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U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center

Science Afloat: How a Research Vessel Is Built - Part 3 (May 14)

RV Arcticus Hull Gets Flipped

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 3: Bottoms Up! The R/V Arcticus Hull Gets Flipped

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 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 21st century technologies to advance the 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 (lower right) to see the build in progress!

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

LATEST UPDATE: Sometimes you have to let life turn you upside down before you can stay afloat. A good life lesson for people that’s also true for research vessels. It turns out that the best way to build a research vessel is to start from the bottom-up, with the bottom, quite literally, up (as in upside down). For months the R/V Arcticus hull has been taking shape, inverted on the floor of the Burger Boat Company construction bay. Now, an important milestone has been reached as the 67-ton hull module (more than the weight of 30 minivans) is rolled to its upright position, making it ready for the addition of the upper decks. You can watch this incredible feat in the short clip below. Bottom’s up!

The vessel is expected to be completed by August 2014. Be sure to check the GLSC website regularly for updated videos as each construction milestone is achieved! To see earlier installments in the R/V Arcticus video series, visit the full list of Arcticus videos. You can also learn more about the build on the Burger Boat Company’s Arcticus page.

Photo Credit: 
Jean Adams - GLSC

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