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U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center

Science Afloat: How a Research Vessel is Built. Part 1 (Nov. 5)

Burger Boat Company Welder

Follow our video series, "Science Afloat: How a Research Vessel is Built", and we'll show you from start to finish how a research vessel is created. From the first piece of metal welded to the last touch of paint, you'll see how ideas, materials, and hard work come together to create the Research Vessel Arcticus, a 77-foot steel vessel designed to explore Great Lakes ecosystems.

Part 1: The R/V Arcticus Build Begins

Research vessels are floating scientific laboratories that play a critical role in the mission of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center. With one research vessel stationed on each of the Great Lakes, GLSC scientists are able to conduct cutting-edge research and track long-term trends in the ecology of these vast and valuable ecosystems. One of the oldest vessels in the GLSC fleet is the 75-foot Research Vessel (R/V) Grayling. The R/V Grayling has been instrumental in sampling deepwater ecosystems of Lakes Michigan and Huron since it was built in 1977. However, the R/V Grayling is nearing the end of its effective service life, as maintenance costs rise and newer technologies are required to meet GLSC partner needs.

To replace the R/V Grayling, the GLSC is building the 77-foot R/V Arcticus. In a nod to the rich legacy of the R/V Grayling, the name R/V Arcticus was drawn from the species name for the arctic grayling, Thymallus arcticus. The new vessel will be a versatile platform with the capacity to continue historical lake-wide fishery surveys while also providing state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation to advance GLSC research. "The new vessel will include innovative 21 century technologies to advance fishery science conducted by the USGS Great Lakes Science Center and its partners." said Russell Strach, Director of the GLSC.

The vessel's primary field sampling capabilities will include bottom trawling, plankton and benthic invertebrate sampling, hydroacoustics, gill netting, and collection of environmental data. The R/V Arcticus will offer greater research capabilities, increased fuel efficiency, improved health and safety features, and lower maintenance costs than its predecessor. The vessel was designed by JMS Naval Architects (Mystic, Connecticut) and is being built by the Burger Boat Company (Manitowoc, Wisconsin), which was awarded the contract in 2013.

Watch the short video clip on the right to see the build begin!

The creation of the R/V Arcticus will be chronicled in a multi-part video series filmed by GLSC scientist, Jean Adams. Major construction milestones during the build will include the arrival of materials, construction and assembly of hull modules, outfitting of components, inspections and testing, painting, and finally the commissioning, sea trails, and journey to its home port of Cheboygan, Michigan. Progress for each milestone will be documented in short videos released on the GLSC website.

Construction of the vessel began in October 2013, after a two-and-a-half month detailed design process. The inaugural video of the series shows the early phases of construction, including the arrival of plate metal and the planning, shaping, grinding, and welding of the first sections of the main deck. Additional pieces will eventually be fitted together to form the larger modules of the vessel.

The vessel is expected to be completed by October 2014. Be sure to check the GLSC website regularly for updated videos as each construction milestone is achieved!

Photo Credit: 
Jean Adams - USGS

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