Veteran adventurer scientist hits the high seas again

Thirty years after he first explored the seabed of the Chatham Rise, off the coast of New Zealand, colourful oceans scientist Dr Hermann Kudrass, now in his late 60s, is about to voyage to one of the most rugged parts of the Pacific again.

Dr Kudrass led a joint New Zealand-German government expedition on the German government research vessel Sonne in 1981 to explore the extent of phosphorite deposits distributed on the Rise seabed and then wrote a book discussing his findings.

Now, three decades later he is being hosted by Chatham Rock Phosphate, the New Zealand company planning to extract some of the rock phosphate to use as fertiliser, to venture back to the same area.

Dr Kudrass has spent a lifetime exploring the subsea around the world.  Known as ‘Herman the German’ within the oceans scientific community, he attained a PhD in geology before joining the Marine Geology Department of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in Hanover.  Since 2005 he has headed the Division of Geophysics, Marine and Polar Research at BGR.

This role has led him to a number of adventurous expeditions in remote parts of the world including exploring heavy mineral sands off Malaysia and Mozambique, the history of monsoon in the Bay of Bengal; geology of the South China Sea and teaching UNESCO courses in several developing countries.

Despite the heavy seas common in that part of the Pacific, Dr Kudrass is highly excited to be off on another voyage.

This time it will be on the Dorado Discovery, which has already undertaken three cruises this summer to the Rise to collect a range of environmental and geotechnical data, and test equipment, for Chatham Rock Phosphate.

“When we first discovered the phosphate rock more than three decades ago, we could see the potential for it.  Now the rising market value of the resource and the advances in technology mean the rock phosphate will be used on New Zealand farms and for export.”

Benefits of the project include:

  • New Zealand controlled: The project’s owner holds 100% of the licence area estimated to contain a 15-year supply of rock phosphate for the New Zealand market
  • Known costs and technology: Mining concept studies indicate an extension of existing technology can extract the resource from the seabed for much less than the cost of buying it and importing it from Morocco
  • Economic benefits: This project could significantly reduce New Zealand’s exposure to foreign exchange risk while improving its balance of payments position by reducing imports and/or generating export earnings.
  • Environmental benefits: The phosphate can be applied directly, is more effective than super-phosphate and very low in cadmium.  The technologies used will minimise seafloor disturbance, there will be a lower carbon footprint through reduced transport requirements, and extraction will intermittently affect a total footprint of less than 1/1000th of the Chatham Rise seafloor.

Editors note: Dr Kudrass is available for interview

For further information please contact Linda Sanders on 03 525 9170 or