1913. When the samples are taken at the same stations year after year, you can follow how the seabed's fauna society changes over time and thus assess the environmental and natural state of the seabed. With AURORA's new multibeam equipment, you can also measure the bottom, so you know how the bottom looks exactly where the samples are taken. For example, you can clearly see if the bottom has been trawled.

Invertebrate zoology

Aarhus Bay, 4-15 May 2015
Expedition leader: Rasmus Buchanan

As part of the invertebrate zoology course on the 3rd semester, all biology students will be on a three-hour expedition on Aarhus Bay. The trip goes to Gissels Grund, where it is scraped from bottom animals, which are then determined and placed in the taxonomic system. The expeditions provide approx. 140 students with insight into marine life, collection methods and the environmental condition of a coastal, humanely affected marine area.